Brandeis International Business School

Charles Housen, paper mill executive who lent years of know-how to Brandeis business students, passes away at 87

Longtime Brandeis supporter served on International Business School’s board

Charles B. Housen, right, with wife Marjorie (Grodner) ’56, left, and Dean Kathryn Graddy at Reunion Weekend in September 2019.

Charles B. Housen, right, with wife Marjorie (Grodner) ’56, left, and Dean Kathryn Graddy at Reunion Weekend in September 2019.

Charles B. Housen, a member and past chair of the Board of Advisors and longtime executive-in-residence at Brandeis International Business School, passed away at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, on April 4, a few weeks shy of his 88th birthday.

Mr. Housen, fondly known as Charley, was retired chairman and CEO of his family business, Erving Paper Mills. With his wife of 63 years, Marjorie (Grodner) ’56, he had been a devoted supporter of Brandeis as a Fellow, a member of the Brandeis National Committee and a past President’s Councilor. Mrs. Housen has served on the Brandeis Board of Trustees, and also is a Fellow, a member of the Brandeis National Committee and a past President’s Councilor.

Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz said: “Charley Housen shared his wisdom, his business know-how, and his joy of life with generations of students here at Brandeis who then took what they learned from him out into the world. He helped make the International Business School and the university what they are today.”

Mr. Housen advised students for many years as part of the Executive in Residence program he founded at the Brandeis International Business School. He chaired what was then called the Board of Overseers from 1998-2000. 

He and his wife were honored with a distinguished community service award at the Boston dinner of the Justice Brandeis Society in 1992. Their philanthropy created the Housen Neurobiology Suite in the Volen National Center for Complex Systems and the Housen Foundation Endowed Scholarship at Brandeis. With his wife, Mr. Housen was a member of the Sachar Legacy Society and supported the Brandeis Fund and Rose Art Museum.

Mr. Housen was an early advocate of the creation of a business school at Brandeis and was instrumental in the transformation of the Graduate School of International Economics and Finance into the Brandeis International Business School in 2003.

“Charley Housen was a friend and benefactor of the Brandeis International Business School almost from the very beginning, and he left an enduring legacy through his devoted support for our students,” said Kathryn Graddy, the school’s dean and the Fred and Rita Richman Distinguished Professor of Economics at Brandeis.

Peter Petri, founding dean and the Carl Shapiro Professor of International Finance, stated: “Charley led the Board during a period of rapid expansion in the school’s programs and scale.”

A remembrance at the website of Stanetsky Memorial Chapel in Brookline, Massachusetts, states: “Charley led a wonderful and dynamic life. It was filled with joy and love for his family, joy and passion for his business and joy and satisfaction for his philanthropy. His storytelling and wisdom-sharing were world-renowned, and his network of friends and acquaintances was extraordinary.”

Mr. Housen, born in Holyoke, Mass., on April 21, 1932, graduated from the Loomis School in Windsor, Conn. and Tufts University.

After taking over from his father in 1970 at Erving Industries Inc., he led the family business during a period of expansion that saw the paper mill in the western Massachusetts town of Erving grow to employ more than 1,300 people. He knew almost every employee’s name as well as the names of many of their spouses and children.

The company’s growth resulted in the blanketing of the entire East Coast and some of the Midwest with Erving’s paper products. Mr. Housen is credited with creating the Wendy’s restaurant chain’s ubiquitous printed yellow napkin. The strong family business culture he created continues at the paper mill to this day.

At Erving Industries, Mr. Housen served as CEO and then chairman of the board. He also served as chairman of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and was very active in the Young Presidents’ Organization, an international business organization. His philanthropic causes in addition to Brandeis included the Boston Jewish Federation, Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and American Friends of the Technion.

As a father, he loved skiing with his family every winter weekend and summering at their lake house on Laurel Lake in the Berkshires. He retired from Erving in 2001 and moved to Florida, where he enjoyed golfing, playing poker, eating oysters and making new friends. “He loved life so much and had such fun living it,” according to his family remembers.

In addition to his wife, he leaves three children, Deborah Housen-Couriel of Israel, Phyllis Housen of New York and Los Angeles and Morris Housen of Boston, and six grandchildren.