B.A., Denison University
M.B.A., Wayne State University
Citation awarded May, 1998
Elna Henry Blass combines a distinguished business career with exemplary service to community and Denison. For the last eight years she has worked for the Harley-Davidson Company, having risen through the ranks of business and industry. Elna holds the M.B.A. from Wayne State University, and her business experience includes plant management, re-engineering, industrial relations, and the full range of human resources responsibilities. A licensed pilot for many years, Elna is more likely now to be seen on her earth-bound Harley than in the Cessna 172 she used to fly.
Since 1993, Elna has been Director of Business Process Innovation for the famous motorcycle manufacturing company, headquartered in Milwaukee. In this position, her mission is to cultivate an environment conducive to innovation, in which employees learn to add value to the product through re-thinking processes. The importance of having intellectually active employees is the basis of Elna’s industrial philosophy. “People,” she says, “are the only competitive advantage any company has.”
Elna extends her interest in people to her community as well. For example, in Milwaukee she has served on the Board of the Milwaukee Women’s Business Initiative and the Board of Directors of the Greater Milwaukee YWCA, where her work involves a collaborative effort with other businesses to get women off welfare and into jobs. As Plant Manager for the Tomahawk, Wisconsin Harley-Davidson operation, she incorporated initiatives to benefit the community into her business plan. Elna is an examiner for the national Excellence in Service Quality Awards.
For the last three summers, Elna has sponsored a fully paid internship at Harley-Davidson for a Denison student. An active career network volunteer for Denison, she visited campus in 1996 to address the audience at Denison’s annual Business and Industry Breakfast. She is a visiting participant in the College’s new Organizational Studies program, and she serves on the planning committee for “Women for Denison.” In addition, Elna has served in fundraising roles for her alma mater, and she is currently President of the Milwaukee Alumni Club.
Elna is the daughter of two Denisonians, the late Eleanor Lapham Henry ’36 and Harry “Butch” Henry ’34, who makes his home in Michigan.