Howard Meyers was born in 1943 in Newark, New Jersey. At that time, his father worked in a shipyard building vessels for the war effort. When World War II ended, his father became a painter and paper hanger, running a small business with two employees. “My parents weren’t college educated, but they were both highly intelligent,” says Meyers. “My mother worked as a bookkeeper before I was born, and she could speak a couple of languages. She was an avid reader. I knew from an early age that my parents wanted me to be the first in our family to go to college.”
Both of his parents came from large families who lived nearby. In fact, Meyers was raised on the same street as his father, and his grandparents’ house was just across the street. He also had several aunts and uncles who lived within walking distance, so there were always lots of cousins to play with. “We were a close family,” he says. “I have a sister five years younger. We shared a bedroom in our small house. We were a happy unit. My sister later said that we were poor but didn’t seem to realize it.” Meyers remembers the first time his father made $100 in a week, which was also the first time he tasted pizza. “To celebrate his earnings, his father had brought home a pizza,” he says. “It was wonderful.”
Meyers was taught to live by a moral code of honesty and integrity. “My dad always told me to do the best I could at anything I attempted and to carry more than my own weight,” he says. “In other words, do more than the bare minimum. He was a disciplined man who was very conscious of what is right and wrong.”
At the age of 13, Meyers began working at a variety of hourly jobs. In high school, he participated in track and debate, but he didn’t love going to school. “I was in a hurry to grow up,” he says. “I wanted to be a businessman. I didn’t know what kind of business, but I was anxious to get started.”
Meyers began his college education at the C. W. Post campus of Long Island University, later transferring to New York University. During his sophomore year, he got a job at Revere Smelting & Refining, a family-owned business. He knew at once that he had found the industry in which he wanted to spend his career. “I was more or less a boy working in a man’s job,” says Meyers. “It was hard work but an enlightening experience. I learned about the technology of smelting, and I also learned to be disciplined and how to respect a fellow worker.”
Meyers worked full time while finishing his degree in accounting, finance, and economics in three and a half years. “I lived at home, commuted to school, and worked,” he says. “I had no social life at college. I wanted to get my degree as soon as possible so that I could work full time.”
To fulfill his military obligation, Meyers enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a reservist. After completing active duty, he joined American Metal Climax in an entry-level management position. Five years later, the family at Revere—where he had worked during his college years—offered him a chance to buy the company if he would return to them and assist in its reorganization. He left his job and lived on his savings while he worked to find investors. In 1970, the reorganization was complete, and as president and CEO, Meyers began making several acquisitions. Needing a name for the new parent company, Meyers had remembered an old superstition that said having a Q and an X in a business name would bring success—so he settled on Quexco.
Dallas-based Quexco, a private holding company, operates 17 nonferrous smelting and refining facilities, three anode and flat roll producing facilities, and plastic-related and mining businesses through its operating subsidiaries and affiliates throughout North America, Europe, and Africa. Eco-Bat Technologies PLC, one of Quexco’s affiliated companies, is the largest lead producer in the world.
Meyers is proud of the company he has built. “You never know how high the mountain is that you’re going to climb,” he says. “When you’re climbing it, you look up and say, ‘It’s not that far up.’ It takes a long time, and it takes a lot of hard work. But it’s what I wanted to do, and it has given me a great deal of satisfaction.”
Meyers says he does not define success in terms of money or prestige. “I think that if you have a sense of accomplishment and do the best you can under the circumstances, then that is a sign of success,” he says. “But I think it is easier to be successful if you are doing something you enjoy.”
He and his wife, Rory, have raised their children to find work that interests them and makes them happy. “I gave my children three things,” he says. “I gave them a good name, a good education, and goodbye—you are on your own. They weren’t handed a livelihood. They don’t work for me. They do their own thing, and I’m proud of them.”
Meyers has served on the board of trustees of New York University, the board of overseers of NYU’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, and the board of directors of Battery Council International. He has been a director of the Steel Manufacturers Association, St. Mark’s School of Texas, the National Association of Recycling Industries, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and the Lead Industry Association.
Much of his philanthropy is given anonymously. When asked about the causes he champions, Meyers says, “We are all here just a speck in time, and I believe that making the time we spend here more beneficial to society is very important. I was raised in relatively poor circumstances, but my parents were charitable people. They instilled in me the importance of helping those in need. Rory and I particularly give to causes that relate to young people and education.”
One cause Meyers cares about deeply is the Dallas Arboretum. He gave the Arboretum two public donations of $15 million for the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, a seven-acre outdoor laboratory that opened in late 2013.
Another cause that is important to Meyers is the NYU’s Paths to Peace program, to which he donated $10 million over a 10-year period. Each year, Paths to Peace brings together 16 students of different faiths and backgrounds from Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza to study and live together at NYU. The program is aimed at training future leaders so they are endowed with the skills and experience to advance reconciliation and coexistence for future generations. “If we can get one of these leaders to go back and create some understanding, it will be worthwhile,” says Meyers. “There is such a disparity of common interest in Israel and Palestine, and overcoming that isn’t going to happen without good leadership.”