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Industry Legend Howard Bernstein Gives Back

By Steve Guglielmo

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 6.35.37 PMThere are very few people as passionate about anything as Howard Bernstein is about the material handling industry. The now 90-year-old Bernstein began his career in material handling all the way back in 1946, when he took a job at Sterling Lumber Company in Chicago, IL, selling wood pallets. In the 65 years since, Bernstein has become a tireless advocate for the material handling industry and more specifically for MHEDA.

That is why, in 2011, Bernstein spearheaded the “Howard Bernstein Material Handling Industrial Distribution Scholarship.” That year, Bernstein stepped down from The Atlas Companies, the company he founded, to focus all of his efforts on this educational endeavor.

“We have to attract these young, bright minds into the industry that has been so great to me,” Bernstein says. “I started this as an appreciate for the opportunities that I have had in my career and as a way to attract future generations into this industry.”

Though the program was officially announced on August 29, 2012, this was an idea that had been percolating for some time.

“I’ve been involved in this industry for more than 60 years,” Bernstein says. “I was president of MHEDA 45 years ago and have been active with MHEDA since their very first year. My prime goal as the leader was to try to expand educational opportunities. Back then, there were very few courses in distribution in this country. I made the decision to establish  an award on my own to present at Bradley University in Peoria, IL, for Industrial Distribution.”

And so, when Bernstein made the decision to leave Atlas (not to retire, because retirement is for old people!) he decided to redouble his educational efforts in an effort to bring the best and brightest into the industry.

Initially, the scholarship was to be seeded all by Howard. It was a $150,000 initial commitment, which would provide five, $5,000 scholarships per year for a total of $25,000 annually to five different students who were interested in pursuing a career in Industrial Distribution. What Howard didn’t count on, however, was the way MHEDA members would rally around the cause.

“MHEDA and MHI started promoting this and the next thing you know, people are sending me money!” he says. “I received well over $40,000 in donations to the fund and as a result I had enough money to send out not five awards, but nine!”

At this year’s MHEDA Convention in Palm Desert, California, the first annual Howard Bernstein Material Handling Industrial Distribution Scholarships were announced. There were nine recipients.

The winners and sponsors were: $5,000 to Carl Zaderej of Purdue, sponsored by Atlas Toyota Material Handling; $5,000 to Haomiao Zhu of Penn State, sponsored by Equipco Division Phillips Corp.; $5,000 to Kathryn Smith of Auburn, sponsored by EnerSys; $5,000 to Erika Chin of Clarkson University, sponsored by Transamerican Equipment and FMH Material Handling Solutions; $5,000 to Rachel McWilliams of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, sponsored by Conger Toyota Lift, Morrison Industrial Equipment and Arnold Machinery; $5,000 to Seth Willmarth of Texas A&M, sponsored by Toyota Lift of LA, Sunbelt Industrial Trucks and Mr. Gary Moore; $5,000 to Emily Greer of Oklahoma State, sponsored by Riekes Material Handling Company, Lift & Equipment, Stoffel Equipment Company, Hy-Tek Material Handling and an anonymous donor; $2,500 to Yanira Rivera-Erives of the University of Nebraska-Kearney, sponsored by Cardinal Carryor, Mr. George Sefer and Doosan Infracore; and $2,500 to Elwood Jarvis III of East Carolina University, sponsored by St. Onge, Hamilton Caster and Allied Equipment.

“This is just the beginning,” Howard proudly says. “I think now that we have a feel for it, we can make it a lot bigger. I don’t know how many we can award next year, but I think we’ll more that double it. And I think this is the type of program that can be established in perpetuity.”

For more information about the scholarship or to find out how to donate, please contact Donna Varner at the Material Handling Education Foundation at 704-676-1190 or Howard Bernstein at 847-433-6585.