Clark Benson, Heat and Control chairman emeritus, dies at 95
Clark Kertell Benson, engineer, entrepreneur, family man, and former chairman of Heat and Control, Inc. died peacefully on Easter morning, April 24, 2011.
Recipient of the Snack Food Association's Circle of Honor award, and holder of twenty four patents, Benson's interest in mechanical engineering was kindled at a young age by his uncle who taught mechanical drawing. He graduated as a mechanical engineer from Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Francisco in 1935 and began work developing combustion controls for commercial boilers and ovens. As an engineer at Natural Gas Equipment in 1939, one of Benson's first jobs was to apply a gas burner system to a steel kettle for batch frying potato chips.
By 1942, Benson began his long association with Andy Caridis, now Chairman of Heat and Control. Although Natural Gas Equipment primarily built industrial furnaces, Benson and Caridis, working mostly on their own time, developed a continuous potato chip cooker in 1946.
In 1950, the two joined talents at Heat and Control, Inc. and began developing cooking systems for the fast-growing snack, french fry, and frozen dinner industries. "Many of our inventions came from laying out a system and recognizing that new devices were needed to improve product quality, output, cleaning, and safety," Benson once recalled. Continuous oil filtration, externally heated fryer systems, multi-zone fryers, fail-safe hoists for cooker hood/conveyor assemblies, and super-heated steam convection ovens were just a few early Heat and Control developments.
Benson became Heat and Control's president in 1963, and helped establish manufacturing plants in Scotland, Australia, and Mexico. In 1970, with Benson handling sales and Caridis managing manufacturing, Heat and Control focused exclusively on the food processing industry and developed new processing systems for corn chips, taco shells, nuts, pellets, fried chicken and meat products. In 1980, Benson and Caridis introduced the Ishida multihead weigher to North America, completely transforming the packaging industry.
After becoming Chairman in 1990, Benson retired in 1996 at the age of 83. From the home he designed and built in Millbrae, CA, Benson enjoyed an active life with his family, friends and business associates around the world. A seventy-five year member of the Masonic Lodge, he held the rank of 33rd Degree and was an ardent supporter of the Shriner's Hospital. Benson served on the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Cogswell College, for twenty five years, and was an active member of the Episcopal Church. But his real passion was golf which he played every week until the last few years of his life.
Of all his personal and professional successes, Clark Benson said his proudest achievement was his family. Marrying the love of his life in 1944, Benson and his wife Betty enjoyed 67 years of marriage. Clark and Betty raised five children and their family ventually grew to include 13 grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.
An avid yachtsman, Benson once said "It's not the way the wind blows. It's how you set your sails". And in all aspects of his life, Clark Benson set his sails with great care, compassion, foresight, and integrity.
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