Since the 1970s, he has helped people hear better. On Friday, part-time Rancho Mirage resident William “Bill” Austin gets his own star. Joining the ranks of Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren and Sonny Bono – Austin’s name will grace the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.
“I don’t feel like a star, but I think the recognition is good because it brings attention to the work that we do and I think the work is important,” Austin said by phone from Minnesota.
He has fit four of the last five presidents with hearing aids, as well as children in countries such as El Salvador, Mexico and Peru.
He says he’ll make a quick trip to Dallas to visit his four dogs and get a haircut before catching a flight into Palm Springs for the 3 p.m. star dedication at 124 S. Palm Canyon Drive. A private VIP party will be held after at Spencer’s restaurant.
Known for his philanthropy, Austin is the founder of Starkey Hearing Foundation and Starkey Laboratories, the world’s largest U.S.-based hearing aid manufacturer.
Debbie Wright, executive director of the foundation, remembers meeting Austin 14 years ago.
“He told me his goal was to make a mark on mankind. I knew right then he wasn’t your average Joe,” she said.
His foundation donates 20,000 hearing aids annually to children around the world. In October, Austin was on the hit TV-show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
He donated hearing aids to homeowners Larry and Judy Vardon and provided their oldest son Stefan with a $50,000 college scholarship.
“It’s always wonderful to be able to help another person. My greatest fear is that I will have to say no someday,” Austin said.
That’s why he continues to work hard – leading his $400-million-a-year company’s 42 facilities – so he won’t have to say no.
By Kelly O’Connor