2012 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Success is about your accomplishments rather than the money you make."
Howard Meyers was born in 1943 in Newark, New Jersey. At that time, his father worked in a shipyard building vessels for the war effort. When the war ended, his father became a painter and paper hanger. He had a small business with two employees. “My parents weren’t college educated, but they were both highly intelligent,” says Howard. “My mother worked as a bookkeeper before I was born and she could speak a couple of languages. She was an avid reader. I knew from an early age that my parents wanted me to be the first in our family to go to college.”
Both of Howard’s parents came from large families who lived nearby. In fact, Howard was raised on the same street as his father. His grandparents’ house was just across the street. He also had several aunts and uncles who lived within walking distance so there were always lots of cousins to play with. “We were a close family,” he says. “I have a sister five years younger. We shared a bedroom in our small house. We were a happy unit. My sister later said that we were poor, but didn’t seem to realize it.” Howard can remember the first time his father made $100 in a week, which was also the first time Howard tasted pizza. “To celebrate his earnings, his father had brought home a pizza,” he says. “It was wonderful.”
Howard’s parents taught him to live by a moral code of honesty and integrity. He says, “My dad always told me to do the best I could at anything I attempted and to carry more than my own weight. In other words, do more than the bare minimum. He was a disciplined man who was very conscious of what is right and wrong.”
Howard began working at the age of 13. He did yard work and had several other hourly jobs. In high school he participated in track and debate, but he didn’t love going to school. “I was in a hurry to grow up,” he says. “I wanted to be a businessman. I didn’t know what kind of business, but I was anxious to get started.”
Howard began his college education at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University. Later, he transferred to New York University. He got a job during his sophomore year at Revere Smelting and Refining, a family-owned business. He knew at once that he had found the industry in which he wanted to spend his career. “I was more or less a boy working in a man’s job,” says Howard. “It was hard work, but an enlightening experience. I learned about the technology of smelting, and I also learned to be disciplined and how to respect a fellow worker.”
Howard quickly finished his degree in accounting, finance, and economics in three-and-a-half years, while working full time. “I lived at home, commuted to school, and worked,” says Howard. “I had no social life at college. I wanted to get my degree as soon as possible so that I could work full time.”
To fulfill his military obligation, Howard joined the Navy as a reservist. After completing active duty, he joined American Metal Climax in an entry-level management position. Five years later, the family at Revere, where he had worked at during his college years, gave him an opportunity to buy the company if he would return to them and assist in its reorganization. He left his job and lived on his savings while he worked to find investors. In 1970, the reorganization was complete and as president and CEO of the new company, Howard began making several acquisitions. When they needed a parent company name, Howard had remembered an old superstition that said if there is a Q and an X in a business name, it is supposed to be very successful. Finally, it was settled the company would be called Quexco.
Today, Quexco is a private holding company based in Dallas. It operates 17 non-ferrous smelting and refining facilities, three anode and flat roll producing facilities, along with plastic-related and mining businesses, through its operating subsidiaries and affiliates, located throughout the European Union, North American, and South Africa. Eco-Bat Technologies plc, one of Quexco’s affiliated companies, is the largest lead producer in the world.
Howard is proud of the company he has built. “You never know how high the mountain is that you’re going to climb,” he says. “When you’re climbing it you look up and say, ‘It’s not that far up.’ It takes a long time and it takes a lot of hard work. But it’s what I wanted to do and it has given me a great deal of satisfaction.”
When asked about how he defines success, Howard says he does not define it in a financial sense and or in prestige. “I think that if you have a sense of accomplishment and do the best you can under the circumstances, then that is a sign of success,” he says. “But I think it is easier to be successful if you are doing something you enjoy.”
Howard and his wife, Rory, have raised their children to find work that interests them and makes them happy. “I gave my children three things,” he says. “I gave them a good name, a good education, and goodbye-you are on your own. They weren’t handed a livelihood. They don’t work for me. They do their own thing and I’m proud of them.”
Howard Meyers’ Activities and Philanthropy
Howard Meyers serves on the Board of Trustees of New York University, the Board of Overseers of the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University, and the Board of Directors of Battery Council International. He has been a Director of the Steel Manufacturers Association, St. Mark’s School of Texas, National Association of Recycling Industries, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and the Lead Industry Association.
Much of his philanthropy is given anonymously. When asked about the causes he champions, Mr. Meyers says, “We are all here just a speck in time and I believe that making the time we spend here more beneficial to society is very important. I was raised in relatively poor circumstances, but my parents were charitable people. They instilled in me the importance of helping those in need. Rory and I particularly give to causes that relate to young people and education.”
One cause Howard Meyers cares about deeply is the Dallas Arboretum. He has made two public donations of $15 million to the Arboretum for the children’s garden, dedicated to his wife Rory. The Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, a seven-acre outdoor laboratory, will open in 2013.Another cause important to Mr. Meyers is the Paths to Peace program at New York University. He gave $10 million to fund a 10-year program that brings together 16 students per year (eight per semester) of different faiths and backgrounds from Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza to study and live together at NYU. The program is dedicated to training future leaders, endowing them with the skills and experience to advance reconciliation and coexistence for future generations. “If we can get one of these leaders to go back and create some understanding, it will be worthwhile,” says Mr. Meyers. “There is such a disparity of common interest in Israel and Palestine, and overcoming that isn’t going to happen without good leadership.”