Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Howard Greis '48; entrepreneur was tirelessly creative; at 85

Howard Greis '48, president of a Worcester-based metal forming technology firm, entrepreneur, and Brown Engineering Alumni Medal recipient in 2002, died on April 21.

Howard Arthur Greis, president of a Worcester-based metal forming technology firm and a former member of the state Board of Education, died April 21 of heart failure in his home in Holden. He was 85.
Mr. Greis went to work on the day he died, and friends and family said he took pride in going to work every day. Colleagues considered him the world’s leading authority on roll forming metals.
“If he were alive today, he would be at his desk solving problems,’’ said Matthew Stepanski, former president of the Central Massachusetts Employer Association. “He was always thinking about the next project.’’
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Greis graduated from East Rockaway (N.Y.) High School in 1943. He entered Brown University through a Navy program prior to attending midshipmen’s school at Notre Dame University. He graduated first in his class and was commissioned as an ensign. He was called into active duty during World War II and was stationed at the Naval Ordnance Lab in Washington, D.C., where he developed rocket fuses.
Mr. Greis returned to Brown, where he was a three-sport athlete, and received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1948. The following year, he earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Harvard University.
Mr. Greis worked for various engineering firms in New Jersey throughout the 1950s, developing products for many industries.
He also began his career as a serial entrepreneur, starting consulting firms HAG & Associates in 1953 and Control Molding Corp. in 1955.
In 1962, Mr. Greis and his wife, the former Virginia Peyton Chivers, started Kinefac Corp. Kinefac, which specializes in metal forming technology, is based in Worcester and has offices in Shanghai. Its work ranges from the forming of wire coils for medical devices to the manufacture of dies and centrifuges used in metalworking.
According to his daughter Leslie of Cambridge, his designs can be seen in a diverse set of products, including mine roof bolts, dental drills, nuclear power plant tie rods, airplane fasteners, and catheter guide wires. Kinefac’s work can be found throughout the world, including, in Paris, the Louvre Museum’s glass pyramid entrance, which is supported by a joint system designed and rolled at Kinefac.
“My father lived the entrepreneurial spirit every day,’’ Leslie said. “He always had a wonderful curiosity about how to create things. At Christmas as a child, I got gifts that I had to get down on the floor and put together, and my father would help.’’
Mr. Greis’s curiosity extended to designing and building the family’s five-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Holden in 1972. The whole family was enlisted in the yearlong project.
“Life was his hobby,’’ Leslie said. “He was enthusiastic about life, whether it was traveling, spending time with his family, or exploring new projects.’’
Mr. Greis wrote many technical articles and papers on mechanical engineering and received numerous industry awards and honors, including the Brown Engineering Alumni Medal given by Brown University for lifetime contributions to the field of engineering in 2002.
Mr. Greis also had a strong interest in education. He was first elected to the Wachusett Regional School Committee in 1965 and became chairman and was one of the original faculty members of the school’s science seminar program, which remains the oldest continuously-run program for gifted students in Massachusetts public high schools. In 1976, he received an appointment from Governor Michael S. Dukakis to serve a five-year term on the Massachusetts Board of Education, and he was appointed for a second term by Governor Edward King.
During his tenure, Mr. Greis dealt with the pressing issues of desegregation and busing in the late 1970s. He was also on the board when it decided to reduce the cost to local communities of implementing the state’s special education law.
Harold M. Lane Jr., a former state representative from Worcester, met Mr. Greis during the 1970s when the latter was working for the Wachusett Regional school system.
“Howard had a strong belief that education would solve everything,’’ Lane said. “He was just as devoted to educating others as he was about running his business, and he gained great respect from others for that.’’
Mr. Greis also believed American industry needed to stay competitive globally in science, engineering, and technology. Locally, he served as a director and vice chairman of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts in Boston and on the advisory board of the mechanical engineering department of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In addition to regularly testifying before Congress and serving on several special interest committees in Washington, in 1986 he cofounded the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences in Ann Arbor, Mich., the largest research and development consortium serving North American manufacturing.
“Howard felt strongly about America not falling behind,’’ said Rick Jarman, the center’s president and chief executive. “What struck me about him was that he was able to envision what new technologies would come in the future, and how our industry needed to adapt 30 years ago. These are all discussions only beginning to be had these days. He was a true American visionary.’’
In addition to his daughter Leslie, Mr. Greis leaves three other children, Noel of Chapel Hill, N.C.; Frederick of Madison, N.J.; and Carolyn of Chevy Chase, Md.; and several grandchildren. His wife died two years ago.A memorial service has been held.
April 30, 2011|By Talia WhyteBoston Globe Correspondent