CEO, Sharon Steel, Sharon PA
by Mike Roknick
For some, Superman represents the man of steel. But before there was a Superman there was Henry G. Evans who really knew what steel was all about. The former vice chairman and president of Sharon Steel Corp. in Farrell, Pa., worked at the company for nearly 60 years and made the steel company shine. His rise to the top of a major steelmaker which at one time employed close to 6,000 is legendary in the industry.
This is not a story of a man who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Born in Stoneboro, Pa., on Dec. 6, 1914, he grew up in a working class family in nearby Sharon, Pa. Evans’s parents, George and Elizabeth, also had two daughters, Alberta and Anna. George Evans died in 1918 during the great influenza epidemic. His wife worked at Westinghouse Electric Corp.’s plant in Sharon to feed her family.
Attending Sharon High School, Evans was a star player on the school’s basketball team. “I was the tallest player on the team,’’ said Evans, who stands in at 6-foot-2, “That was pretty tall for a 1930s basketball team.’’
Just a few weeks after graduating high school in 1933 he started working at Sharon Steel Corp.’s Farrell steel plant, which is next door to Sharon. He got his start at the bottom – literally. His first job at the plant was a general laborer by working in such areas as the open hearth.
Working inside a steel plant in those days was a dirty and dangerous business. Air inside much of the plant was so filled with dirt and smoke that workers usually couldn’t see beyond 50 yards. Open hearth and blast furnaces belched out volcanic-hot steel that could instantly kill a man if he slipped.
Sensing that this young man had what it took for the science of steel making, his supervisor promoted Evans to metallurgical observer. His job was to ensure steel produced at the plant was of good quality. “I worked six, sometimes seven days a week then,’’ he recalled. From there his career skyrocketed. He went on to hold the posts of observation foreman, plant metallurgist, blooming and bar mill superintendent and hot strip mill superintendent.
All of these duties were on the production side of the company. With a strong heart and a solid mind, he went on to hold virtually every management position at the company. By 1957 he made the jump to works manager of Sharon Steel which is firmly in the ranks of the executive staff. At this position Evans called the shots on how the steel plant should be operated.
Named corporate vice president of operations at the company in 1960 he also was elected to the steelmaker’s board. By this point he held sway in almost every decision impacting the steel company.
Evans was always modest about his abilities and his rise to power in the organization. “Once I became vice president of operations my job pretty much stayed the same even though my titles changed later on,’’ Evans said.
But he did have a life outside of the mill. He and the former Katherine Phillips, were married in 1945. They were never blessed with children. She was a life-long member of the First Baptist Church in Sharon, where Henry Evans was baptized in 1990.
A long time resident of Hermitage, Pa., Evans created and worked with organizations to make the lives of those around him better. Evans was a strong supporter of the F.H. Buhl Club, a community recreation center founded by Sharon Steel magnate Frank Buhl in 1903. He was known to start every morning there.
Although he never attended college, he was a major supporter of Thiel College in Greenville, PA. He was a trustee at the college from from 1987 to 1996, after which he was named a Trustee Emeritus, an honor granted to about five percent of trustee. The college granted him an honorary doctorate in 1991.
The Evans’s’ support of Thiel College, the Buhl Club, and the First Baptist Church did not end when Henry Evans passed away on January 1, 2000, nor when Catherine followed on March 7, 2003. In their wills, they left $1.5 million to each of those organizations.
Henry G. Evans passed away on January 1, 2000, Katherine Evans on March 7, 2003