In June 2008, when the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) presented the prestigious Michael R. Losey Human Resource Research Award to Dr. Herbert G. Heneman III at SHRM’s Annual Conference and Exposition in Chicago, Heneman nearly brought down the house with his emotional acceptance speech. The veteran researcher, educator and author thanked not only SHRM but also the unknown family whose donation of their son’s liver saved Heneman’s life in 1991 and allowed him to pursue critical work in the HR field.
But now, instead of bringing down a house, Heneman is helping to build one. Heneman has donated the entire $50,000 Losey award to a Wisconsin charity that is buying and renovating a house that will be a haven for transplant recipients and their families.
The donation of the Losey award money “seemed like a natural thing to do,” said Heneman, who lives in Middleton, Wis., and is the Dickson-Bascom Professor Emeritus of Management and Human Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Business.
As professionals in human resources, “We are in the people business,” he said. “People do get sick.” As a result of the transplant that saved his life, Heneman noted, he was able to enjoy “another 17 years of productive work at the university.”
The donation is one of the largest to date for the Restoring Hope Transplant House, a large Victorian-style property in Middleton, not far from the University of Wisconsin, which performs hundreds of transplant operations annually. The nonprofit organization spearheading the project hopes to create a “home away from home” for patients and their families who are in the area for organ, bone marrow or other transplants.
The 10-bedroom building will not be a medical facility; it is envisioned as a supportive environment staffed by a few employees and many volunteers.
“I was able to live at home” before and during his recuperation from surgery, Heneman said. “Many people don’t have that option. It’s very difficult to shuffle back and forth” between hospital and hotel rooms. Families should “find it very convenient and comforting” as well as relatively inexpensive to use the transplant house. He says he knows of a few such facilities around the United States, adding that “the idea is catching on.”
Heneman said that he learned of the plans for Restoring Hope Transplant House more than a year ago and that he and his wife Susan continue to work closely with its executive director, Cindy Herbst. “We are committed to get it up and running,” he says.
A Truly 'Selfless Act’
The new president and CEO of SHRM, Lon O'Neil, said, "I applaud Dr. Heneman's compassion and selfless act. He truly is the consummate HR professional, and he sets a great example for all of us. Through his long career in HR academics, I am confident that Dr. Heneman has affected many lives with his clear sense of humanity and generosity. We owe him a great deal."
Deb Cohen, Ph.D., SPHR, agrees. “Herb Heneman was selected as the 2008 Losey research award winner due to his lifelong commitment to the HR profession and for his outstanding contributions to the HR profession. His gesture, to donate all of the award money to such a worthy cause, simply highlights what an outstanding individual he is in his everyday life. This selfless act of kindness and generosity is impressive and heartwarming.”
Herbst certainly agrees as well.
“It’s a wonderful gift,” she stated. “Herb believes that his best work came after his transplant. He has been given this great gift of life and has asked himself: ‘What is my moral responsibility for that?’ ” she continued.
Herbst said that her organization would love to have an endowment of $2 million to ensure the future of the transplant house, but at the moment she is focusing on taking care of the mortgage—a six-figure matter—in order to keep costs for families at a minimum. It might take time; “many people are giving $50, $100,” she says. And reconstruction of the building will be even costlier. But she is confident that the funds will come because the need is so great.
“Herb knows that you’re not just caring for the patient, you’re caring for the family” when a member undergoes transplant surgery, she says. Heneman’s donation “is a wonderful gift.”
Throughout his career, Heneman has worked to bridge the gap between academics and practitioners by focusing on applied topics, publishing in outlets aimed at both audiences, and developing empirically based learning materials and presentations for use in classroom and professional venues. He has addressed such key HR topics as staffing, performance management, union membership, work motivation and compensation systems, and his work helped blaze a trail for those who developed 360-degree assessments and feedback.
“It’s been a great journey,” he says.
For more information about Restoring Hope Transplant House, visit www.restoringhope.org. Contributions can be sent to Restoring Hope Transplant House, c/o Capitol Bank, 710 N. High Point Rd., Madison, WI 53717.
For more information about the Losey award, visit www.shrm.org/loseyaward.
Steve Bates is manager of online editorial content for SHRM. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.