Thomas Hook, ’84
By Tom Missel
Tom Hook is glad he didn’t have a clue in college. “I always find it amazing that people at 18 think they know what they want to do because I had absolutely no idea,” said Hook, class of 1984 and president and CEO of Western New York-based Greatbatch Inc. “Maybe I was enlightened enough to keep an open mindset. That’s why I really liked Bona’s. As a small liberal arts institution, it kept all my doors open to me.”
A math and chemistry major at Bonaventure, Hook went on to earn master’s degrees from UB and Vanderbilt before serving in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear engineer.
“The Navy gave me a chance to expand my technology base but still be in a pretty exciting job,” said Hook, a native of Kenmore, N.Y., who then worked for Duracell USA for six years before founding the Van Owen Group Acquisition Company in 1997.
“I had owned a lot of companies and sold them all, but because of a non-compete (clause), I couldn’t go back and work in the electronics industry so I had to find a new industry,” he said. “As I got older, I realized that working on things that were significant to mankind was important so, for me, health care kind of stood out.”
Hook worked for GE Medical Systems (now GE Healthcare) and CTI Molecular Imaging before being named president of Greatbatch in 2005; he added CEO to his title in 2006.
The business acumen Hook brought to a traditionally slow-paced industry has helped Greatbatch become one of the nation’s leading medical technology companies. The company has acquired 10 med-tech companies in the last 12 years — six since 2007.
Wilson Greatbatch co-invented the pacemaker in 1960, “but the company he founded 40 years ago was to develop batteries for medical devices,” Hook said. “That’s still 10 to 15 percent of our sales, but the company today is very broad-ranging, from vascular and orthopaedics to neurology.”
Greatbatch spends roughly $50 million annually on research and development.
HealthNow New York asked Hook to join its board of directors in 2009, and in June he was appointed board chair of HealthNow, BlueCross BlueShield’s parent company.
“This is a great opportunity to work in the health industry to facilitate change, to get higher standards of care and best practices out to the public sooner,” Hook said.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t know what he wanted to do in college.
“Even having zero experience in health care, I felt extremely well prepared based on the education I received at Bonaventure,” Hook said. “I learned how to learn there. Bonaventure taught me how to be a good student, a good listener, a good learner. Once you get good at learning, not a whole lot can inhibit you.”
(Tom Missel, email@example.com, is director of media relations and marketing at St. Bonaventure.)