It’s been said that Broncos take care of Broncos. Once students at WMU turn the tassel, they become part of an alumni community of hundreds of thousands far and wide who have each other’s backs. Bronco bonds form in unlikely and even the most challenging circumstances.
Take Brian Gauthier (B.A.’80, Music and Business) and Alfred “Al” Hendrickson (B.S.’64, English and Social Science) as a case in point.
These two fellow alumni and Floridians met at a particularly difficult and painful time in Al’s life, when his now late wife, Elaine, had become seriously ill. Brian is the CEO and owner of A Family Member Homecare, a home health care agency that assists seniors and their families in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
“Al’s best friend, retired Chief Judge of Broward County, Peter Weinstein, recommended my company,” Brian said, “and when Al and I got to talking, we discovered we both graduated from WMU.”
Brian is known for going the extra mile for his clients (and for people in general). In fact, he personally selects every caregiver who works for his agency. “Above and beyond is an understatement,” said Veronica Velasquez, manager of operations at A Family Member Homecare. (Veronica has worked for Brian for 20 years.) “He only hires people he’d send to his own family, and he treats everyone who works here like his own family, too. Brian is one of the most generous people I know.”
Today, Brian and Al have become fast friends and meet for lunch regularly. “Brian is intelligent, innovate and articulate, but he keeps it under a bushel,” Al joked. “He’s well respected and runs a wonderful company. Plus, he has a great sense of humor and I just enjoy his company a lot.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Western, Brian went on to earn an MBA with specialization in Health Sector Management and Policy from the University of Miami, followed by a Master of Arts degree in Gerontology from the prestigious Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California.
Like Al, Brian is also no stranger to giving back to his community. He is past president of the Rotary Club of Hollywood, has co-chaired the Leadership Hollywood Program of the Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and served on the board of the Meyerhoff Senior Center in Hollywood. In 2010, he was awarded the “Heart of the Community” award from Volunteer Broward for his volunteer work with Hospice by The Sea’s Memorial Regional Care Center, also in Hollywood.
Yet while both of these Broncos have both garnered great success in their careers and are ardent philanthropists, neither wishes to draw much attention to themselves. Besides their shared status as WMU alumni, “humble” might as well be their mutual middle name.
“I’m just a small business and I don’t think alumni would be very interested in reading about that,” Brain said. “But Al and his son’s dealership recently sold for the highest dollar amount ever of any dealership in this country, so that’s a very big deal. He’s been honored with just about every recognition locally and has given generously to local charities. He’s the one you should really be writing about.”
A Habit of Generosity
Spreading good fortune around isn’t just a belief for Al Hendrickson; it’s a habit.
“One of my caregivers was late to work one day because her water heater broke. Al had a plumber at her house that day,” Brian said. “When the plumber then reported there was also an electrical problem, Al sent an electrician. He spent over $2,000.”
“Al is always doing stuff like that,” he continued. There must be hundreds of people he’s helped with gifts over the years. Every time we go to lunch, Al pays. He gets angry if I even try to pay and he’s my client! He’s also a massive tipper. The best part of having lunch with him is watching the looks on people’s faces when he hands them the money.”
In 1989, Al founded Al Hendrickson Toyota in Coconut Creek, Florida with his son. In 2022, the dealership held the distinction of selling the most passenger cars among any franchise in the nation. During that same year, Al was honored with the Coral Springs Key to the City for his contributions to Coral Springs and the wider South Florida community, including supporting public safety initiatives, sponsoring community events, and donating time and money to numerous foundations and nonprofits.
Upon bestowing Al with the honor, the City of Coral Springs wrote in a press release:
“Through 45 years of new technologies, changes, and growth, Hendrickson has been a consistent and steadfast supporter of Coral Springs and beyond.
‘Al is a household name in Coral Springs because of his reputation as a great salesman and the generous contributions he has made in our community,’ said Commissioner Joy Carter. ‘As a Commission, there is no greater honor we can bestow than the Key to the City because it symbolizes the recipient is a trusted friend and respected leader. I am fortunate to call Al a friend and a true city pioneer.’”
Al graduated from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science in English and Social Science in 1964; however, his journey to WMU wasn’t an easy one. He dropped out of high school in tenth grade, ran away from home and eventually joined the Navy.
Following a stint in construction and attending Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, Al finally made his way to Western, where he worked as a DJ, program director and general manager at WIDR-FM. Other highlights included seeing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak on campus and honing his notable skills in table tennis.
“I admit, I wasn’t always the most focused student,” Al said. “I used to study right by a ping pong table, just waiting for somebody to come by and challenge me to a game.”
“Western is a great school though,” he said, “and I’ve had a wonderful life, including having been married to the love of my life for 57 years and a career that was second to none.”
Brian earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Business in 1980 from WMU. “I really didn’t have much time to get involved in school activities. Like many others, I had to work,” he said. “I don’t say that as some kind of hero. I was determined to get a degree, but school was more on the sidelines for me. I worked almost full time to survive.”
While it’s been a while since he’s been on campus, Brian’s Bronco pride and commitment to the University endure.
“I give to WMU every year because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Western plays a very important role for kids in Michigan and beyond. It’s there to offer them the chance to get an affordable degree from a respectable school, which can then be used to open doors for good jobs with quality potential employers.”
“Thank goodness WMU is there for us! If every graduate gave a couple hundred bucks a year, just think how enormous the impact would be,” Brian added.
Speaking of impact, there’s a quote from Donald Fisher (founder of The Gap) Brian finds meaningful and offers as advice for current Broncos: “Create your own world and live in it.”
“Your own world is much more interesting than that social media world,” he said. “Social media is junk food for the brain. You gotta have it sometimes, but it’s best to keep it at a minimum.”
Do you have an alumni success story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it! Submit your story ideas today at WMUAlumni.org/YourStory.