Posted February 28th, 2017
By now, it might seem like a cliché to say someone hails from the “Greatest Generation,” but Henry A. Hain spent his life quietly proving the truth in that sobriquet. In the wake of his death in 2015, the NYU community discovered that his generosity could also be described as the greatest; thanks to a gift of $1 million from his family trust, the School of Engineering will establish fellowship opportunities for bright aspiring engineers.
Hain was born in 1925 and grew up during the Depression. Despite the dire financial constraints plaguing the country at that time, his father, a blacksmith, taught him the importance of saving, and later in life he became known as an especially savvy investor. When asked for stock tips, Hain — who eventually amassed a more-than-modest fortune despite never earning more than a five-figure salary — was fond of quipping that people should stay away from any company that had not paid dividends during those bleak years of the Depression.
A graduate of the New York City public-school system, he entered the military as an aviation cadet in mid-1943 and valiantly served as an airplane navigator, flying bombing missions in a B-24 for the 15th Air Force in Italy. According to historians, the Fifteenth demolished all gasoline production facilities within its southern European range, obliterated the region’s major aircraft factories, and destroyed more than 6,000 enemy aircraft in the air and on the ground.
Upon returning from the war, he entered NYU’s College of Engineering — then located in the University Heights section of the Bronx — where he earned a mechanical engineering degree in 1949. Immediately upon graduating, Hain, who had by then met and married his wife, Mary, embarked on a career at a local gas company. His peaceful routine was disrupted, however, in 1951, when he was called back to active duty at the height of the Korean War.
After that conflict ended, he gladly returned to civilian life and the energy industry, but never lost his love for aviation. When he retired from the Consolidated Natural Gas Company as manager of engineering in 1982 and moved to Arizona, he became an avid member of a club devoted to radio-controlled model planes — some of which took thousands of dollars and countless man-hours to build. He was working on a new model at the time of his death, at age 89, and had been out in the field, flying, up until just a few months before.
Hain was survived by his wife Mary, and nine nieces and nephews, and now, generations of NYU Tandon students will also remember the legacy that took him from the heights of the skies over the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in World War II to NYU’s Heights campus — and far beyond.