By Jeff Smith
CORNING - Amory Houghton Jr., a longtime fixture who led Corning Glass Works for nearly 20 years and later served nine terms as a member of Congress, died Wednesday, March 4, 2020 at the age of 93.
"The company, the community, and the country have lost a giant," said Wendell P. Weeks, chairman, chief executive officer, and president, Corning Inc. "I can’t think of anyone who embodied leadership more than Amo. Although he officially retired as CEO the year I joined Corning Inc., his influence was everywhere."
Weeks said Amo inspired him with his belief in the power of technology to improve lives, his relentless pursuit of excellence, and his commitment to serve others.
"He truly believed that what you did for people was the most important thing, and that has shaped Corning’s mission – not just to be an industry leader, but also to make a real difference in the world," Weeks said. "I was fortunate to have him as one of my advisors and friends, and we are privileged to build on his foundation."
Called "Amo" by all who knew him, Houghton led the company through landmark periods of innovation, growth, and prosperity and created a culture in which employees were united in a common cause, and their company, in turn, operated as an accountable member of its community.
Committed to research and development, Houghton helped facilitate many of Corning’s inventions such as CorningWare® and optical fiber. He also helped create the emissions-control business that launched the company’s Environmental Technologies segment.
"Amo never wavered in his faith and commitment to the people in the company, to research, and to the communities where we operate," said his brother, Jamie Houghton. "He insisted on always doing business the ‘Corning Way’ – which simply meant striving at all times to be the best at anything we undertook."
Jamie Houghton said most importantly, Amo has understood and believed in the elevation of the human spirit.
"He has understood and led us to understand that management means just that – constant contact with the people in the organization," Jamie Houghton said. "He has understood the great powers of motivation that can be unleashed, if people are led well."
Houghton is the only former Chief Executive of a Fortune 500 Company ever elected to the US House of Representatives.
Bob Van Wicklin, who worked at Amory Houghton’s Congressional office from 1991 to 2004, said the one thing that always stuck out to him was Amo seemed to care more about (Van Wicklin’s) professional development than (Van Wicklin) did.
"He always took time to sit me down and tell me how things were going, and asked me where I wanted to go and where he thought I should go," Van Wicklin said. "He was always very attentive to not just me but to his entire staff and making sure that we were thinking about the right thing. In that way, he was sort of like not just a mentor, almost like a grandfather."
"Amo really set the bar for me as to what a public servant should be, and let me tell you, that is an extremely high bar that Amo set," said Tim Kolpien, who worked on Amory Houghton’s reelection campaign in 1994. "Amo broke the mold when it came to how Amo presented himself. Amo epitomized a true public servant."
Houghton, whose great-great grandfather founded what was to become Corning Inc. in 1851, was born in Corning on Aug. 7, 1926.
Houghton was a PFC in the US Marine Corps during the final year of WWII, before he earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1950 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1952. That same year, he joined what was then Corning Glass Works as a junior process engineer at the Fallbrook, New York, plant. In 1954, Houghton served as a sales engineer for the electrical products division, later being promoted to manager of Electrical Components.
Houghton was named a member of the company’s board of directors, as well as vice president of Corning Glass Works in 1957, before being appointed president in 1961. Then in 1964, he was named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Corning Glass Works.
Among his numerous accomplishments, Amo led the recovery efforts after Hurricane Agnes flooded the Corning area in 1972; he initiated Corning’s first LPGA event in 1976; he supported the expansion of the Corning Museum of Glass in 1980. As a member of Corning’s board of directors, Houghton helped established Corning Enterprises, an organization designed to drive economic development, strengthen human services, and improve local quality of life.
"Amo Houghton did more for this community and for many of the people in it, than any other person that I can name," said Tom Dimitroff, a local historian who recently wrote a book about the Houghtons. "All we have to do is start with the flood of 1972, and it was Amo’s leadership that probably did more to bring this city to where it is today, recovering from the flood than any one other factor.
"On top of that, Amo was a wonderful human being, a great person. He did his best to calm congress down and get them to get along with each other. He tried the same in government as he did in business. Amo Houghton was plain and simply the finest man I ever knew."
Details for a memorial service planned for later this spring will be announced at a later date, according to Haughey Funeral Home, Inc.
If you are moved to send written condolences, please address them to, The Office of the Hon. Amory Houghton, Jr., 80 East Market Street, Suite 201, Corning, NY, 14830.