Enough Tupperware
by Leslie Lawrence '72


Tappan Square


Marks   Henderson

Student -Prof Relationship Inspired Endowed Chair


Michael E. Marks '73, chair and chief executive officer of Flextronics International, has endowed a professorship in psychology and named the chair in honor of professor of psychology Norman D. Henderson. The first person to hold the chair will be named after Henderson retires.

"This is the ultimate form of charity--anonymous," Henderson said about the professorship. "Virtually all philanthropy involves some payback--the building is named after you and a plaque is engraved with your name. Michael Marks' name will not be associated with this professorship at all. It's the ultimate form of quiet giving and support."

Marks is donating Flextronics stock currently valued at $2.1 million. Flextronics is the second-largest electronics manufacturing services firm in the world, with design, engineering, and manufacturing operations in 28 countries on four continents. Marks became chair of the board in 1993 and CEO in 1994. Under his leadership, annual revenues have increased from $93 million in 1993 to a projected $11 billion in 2000.

The student-professor relationship has been a constant since Marks graduated from Oberlin. He worked with Henderson doing research and developing promotional examinations for the Cleveland police department. "He was a talented young man who was wavering about what to do with his future," Henderson said. "Our work together on the Cleveland project made him realize that a life in academia wasn't what he wanted, and he got himself into Harvard Business School, where he earned an MBA."

Henderson describes his former student as someone who has kept his Oberlin values intact in the world of business. "Here he is, a CEO, and he doesn't want the big office with the mahogany desk. When you dial his telephone number, he picks it up. When he visits factories for his firm, he drives his own rental car. He's also sensitive to the arts. His brother was a highly successful concert pianist, and Michael also plays the piano. He's a wonderful mix: a brilliant manager in a fast-moving field, with interpersonal skills that are more than just slick. He's a caring person, and being a nice guy has paid off for him all around."

Henderson is modest about why Marks chose to honor him in this lasting way. "He chose to name the professorship for me because I'm the one who kicked him out of academia," he joked. But then he quickly added a more serious thought. "I see this professorship as symbolic. I'm a representative of all of my colleagues who joined the Oberlin faculty in the 1960s and stayed at Oberlin because this is what they wanted to do. Most of us had many options during that period. This professorship is a symbol of the value of that commitment for all of them."