February 9, 2016
At 88 years old, Ahmad El-Hindi ’52 sits at the same desk and in the same chair that he did when his company, Filtertech, was just a small office inside his family’s home more than 40 years ago.
On the wall is a framed picture of him on the cover of Time magazine announcing him as “Man of the Year.” Never mind that it is a hand-drawn cover done by one of his sons when he was in grade school. To his family, he deserves this title.
The company, now headquartered in Manlius, N.Y., is a family affair. Partly because three of his children, Lawrence El-Hindi ’87, G’13, Maryam Wasmund ’78, G’80, and Joseph El-Hindi, are managers within the company, and partly because many employees have worked at the company for decades—and they too are like family.
“There have been people who have worked on the floor since before I was here, so you go to them like an uncle,” says Lawrence El-Hindi, who is a quality engineering manager and sales engineer at Filtertech. “I have younger engineers who will come to me with questions and I’ll say, ‘Let’s ask Uncle Carl.’”
Syracuse has been home to Ahmad El-Hindi since he stepped off the boat from Palestine in the fall of 1947 to begin what he believed was a short journey from New York City to Syracuse. For 10 hours on that crisp October day, the train wound through urban neighborhoods, rural countryside, and farmland before arriving at his new home—Syracuse University. Just like the landscape, the weather had shifted, and El-Hindi caught his first, but not last, glimpse of snowfall.
The son of an orange farmer, El-Hindi was, in a way, trading in one orange grove for another. The symbolism was a comforting reminder of home.
In 1948, the State of Israel was created and El-Hindi found himself to be a man without a country and without a home. With only a few hundred dollars left, he didn’t have the means to afford school. And, as a foreign student, he couldn’t work. Dean Frank P. Piskor of the graduate school assured him that Syracuse University would take care of him so he could stay.
El-Hindi worked 56 hours a week, while also taking classes, so he could send money to his family who had become displaced from its home. His thermodynamics professor, John A. King, found out about his workload and gave him a job grading papers for the class. He had to stop when students began to question the black, sooty stains that appeared on their work—evidence of his night job shoveling coal. Regardless, he never forgot about being offered that opportunity.
“I like Syracuse University because they are really compassionate and they take care of students,” said El-Hindi.
After working for Hoffman Air & Filtration Systems for 17 years, and reaching the level of a vice president, he decided he wanted to travel less and be with his family more. He had built such strong relationships when he was at Hoffman with companies like AT&T, Alcoa, and Reynolds Aluminum that they trusted him and valued his insights and recommendations, which enabled him to start his own consulting firm.
Over the decades, Filtertech expanded from consulting for companies to building filtration equipment and systems. As the company has grown over the decades, it has not lost that family feeling. After having his photo taken, El-Hindi strode through the office handing out oranges left over from the shoot. You can take the man out of the orange grove—but not the orange grove out of the man.
Filtertech is an international producer of liquid filtration and waste disposal equipment for industrial applications, including wire drawing, aluminum and steel rolling, machining, grinding, and coolant disposal. It has recently developed its filtration system technologies for new applications in optical glass lens grinding and industrial waste water treatment.