This is the third year for the annual event in which an active laureate and a historical laureate are named.
Menke, President and CEO of OFS Brands is the active laureate. Schwenk, the former CFO Jasper Engines and Transmissions who passed away in 2010, is the historic laureate. The two will be inducted into the Dubois County Business Hall of Fame at a breakfast ceremony Thursday at 7:30 a.m. on April 27, 2017, at The Huntingburg Event Center.
Past laureates are Arnold F. Habig, Robert Ruckriegel, Clement M. Lange and Alvin C. Ruxer.
Individuals were nominated for their outstanding civic and business contributions to Dubois County and are recognized for their business excellence, vision, innovations, inspiring leadership, courageous thinking and community service. A panel of business and community leaders chose the laureates from the nominees.
“Hank Menke and Gervase Schwenk are the kinds of role models our young people need,” said Interim Dean of Vincennes University Jasper Campus, Dean Ackerman. “They are strong leaders who have made significant impact on our community.”
The Hall of Fame was created by the local Junior Achievement chapter to promote the county’s rich business history and honor the business leaders that contributed to that history.
In addition to honoring these business leaders, the Dubois County Business Hall of Fame raises funds benefiting Junior Achievement programs in Dubois County.
Event chair Al Mihajlovits said the event has raised $35,000 to $40,000 for the local chapter of the organization each year. All that money supports the local programs in the county’s schools.
“It has been fantastic,” he said. “Junior Achievement of Southwest Indiana has the highest percentage of classroom involvement nationally.”
Among the counties in the Southwest Indiana region, Dubois County has the highest participation in the program that introduces students to business and entrepreneurial principals from grade school through high school.
In addition to presenting business administration and entrepreneurial skills, the program introduces students to opportunities that are available in the community.
“Kids don’t alway know what is available,” Mihajlovits said. “The business volunteers can form connections with the students that will draw them back to the community after they go to college.”
During the breakfast, a crystal eagle symbolizing the spirit of free enterprise is presented to each laureate. A monument with a citation and image of each laureate is on display at the Dubois County Museum.
Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLC is the title sponsor for the event. For Sponsorship information, table reservations, or individual tickets can be obtained from Junior Achievement of Southwestern Indiana at 812-425-8152.
Robert H. “Hank” Menke, OFS Brands, Inc. (Active Laureate)
In 1978 Robert H. “Hank” Menke joined the family-owned business and in 1982 became its President and CEO. Menke was instrumental in the company’s decision to focus on manufacturing wood furniture under the name OFS. Under his leadership, OFS expanded its product offerings to include a diverse line of case goods, conferencing furniture, and upholstered seating. The success of these endeavors can be measured in the phenomenal growth of the company over the past 30 years. OFS currently has over 1,700 employees in Dubois County.
Menke encourages his employees to be active citizens by empowering them to play leadership roles in the Dubois County Community on various committees and boards with the support of OFS and Menke.
Hank and his family have given generously in support of the Huntingburg Fire Department, Huntingburg Stellar Endowment, Dubois County Community Foundation, the preservation of Old Town Hall in Huntingburg, and were a major contributor to the building of the Huntingburg Event Center. Most non-for-profit entities in Dubois County have received contributions from Menke or his family.
Gervase Schwenk, Jasper Engines and Transmissions (Historical Laureate)
Gervase Schwenk was more than the Chairman of the Board to the Associates of Jasper Engines and Transmissions. He was a humble man who made sure all were appreciated and respected.
After serving in World War II, which included his participation in the invasion of Normandy, Gervase began working as a bookkeeper for Alvin C. Ruxer and his Ford Dealership in 1946. It wasn’t long before Gervase’s talents were recognized and he became an integral part of Ruxer’s new business enterprise, Jasper Engine Exchange and eventually, Jasper Engine and Transmission Exchange.
Gervase Schwenk was a man of service to others. He served in various capacities with Memorial Hospital, the Evansville Catholic Dioceses, Precious Blood Church, Sisters of Saint Benedict, VU Foundation, St. Meinrad Archabbey, Dubois County Community Foundation and as President of the Jasper Band Parents for many years. He was also the recipient of the Distinguished Citizen Award by the Buffalo Trace Council of the Boy Scouts. Even in his various respected positions, he liked to stay in the background, allowing others to receive the credit and the praise. One of his favorite axioms was “To lead by example, not in what we say, but in what we do with our family, friends, favorite charities, and work”.