Updated December, 2020.
On November 4, 1964, Henry and Suzanne Herzing stood on a street corner across from the Empire State Building in New York City.
They were going in for a second interview regarding buying a franchise to open a computer school. It would risk all the assets they had, and they wanted to consider it one more time. They decided to plunge ahead.
Fast-forward 55 years, tens of thousands of graduates, and dozens of Herzing campuses in both Canada and the United States. It’s an epic success story. And like many momentous things in life, it all began with a leap of faith.
Henry and Suzanne weren’t sure they would make it through those first few months, let alone the next five decades! But, like anyone who starts a new career knows, it’s all about perseverance and pushing past self-doubt.
In celebration of the 55th anniversary of Herzing College, we are proud to present an interview with the man himself.
We chatted with Henry Herzing about everything from his love of windsurfing, to his grandchildren, to what he considers his greatest accomplishment in life.
Meet the man, understand the history, and learn what makes Herzing truly unique.
Q: Many people don’t realize that Herzing College is named after a real person! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Mr. Herzing: The most important thing to know about me is that I’m very focused, persistent and determined. I constantly challenge myself to learn new things and won’t quit until I’ve reached my personal best.
For example, I took up windsurfing when I was almost 50. I was so passionate about it, I ended up winning a windsurfing competition at the age of 63!
A few years later, a friend of mine suggested I take voice lessons. I immediately took up the challenge and started learning. Now I’m the chairman of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.
These days I’m learning golf. A PGA professional told me I’m the only person he knows who gets better as he gets older. But the truth is, I’m just very persistent and focused. I work until I get it right.
These are the same characteristics that have helped Herzing College succeed for all these decades. It’s all about the hard work and focus of our instructors, staff, and students. We just don’t give up!
Q: Do you and your wife Suzanne have children? Are there any grandchildren in the family?
Mr. Herzing: Yes, my wife and I have two daughters, Stacey and Renee. Stacey lives in California and Renee is President of Herzing University in the United States. We have two grandchildren, Julian and Olivia. Julian is business-oriented, and Olivia is quite artistic.
Q: You were an officer in the Navy. How did you and Suzanne end up starting a college?
Mr. Herzing: After my obligation to the Navy was complete, I entered civilian life again and got a job at Litton Industries. I was responsible for developing troubleshooting procedures for the Navy A6A Intruder plane, and training Navy personnel.
But Litton wanted to send me out to sea to help support the A6A on an aircraft carrier. Having just been married, I was not interested in sea duty and preferred to settle down in one place. I tried to get a transfer to Los Angeles, where I could work at the home office, but it didn’t work out.
That’s when I decided to look for another job. When I was looking around for career opportunities, I saw an ad in the paper for a “computer school director.”
My wife, Suzanne, was a teacher, and I worked in computers, so the idea wasn’t so strange. Sometimes life hands you an unexpected opportunity and you just have to go for it. That’s exactly what we did.
It was a big risk. We had to use all our assets—cash, securities, sold Suzanne’s car, borrowed against her insurance policy—to get the school up and running. By the time our first class started, we had zero dollars in our bank account. I was utterly determined to make it work. My family was counting on me.
Q: Five decades later, what does the 55th anniversary of Herzing College mean to you?
Mr. Herzing: It’s significant in a lot of ways. The most important thing is that we’re still here after 55 years! This longevity is a direct result of our culture, our standards, and our passion for constant improvement.
I must admit, when we first started in 1965, I just thought about getting through the next month or year. I didn’t look very far ahead. After a time, we realized there were certain goals we had to set, and a specific culture we had to create, to be successful over the long term.
We started working on those things. As the college grew, we gained momentum, and that energy has brought us to where we are today.
Q: What are some the biggest challenges Herzing College is facing now?
Mr. Herzing: One of the big issues we’re facing right now is concern about the cost of college education.
People are very nervous about taking on debt to go back to school. They are worried about their investment paying off, and whether it’s worth the risk.
Our goal is to be as efficient as possible. We need to keep costs down for our students, so more people have the chance to get quality career training and better job opportunities.
One way we’re doing this is through the Herzing Open Education Program (HOEP). When students enroll in a program, they get “tuition credits" equal to the amount they paid for that program.
After graduating, they can use those credits to take additional courses or programs, without paying any more tuition. You can earn a whole second diploma or professional certificate, without worrying about the costs. It's a huge advantage.
Q: What’s the next big trend in career training? How is Herzing evolving to meet students' needs?
Mr. Herzing: One of the biggest trends is that people are switching careers several times throughout their lives. They need to constantly update their skills for different roles, changing technology, and new work environments.
Our goal is to deliver just the right kind of training at just the right time, to meet people’s evolving needs.
We’re doing this by making education more accessible through online learning. We’re also watching employment trends very closely, to ensure our programs are up-to-date, and teaching the skills people really need, right now, to advance their careers.
Q: Looking back over the history of Herzing College, what are you most proud of?
Mr. Herzing: We’ve had over 40,000 grads in Canada, and I’m very proud of that. I love to go to graduations and see second and even third generations of family members who have gone to our college. I find those personal success stories very motivating.
I was just at Herzing College Winnipeg for a graduation ceremony, where I met a woman whose daughter had just graduated. She told me she herself graduated 37 years ago and got a great job right afterward.
She said because of that job, she and her husband were able to send their two children to university. After completing a degree in business, her daughter took our digital marketing training to enhance her skillset.
We have many of these incredible multi-generational stories. The way our training programs help people transform their lives—this is what inspires me and makes me most proud.
Q: Are you officially retired, or still involved in running Herzing College?
Mr. Herzing: I am still the president of Herzing College. But we have a team that is much more involved in the day-to-day running of our campuses across Canada.
I monitor email and look at reports. I have weekly calls with our senior management. Yes, I’m still involved on a part-time basis.
Q: What has made Herzing College so successful these past 55 years? What’s the secret?
Mr. Herzing: The secret is our teachers and staff at every campus. Without them, there would be no Herzing College. It’s their passion and dedication to our mission that makes everything happen.
They embrace a caring attitude and truly understand the concept of “service above self.” I really appreciate what they do for our students every single day.
Mr. Herzing, thank-you for sharing the history and shedding some light on the man—and family—behind Herzing College.
Just one question remains: Can we challenge you to a singing performance at the next graduation?
In the meantime, we’re grateful that you and Suzanne took that leap of faith all those years ago. It’s really not so different from the leap of faith our students take when they head back to school to start new careers.
Here’s to another 55 years of empowering people through education!
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