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Transforming the future

Linamar scholarships support women in engineering and business

by Debora Van Brenk, BA’86, MA’87 | January 2, 2018

Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz and her husband Ed Newton, with the corporation and its founder Frank Hasenfratz invested $5 million to create the Linamar Scholarships for Women in Engineering and Business.

Let’s say your job is to cast a line for tonight’s supper, and you’ve found a pond teeming with fish: 100 blue ones and 100 red ones.

“If you decide you’re only going to fish for the blue fish, you have only half a chance of dinner tonight,” explained Linda Hasenfratz, BSc’89, MBA’97, President and CEO of auto-parts giant Linamar Corp.

This, she said, is the challenge and opportunity of finding and developing the best engineers who are also business leaders. “Pulling from a diverse pool will always ensure you have the very best performers.”

That challenge prompted the company, and the Hasenfratz family, to cultivate opportunities for women at Western.

Linamar, Hasenfratz and her husband Ed Newton, and Linamar founder Frank Hasenfratz, have invested $5 million to create theLinamar Scholarships for Women in Engineering and Business. The scholarships support up to 10 female students in the Western Engineering and Ivey Business School dual-degree program each year. They provide half the cost of tuition in the five-year program.

Significantly, the scholarships also guarantee paid co-op placement and full-time job offers with Linamar to graduating scholarshipholders.

“This is a great way to bring together the three things that mean a lot to me, and to Linamar as a company: manufacturing, business and improved opportunities for women,” said Hasenfratz, who emphasized she hopes this will encourage more women to pursue a dual degree in engineering and business.

The Linamar Scholarships for Women in Engineering and Business provide up to 10 students a year with tuition support, co-op placements and a full-time job offer at graduation.

The gift enables Western to support its best female students to succeed in school today, and provides them with early career experience that will help them go on to be the leaders of tomorrow, Western President Amit Chakma said.

“It provides an unparalleled opportunity for academic growth and offers these future leaders an experience that, thanks to Linamar and the Hasenfratz and Newton families, will give them a stepping-stone to rewarding careers,” he said.

In addition to the family’s strong philanthropic connections to Western, the Hasenfratz and Newton families have an ongoing legacy here. Three of their four children attend Western, including their two oldest daughters who are completing the Engineering and business dual-degree program that the newly established scholarships support.

It was Hasenfratz who contacted Western with the idea of creating the scholarships.

“It’s unique and exciting when donors approach us about supporting something about which they feel passionately,” said Chakma. “As the parents and grandfather of two daughters studying Engineering at Western, Linda, Ed and Frank are aware of the tremendous benefits and challenges for Women in Engineering. We are very pleased to support their vision.”

Linamar Corp. is a Canadian success story, with Frank Hasenfratz, LLD’16, having fled his native Hungary after its 1957 revolution, to settle in the Guelph area. He founded the machining business in 1964 with a single lathe, operating from the basement of the family home.

Today, Linamar employs more than 25,000 people at 59 plants in 15 countries (about 9,500 of those jobs are in southwestern Ontario). Linamar generates annual sales in excess of $6 billion.

Linda Hasenfratz describes her father as a great mentor and support on her path, and someone who insisted she have deep knowledge of all aspects of the company. “My father would say to me, ‘The only job where you start at the top is digging a hole.’ That’s good guidance.”

She became head of Linamar in 2002, after working at the company for 12 years, starting as a machine operator. She has experienced and directed all elements of the business – including finance, production, human resources, technology – and the company has built a leadership program around the same concept.

Today, she is described in a national “power list” of top-25 Canadian movers and shakers as “a crucial voice for the auto industry amid (NAFTA) renegotiations that have put the sector on centre stage.”

She said the success of all companies striving to lead technological and industry change depends on making sure there’s a critical mass of women and men with exceptional technical expertise, innovation and leadership skills.

“Linda’s career sets an extraordinary example of leadership,” said Mark Vandenbosch, Acting Dean, Ivey Business School. “I can think of no better role model for our students. The gift provides the opportunity for students to gain a valuable dual degree that will help them become the engineering and business leaders of tomorrow.”

Hasenfratz said the dual-degree program offered at Western, plus the guaranteed offer of employment, “puts graduates that much further ahead and gives them the ability to lead within our organization or any other. They’re ready to hit the ground running when they come in,” she said.

A key element to that growth is that companies provide co-op opportunities, not as a form of charity but as a way to create symbiotic relationships. “It gives students the opportunity to take what they’re learning both in engineering and in business and turn it into reality. It’s also a great opportunity for students to give companies a test run, and for companies to give students a test run. There’s great mutual benefit, and that’s why it works.”

Andy Hrymak, Dean of Western Engineering, said the scholarships add muscle to two top-level programs. “Our Engineering graduates are sought-after around the world. To know that Linamar is investing in women engineers not only with scholarships but with guaranteed employment pays testament to both the family’s generosity and the strengths of our program.

For more information on the Linamar Scholarships for Women in Engineering and Business, please visit: eng.uwo.ca/linamar.html


This article appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Impact Western
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