Washington, D.C. – Officials with the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) have announced that its president and CEO for the past 18 years, Henry Michael Ogrodzinski, 65, passed away, January 22, 2014, following a two-year battle with cancer.
“Over the past 18 years, Henry led our organization with tremendous passion towards aviation and sincere concern for all NASAO members, friends, and aviation industry stakeholders,” said Christopher Willenborg, Chairman of NASAO and Director of Aeronautics for the State of Massachusetts. “His strong leadership qualities, extensive experience in the aviation industry, and ability to effectively communicate on Capitol Hill made him one of the most recognized and respected spokespersons regarding aviation-related matters, nationally.”
Ogrodzinski assumed the leadership of NASAO in 1996. The organization represents state government aviation agencies, serving the public interest, in all 50 states, Guam and Puerto Rico.
Prior to NASAO, Ogrodzinski held a number of other senior management positions in different sectors of the aviation community.
Ogrodzinski began his career at the Delco Electronics Division of General Motors in Milwaukee, Wis., where he was responsible for all communications and training programs. Delco Electronics manufactured navigation and flight-management systems for commercial, military and space applications.
Ogrodzinski left Delco to become the Director of Policy and Planning for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In this role, he was often asked to provide expert testimony before Congress on a wide variety of aviation issues. He also served as EAA Director of Corporate Communications. In this role, he managed all public and media relations for the world’s largest aviation event and served on the editorial board of EAA’s five magazines. Ogrodzinski played an integral part in the growth of EAA, its museum and its annual convention throughout the 1980s, and in doing so, worked side-by-side with EAA Founder & President Paul Poberenzy, and his son and successor, Tom Poberezny.
Based upon his aviation and government affairs experience, Ogrodzinski was recruited by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) to lead its communications programs. While with GAMA, he produced several publications and multi-media presentations, demonstrating the importance of General Aviation to elected officials and others. He also managed the activities of the industry-wide GAMA Public Affairs Committee. He became well known as a leading aviation advocate and spokesman for his work in focusing the media spotlight on the product liability crisis, which was devastating the industry at the time.
Recognizing Ogrodzinski’s talent in communications, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation recruited him to consolidate its worldwide public affairs, exhibitions, and advertising efforts. Ogrodzinski bore the ultimate responsibility for planning and executing the highly successful domestic and international introductions of the G-IVSP and G-V business jets. Gulfstream named Ogrodzinski Vice President of Marketing and Communications and made him a corporate officer.
Ogrodzinski left Gulfstream to become the first president and CEO of the then 20-year-old United States Air & Trade Show in Dayton, Ohio. There, he rescued the troubled and financially beleaguered organization by producing the largest and most successful events in its history. In recognition of his contributions to the show and the air show entertainment industry, Ogrodzinski was featured on the cover of the industry’s leading magazine at the time, standing at the entrance gates to the show.
Henry Ogrodzinski was a veteran of the U.S. Army and an honors graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism – Mass Communication. He is a member of many aviation organizations and the recipient of numerous military and civilian awards.
In 2012, Ogrodzinski received NAA’s “Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award,” and the “Career Contribution In Aviation Award” by the Texas Department of Transportation. In 2013, he received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the New York Aviation Management Association.
“Henry had talent – a gift, really – that spun friendships throughout aviation in Washington, Oshkosh and around the nation,” said Drew Steketee, a close friend who held top communications positions at other manufacturers, trade groups and at the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) during Ogrodzinski’s career.
Shortly after learning of Ogrodzinski’s terminal cancer diagnosis in 2012, Steketee celebrated Ogrodzinski in a widely circulated op-ed about their friendship, reminiscing about their shared experiences in the industry and the people they had worked with and for.
Steketee’s GENERAL AVIATION NEWS column, “My Dinner with Henry,” lauded Ogrodzinski’s rise beyond PR and media relations to the thick-and-thin of Washington: the lobbying, testifying on The Hill and marching onto many a banquet dais with other association presidents.
“Henry was GREAT with people and soldiered on as president of NASAO despite his illness, keeping those 50 state officials happy and involved,” said Steketee. “Henry especially treasured EAA and family-close connections with Paul Poberezny and his wife, Audrey, who had recently confirmed to him, ‘Henry, you’re one of us.’”
Ogrodzinski is survived by his wife of 21 years, Ellen Barrett; his brother, Zenith of Apollo Beach, Florida; his sister, Gloria Jenders of Oak Creek, Wisconsin; six nieces; three nephews, and thousands of friends and admirers.
A memorial service was held January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC, and a special tribute luncheon will be held on May 14, 2014 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, Crystal City, Virginia. For details, contact Bridgette Bailey at the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO): 703-417-1883 (www.nasao.org).
Ogrodzinski was often quoted by the news media as a “perceptive observer” of the aviation industry. He also served on a number of government and industry panels and boards, including the U.S. Aviation Security Advisory Committee Working Group On General Aviation (Co-Chairman), Board of Nominations of the National Aviation Hall of Fame, Collier and Brewer Trophy Selection Committees, Alliance For Aviation Across America, Aero Club of Washington, and National Aeronautic Association (NAA).