What Andy Grove Taught Me

AndrewSGrove

Since Monday, when I learned that Andrew Grove had passed away, two lessons that Andy had role-modeled have been rolling over in my head.

The first lesson:  Pursue life with a tenacious focus and never stop challenging assumptions

The stories of Andy challenging assumptions begins with the reinvention of Intel, a company he co-founded and took from being the big gorilla in memory chips into being the big gorilla of microprocessors – challenging assumptions like he was starting from scratch and encouraging cannibalization within the company he’d built.  I’ve never seen or heard of another founder who reinvented a giant enterprise like Andy Grove did.  He challenged assumptions when he found out he had cancer and ignored what doctors told him, instead studying on his own and choosing the unproven treatment that would in fact prove to prolong his life.

I had the good fortune of watching him in action in 2010 in a meeting at the Grove foundation.  Scott Johnson, founder of the Myelin Repair Foundation (MRF) – which I was advising – was sharing with Andy how they were connecting research across academic institutions and accelerating the launching of drugs, with a focus on results.  We anticipated that Andy would want to learn how he could take the accelerated launching approach to specific areas related to Parkinson’s disease.  In fact, much of the meeting was about the particular challenges The Grove Foundation was dealing with regarding Parkinson’s:

  1. Had MRF created standards industry wide?
    Andy discussed that there were no common measurements or standards related to Parkinson’s and its progression.   He showed us a peg-board-like unit that Intel had built and used for developing standard measurements – a tool that he was encouraging doctors everywhere to use.   He wanted to learn of any standard measurement scheme in place so that those of us involved with MRF could learn collectively.   We spent about an hour on this issue and the challenges the MRF had faced.   Andy Grove was building tools  that would let a problem be understood and solved collectively around the world.
  2. Had MRF interfaced with the National Health Service — NHS – or international health organizations, e.g., WHO, NHS, other country-specific organizations, and what lessons could they share?
    Andy described the piecemeal nature he felt and saw in how the issues associated with Parkinson’s disease were being addressed. He wanted to learn from everyone in the room how these issues had been addressed, and about who from where was open to integrated solutions, etc.

We left that meeting knowing that Andy Grove was not interested in MRF’s accelerated approach for a drug release. Rather, he was breaking apart everything needed to address Parkinson’s disease and bring all the resources together to find solutions – and we had just been part of his amazing and eye-opening problem-solving approach.   There was no assumption that Andy wouldn’t challenge, and he was totally focused and persistent.  Or as he often said, “Only the Paranoid survive.”

I left that meeting with a treasure – an acquaintanceship with Andy Grove. Over the next six months, he was so engaged and energized about the MRF, its challenges, and what he could learn and take back to Parkinson’s disesase that he thought nothing of calling me at any point with an idea or a question – even once at 4:00 in the morning.

The second lesson: Mentoring is part of who I am.

Intel was built into the company and culture Andy Grove built – starting with when he bought cubicles from the discount place for the first employees of the company that would become to the center of the high-tech world.  I saw the strength of the culture Andy had built when I was working with a supplier who had hired a VP from Intel, who six months later quit his new job, saying, “I didn’t appreciate the strength of support and pride I had every day when I went home from Intel.  I am returning there for a 25 percent cut in salary.   It is the place I want to be.”

When I was a new associate at McKinsey, I received a letter from Andy Grove. The president and chairman of Intel had taken time out of his busy day to tell me that the editorial I had published in the Wall Street Journal had taken courage to write and was good.  He didn’t know me then, and yet he mentored me.

I would go so far as to say that part of why Silicon Valley is so special is because Andy Grove built it to be a place of mentorship.

When I see an article of his I drop everything else and read it on the spot Here is an article by Andy Grove that I would encourage everyone to read – both as a great illustration of the value of challenging our assumptions, and as a way to let Andy mentor each of us.

Sports = or ≠ Social Responsibility?

DikembeMutombo-2

This week, NYU’s Tisch Institute for Sports Management hosted what it called the first-ever conference on Sports and Social Responsibility.  When I heard that it was the first ever, I thought “no way” and then googled to find that, sure enough, that’s correct. Noting but articles on the subject dating back to 2006.  Executives across the multimillion and multibillion dollar sports leagues – MLS, NBA, WNBA, NFL, NASCAR, MLB, LPGA, PGA, and NHL – are hungry to address this topic. They turned out to pay rapt attention, alongside corporate and foundation leaders.

The conference opened with a challenge to the leadership and involvement of iconic figures in sports.  It turned to a discussion that concluded:

  • Sports figures are highly visible, often watched more closely than movie stars
  • Every sports organization should encourage sports figures to be socially engaged
  • Some may be too young or not quite ready. In that case, organizations should make social engagement available without forcing it.

The most memorable moment came when Dikembe Mutombo, global ambassador of the NBA (and a hero of my husband’s), passionately echoed the main premise of the day.

“If a player does not want to be engaged socially, they should not be part of the organization,” he remarked. “Social responsibility is part of the equation.”

Mutombo, who grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and gives generously to charities there, added,  “It is every organization’s responsibility to help players get there, and if they can’t, then get them off the team.”

He then went on to describe his sense of the NBA:

“The NBA recognizes the power to serve as part of our culture.  That means every player, retired player, coach, and employee of the NBA has ridden an elevator up and needs to be committed to sending an elevator back down to someone else who needs it.

“There are people all over the world who need a lift. Social responsibility and giving back is at the heart of everything we do at the NBA.  We tell every new player, ‘I hope you want to be part of an organization that takes this seriously and cares so deeply.’

“There is enough of a program that when you take the elevator to the top we help everyone send it back down.”

His closing line:. “If you don’t think you have some moral responsibility to the community, that is ridiculous.’ ”

How many organizations that call themselves socially responsible have a culture that helps people engage socially, builds a consciousness that recognizes the power and importance of social responsibility in everyone in the organization? How many of them get rid of the people who don’t follow these simple rules?

Or, put differently, how many of our sports leagues, companies, and even schools can learn from this standard?

That day, on the NYU campus, my husband’s hero became my hero.

Dikembe Mutombo: Georgetown graduate; 18-season player with the National Basketball Association, and thought to be one of the greatest defensive players of all time – a four-time defensive player of the year AND an eight-time All-Star champion. Retired from the Houston Rockets at the end of the 2009 season.  Built a hospital, dedicated to his mother and focused on preventing people from needlessly dying at a young age, in his home country, The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Personally invested $25 million and years of his life to the hospital, which is now a self-sustaining medical facility. The hospital has served more than 180,000 patients. Heads the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation and is a global ambassador for the NBA.

2016 – New Forces; New Frames

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Mid-December, 2015

Listening to the Spirio Piano play itself at Steinway’s headquarters, I imagined I could see the musician on the bench and feel the emotions as the keys were softly “stroked” and then “pounded.”  But, no one was there.

(For those of you who haven’t followed this remarkable development: A few months ago, Steinway introduced the Spirio, a high-resolution player piano that uses software and a current-carrying coil of wire to activate the hammers and hence the notes. The result: concert-quality music with no concert artist.)

I thought about how Peter Drucker, who loved change, would have delighted in the Spirio. I also flashed back to my first visit to Disney Land, when realistic “ghosts” appeared in an elevator.  Bernard, the French horn player from the Canadian Brass put it best: “I’m glad I don’t play the piano.”

Late December

A friend was visiting from Europe and our conversation turned to Microsoft.  He was very positive about the new leadership.  Then I asked my son, do you think it is a good time to invest in Microsoft?   Will it soar the way Apple did over the past decades?  My son—who wasn’t bullish on Microsoft just last year — replied, “Microsoft is doing some things right now.   It will very much depend on how they handle the migration to Virtual Reality.  Virtual Reality is now real: Everything will change.”    He gave me his gaming magazine, with a section describing Virtual Reality and 2016. I began thinking about teaching a class with all my students virtually there, seeing their hands as they raise and so on.

So much is changing so fast. The rules, the assumptions of much of the world, are crumbling, so no one knows the new rules. The gatekeepers are being tossed aside, the gates are vanishing.   In business, the distribution channels that people built are in flux.  Country borders are not borders (except maybe to Donald Trump). I talked to people at the top of food chain and no one knows what the landscape will look like two years from now. The one theme that was prevalent — never before have people in their organizations been asking for leadership so loudly and never before has it been as difficult to provide a real vision and adjust it rapidly as the world you know changes.

It is intimidating. It is immensely liberating.

It is difficult to have bearings, much less a vision right now. And we must.

What would Peter Drucker, the master of questions, ask to help himself and others orient themselves and think with vision?   He might ask and we might begin a conversation with:

  1. When you look out the window, what do you see that is visible and not yet seen?  
    We are at something of an inflection point with capitalism and the industrial enterprise with a rising creative class, a new trust-belt, and hybrid communist-capitalists emerging with some wins.
  2. What needs to be done?
    We have to take care of this earth in a new way. Expectations of what we do when we grow up have to be shifted. Robin Chase, founder of Zip-car, goes so far as to say, if we have a stronger social network, expect to spend more time with our family, and build on platforms, are we not better off?
  3. What role can you play in addressing the needs?
    Help the millennials ask questions not about what they want to be but about how can they contribute, and help my clients ask questions about how they can build millennials in this new world. When servant-leaders are in the majority, there will be Peace on Earth.
  4. How do you want to be remembered?
    Today, my answer is different than six months ago. As a servant-leader – serving first and leading only when it helps me serve.
  5. What is your action plan?
    To write blogs this year updating and fleshing out these perspectives – building on your ideas.

Happy birthday Frances*

November 1st, 2015 – The day time changes

hbfI will share with you three quick stories and postulate a mathematical definition for us to toast on France’s birthday.

It was the summer of 1976. I was a math grad student, researching the potential impact of the 26th Amendment with four other nerds for my senator Birch Bayh. The amendment changed the voting age to match the age when one could be drafted. At the end of the summer, Senator Bayh and his wife, Marvella, took us to a dinner in Indianapolis honoring him. Listening to the speaker that night was, as Frances would say, a defining moment in my life.

Robert Greenleaf defined the difference between the servant-leader and the leader-servant.

“The servant-leader is servant first. . . . It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead—leading so one can better serve.

“That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. . . .

“The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”

Senator Bayh asked how can you identify a servant-first leader.
Robert Greenleaf replied: “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest-priority needs are being served.

The best test is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”

Senator Bayh then asked Robert Greenleaf if he ever met anyone who is the at either extreme and totally a servant-leader or leader-servent. (100%)

Robert laughed and said we all know 100% leaders first.

He then thought a moment and carefully spoke about the ONE person he had met in his life that he believed was the 100% servant-leader. It was the new CEO of the Girl Scouts, Frances Hesselbein.

Fast-forward 25 years: In Peter F. Drucker’s living room, I was busy writing down the names of the people Peter Drucker thought I should interview as I wrote about him. When he said, “Frances Hesselbein,” a chill went down my spine. I flashed back to that summer day in 1976.

I put my pen down and asked Peter to describe Frances after he explained she was CEO of the Girl Scouts and the first woman on the cover of Business Week. … He went on to describe Frances as wearing a magical set of spectacles (two circles):

  • She sees differently and helps others see differently.
  • She sees good and what is possible.
  • She elevates what others are capable of seeing and doing.
  • There are no bounds to what Frances sees.
  • She sees and creates results: the least privileged and all of society benefit from Frances. We are all better off.

Frances helps the helping and the helped find more connections and commonality than the differences between them.

Peter then went on to link the root of the word spectacles to spectacular and the discussed the history of the words.

He circled back and said, “if you put two Hesselbein circles together, you have infinity.”

2008: My daughter was tutoring middle-school kids at Harlem Children Zone’s after-school program, four days a week. On occasion I would pick her up, and we would drive home together. One day she described her day as taking some donors on a tour. One donor asked if she gave one of their schools a few computers, would that help the kids?

Violet’s response: Frances would ask the teachers what tools and support they needed to better serve the students.

That morphed into a conversation where the donor asked who was Frances and subsequently contacted teachers at multiple schools to ask the Frances question and better serve the students.

The result was glasses for fourth graders who could not read the blackboard in two schools. Spectacles.

Frances’s spectacles had gone through my hands to my daughter’s eyes—and to the eyes of the donors to the teachers to serve the students.

IT IS A MAGICAL CIRCLE.

Every circle has no beginning and no end.

Mathematically,
What are the properties that characterize the Hesselbein Circle?

  1. Every point is equidistant from every other point, meaning each member is equally important.
  2. The center, FRANCES, is everywhere.
  3. The circumference of the circle is greater than the sum of the members.
  4. There are no negative forces inside the circle—all forces are positive.
  5. Around every Hesselbein circle another can be drawn.

Let us toast to Frances Hesselbein and all Hesselbein circles.

* Many people have requested copy of my comments from a celebration of Frances Hesselbein on October 29th, 2015

The Peter-Doris Duet: A Model Partnership

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While working with Peter F. Drucker in the last years of his life, I had the opportunity to observe a model partnership – one of respect, play, and dialogue. While he’d worked successfully with the CEOs of GE, Proctor and Gamble, and many others from the largest companies in the world to leading heads of countries, his true partner was his wife, Doris.

I n June of 2005, I was riding with Peter and Doris, both then in their 90s, to an HBR event honoring Peter. As they sat back, Doris asked Peter, “Why were you in and out of bed so much last night?” Peter replied, “I had a nightmare. I was trying to explain to Socrates what an elevator was. It was impossible!”

Doris shot back, “Can you imagine trying to explain to him a cell phone?” Peter then came back with, “That would not have been a problem, because there was not any kind of phone in Socrates’ lifetime. It is easier to explain something new than to convince someone that the staircase is not the best alternative.” Doris’s expression was puzzlement. But she said nothing.

When we arrived at the event, Peter asked Doris if he could have a glass of wine. She said, “After you talk.” Once he’d received his award, he asked Doris again and she handed him his glass of wine. He looked over at me and whispered, “She could have explained that elevator to Socrates.”

I was with Peter on April 2, 2004. When I arrived, he told me that the night before Doris had sown the hems of his pajama pants closed. He said she did that every April Fools Day. He still laughed at it.

The following spring, as I was driving Peter home from his office one day, he insisted that we stop at a store so he could buy Doris the largest card he could find for Mother’s Day. Doris later told me that their four children were born in the years Peter wrote his first four books. After the fourth, she told Peter no more kids, but that she would continue to proof and read his books. He wrote 36 more.

After Peter passed away, Doris shared many more stories. One was that she was certain he had taken up ice-skating at the age of 40 because Camille Berra, Yogi’s wife, had invited him skating with her. Camille is a fantastic ice skater and Yogi would not skate with her, yet he did play tennis with Doris until she and Peter moved to the West Coast. Such was life with the Drucker duet.

During my last meeting with Doris, four months ago, over tea, she encouraged me to update my book on Peter, saying the stories needed to be more current. With a twinkle in her eye, Doris was challenging me. She would hold a party for the book when it was done, she said – but I’d better hurry.

The Time: 2014

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Each year at Frances Hesselbein’s holiday party, I find three of the youngest people in the room and try to learn from them. This year felt like a great inflection point, a return to enthusiasm and optimism, illuminated by the life trajectories of three young leaders:

Ruthie graduated summa cum laude in Anthropology from Princeton three years ago. She worked at an advertising firm and wasn’t happy. She recently quit and spent four months focused on learning basic programming and big data skills in a training course.   Ruthie just landed a job with a start-up. She’s thrilled by the team she is joining and its’ enthusiasm in the office every day.

Travis is a senior at Columbia, studying social philosophy.  He yearns to work for a non-profit, but is putting that dream on the back burner for a couple of years.  “My dad and mom live in Detroit,” he told me. “They are in their 60s and working hard.   My father works in an automobile plant.   Every morning he gets up and is in pain, but he knows he has to go to work.   My mom works for H&R Block.  I want to make money so they can retire.”   He explained his plan:  He’s taken three courses in computer coding. Software engineers are making $150,000 or so a year.  Travis expects to work for a company like Yahoo or Google for three to five years, pay down his parents’ mortgage, and then move on to the social sector job he really wants.

Rafael quit a job in Brooklyn to begin his own venture. He has a part-time job to pay for food and is sleeping on a friend’s couch. As he told me about the idea he is building, Rafael’s excitement was palpable. He took me through the history of portraits, how artifacts were added, how heads were turned, how three poses were superimposed, and so on. He then explained his concept for future portraits:  one-minute “videolages composed of video clips from a person’s life, at different moments, in different poses, with different people.  By the time he finished his explanation, I believed in his business.

These are tracks which few people in my generation would have followed, or even imagined. Everywhere I go I’m inspired by twenty-somethings, by their excitement and sense of freedom, balanced with a keen sense of responsibility. Their abilities enhance their confidence and capability to take risks and to vision the future.

My talks with Ruthie, Travis, and Rafael echo recent conversations with my clients, who are trying to both serve them as customers and engage them as employees or partners in this “age of transparency:”

  1. Are we able to keep up and service customers’ hunger to provide and receive immediate feedback?  When we reinvent this business for tomorrow, what are the services we must provide?  For example, what data, feedback, and service are appropriate for a customer who buys a piano? How about a toothbrush?  Should a company send reports to the customer or wait for the customer’s request?  And how should these duties be split between computers and humans?
  2. How can we create organizations that are not only transparent and flexible but truly cohesive? How can we best build platforms or communities that attract and nurture entrepreneurs, keep our unique identities, and link with other players? How do we keep our values and fulfill our missions and make certain our business will be viable tomorrow…while everything around us is changing?

The organization must first be agile and smart so that it’s ready to serve the customer.  Peter Drucker said, “An institution is like a tune; it is not constituted by individual sounds but by the relations between them.”   These days, we are experiencing symphonies, and cacophonies, that have never before been heard.  Listen, enjoy, and contribute.   Shape the harmonies as the emerging leaders hidden among us are doing.  We meet them in all kinds of places.

2014 promises to be a great year.  I look forward to learning and growing with you.

Thank you for being on this journey with me.

Liz Haas Edersheim

PS:  My favorite reads from last year:

  • Roger Martin and A.G. Lafley’s  Playing to Win. A great how-to book on strategy. It builds on foundations:  Michael Porter’s five forces, Chris Argyris’ double-loop learning, Peter Drucker’s managing for results, and Martin’s integrative thinking and takes the whole further.  It’s now the frame I use every time I am working with a client on strategic issues.
  • Eric Schmidt’s The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business. The ideas and possibilities here are very edgy.
  • Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs. This book keeps me smiling.

Happy Birthday to Peter F. Drucker, Father of Management

“The greatest innovation of the 20th century was the discipline of management. The most important profession of the 21st century will be disciplined management.”

Society has always had managers, meaning people in positions of institutional power, such as owners and overseers. In the same way, we’ve always had doctors. However, until medicine became a codified discipline that could be taught, practiced, and improved upon, we didn’t expect nearly as much from them as we do now. Today, there are better doctors and worse ones – individual practitioners differ – but the discipline of medicine has raised the average performance level of physicians well above the most gifted of their predecessors a century ago. In the same way, the discipline of management has enabled managers to contribute much more and has stretched their sphere of influence beyond their enterprises and into the larger society. Organizations are now so integral to the fabric of our lives that we take them for granted.

Management’s growing effectiveness has made organizations the vehicle of choice for carrying out much of the work of modern society. We are born in organizations, supplied by organizations, informed by organizations, educated by organizations, so that we can later work in organizations – and, ultimately, be buried by organizations. Along the way, organizations fulfill our wants and needs, entertain us, help us socialize, govern us – and, yes, also frustrate and harass us. The variety of organizations reflects the breadth of human purpose. Management makes organizations possible; good management makes them work well. Over the past century, the discipline of management has transformed the experience of work and multiplied its productivity.

Management’s real genius is turning complexity and specialization into simplicity and service. As the global economy increasingly gives us more intelligence and faster access to each other’s thoughts, work will continue to grow more specialized and complex, not less. So management will play a larger role in our lives, not a smaller one.

Today we salute Peter F. Drucker, the father of the discipline of management, who played a seminal role in maximizing the impact of managers and the power of their organizations. Management’s business is building organizations that work. What can be more important today for a sustainable and healthy world?

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Alan Mulally, please don’t go to Microsoft!

Dear Alan,

As I listen to the growing speculation that you’re the favored candidate to lead Microsoft, I smile in admiration. But, I feel increasingly certain that this is not the right move for you.

As you said in casual conversation more than two years ago, Microsoft needs to create a team of technological fiefdoms, shedding what doesn’t make sense, and focusing efforts on what matters tomorrow. You have what Microsoft needs: an ability to bring together an enormous range of capabilities – hardware, software – and enterprises that you’ve made mesh splendidly, bringing disparate pieces together to create a unified whole – an organization, or as you call it, One Ford, that moves itself and society forward.

But, as our friend Frances Hesselbein, who taught leadership at West Point, puts it: “Leadership is who you are, not what you do.”  Alan, you’re the soul of the new Ford Motor Company.   By now, you are part of its DNA, just like its founder; you are in essence the founder of the 21st century Ford. Founders have lifelong relationships with their enterprises and mesh their identities with their organizations.    Could Henry Ford ever have gone to another company?  Would Steve Jobs have gone to Boeing?

Perhaps worst of all, moving to Microsoft would take the Mulally magic away from Ford.   We need only look back to Lee Iococca, another new founder whose identity was wrapped into an organization, to see what happens when such a successful founder departs for another corporation: Chrysler collapsed. As the new Ford’s founder, jumping to the next corporate opportunity doesn’t fit the values of One Ford, One Team that define what Ford now is, or who you are.

For Ford to keep humming, people need to talk about you every day. You are part of the organizational lore and sense of meaning of Ford Motor Company, at least as much as Henry Ford himself was.  I know you are a humble man.  But, do not understate the importance of the Mulally effect on the enterprise.

I hope your next job is Secretary of Education or head of the Small Business Administration – jobs where you can continue to serve in a broader capacity while your spirit and values remain associated with Ford.

As you’ve said before, “Keep the Ford Focus.”

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One thought on “Alan Mulally, please don’t go to Microsoft!

  1. I think that the work Mulally has done at Ford has ushered in a new era! Not sure many managers could have dealt with the situation as he did.

My Father’s Stories:
Valuing People

For most of my life, if asked to describe my father, I would have talked about his accomplishments.   Today I believe he was a teacher who valued people and truly cared.  “Leadership is who you are, not what you do,” observed Frances Hesselbein, the former CEO of the Girl Scouts of America and founder of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute.  With my father’s death, this idea came to life: The values you live are who you are.

Those values made him a great administrator from the very beginning.  In 1962, Frederick Hovde, President of Purdue, mounted a national search to identify someone who could build a first-class mathematics department at Purdue University.  When offered the job, Dad said, “If you want a first-class department, you need to make a commitment now that I can hire people this year without any interference.  A department begins with people.”  In his first year, Dad added 21 mathematicians to the department.   All of whom loved math and cared about teaching.

Dad taught and mentored hundreds of students and faculty over the years, and their success was his greatest pleasure. Louis De Branges, Edward C. Elliott Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Purdue University, pulled me aside in 2006, when Purdue was naming a building after my father. He said,  “Your father made sure I had what I needed to do great research, and that nothing got in my way. Your father is a mentor, a coach, and my best friend. No one else has ever done so much for me.”   As he spoke, I kept thinking of how my father had come home glowing and proud in 1984.   Louis had come to his office to tell him he had proved the Bieberbach conjecture.  My father was the first person he told.  My father always said that his job was to make sure Purdue had the best people and they were set up to win.

The focus on others was more than institutional with him. A number of people he mentored have said to me, “You are so lucky. I was jealous of the relationship you had with your father. He was a great father figure.  I was closer to your father than I am to mine.” One continued, “When he visited San Francisco, he took me to dinner just to learn how I was doing and let me know he cared. He had no agenda. He just wanted to know me.” Another said, “He always told me stories that made me think about what I could do.  They had to do with life as much as math.  He saw that I felt like a stranger here.   I heard the story of Sam the Tailor at least three times.  Sam ended up in Indiana because he got on the wrong train with his family.   Sam made Lafayette his community and has a very special place here.”

My brothers and I remember his playing duplicate bridge with each of us.  For a while, he was using three different bidding systems (a weak no trump for Richard, the precision club for me, and standard American for David) to play to our individual strengths.  He did this for about 6 years.  I cannot remember one time when he used the wrong bidding system with me.  When he was with me, he was focused on me.

My father had seven grandchildren, and a unique relationship with each. For example, he wrote a proof with my daughter Violet when she observed a pattern in numbers.   None of her teachers at Horace Mann had time to sit with her and think through what caused this particular pattern, whether or not it had been identified before, or whether it could be proven.  Her grandfather did. Brian, a 29 year-old grandson, brought cards to the hospital, 120+ miles from home, to see if my father could help with a card problem. He did.

My father’s caring, passionate engagement with others even extended to politics. A few months ago, at the age of 92, he attended a fundraising event for Cory Booker. They talked for a long while, each discovering a kindred soul in the other as my father shared his concerns about the values and sense of empathy he felt needed to passed on to the next generation – for their sake and for our country’s in general. After the social portion of the event, Booker spoke for half an hour, spending about a third of that time talking about his conversation with my dad. He stressed how impressed he was with how much my father cared about people and about his country, and most of all by the fact that even at his age, he’d felt the need to come and speak with his state’s Senatorial candidate in person, rather than simply sit by and bemoan the status quo.

valuing-peopleBut that was my father’s essence: he actively cared — about his family, his students, his colleagues, his fellow citizens, and his country. And at every level, he did what he could to make things better.

2 thoughts on “My Father’s Stories:
Valuing People

  1. I helped your father for several years with yard work both at arrowhead and at the university farm house. I also helped with computer work and whatever Phil and Margret needed done inside the home. I was sad to hear of his passing. I kept looking for a message about a memorial service in west lafayette but I never heard of anything. I work in Computer Science here at Purdue and other people have wondered if there was going to be a memorial service.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  2. We held a service in late November. It was beautiful. I am very sorry that you did not hear about it.

    I am working on a draft document about my father and will give you a call.

My Father’s Stories:
Education – Good is Not Great

My father, Phil Haas, rose to a top position at a research university, and he saw first-hand that great teachers create passion in their students.  Igniting this passion is arguably the first item on the agenda of our education system, and it sometimes seems to have fallen to the bottom of the list.

Dad often referred to a study completed by a former president of Dartmouth College.  It compared Calculus II final exam grades for students taught by graduate assistants, associate professors, and full professors.   I’d expect that students learning from experienced professors would do better, but the results showed no significant difference in averages or distributions by type of teacher. A year later, the president investigated what classes those students had enrolled in. Students of full professors were enrolled in high-level elective math classes at a rate more than double the other groups.  Clearly, the full professors had created passion in more students than the more junior teachers.

Blackboard6My father was a math professor at Purdue University and was also an administrator. The most exciting achievements in his career were his experiences in the classroom.  He was particularly proud of mentoring the daughter of a general in 1991.  She wanted to be a teacher – maybe a math teacher. One day she needed to go home for a family conference with her father.   A few days later the U.S. invaded Iraq. My father mentored her through that difficult emotional time. She called him her father “in loco” and left Purdue with an even greater love for mathematics.   She’s since received her Ph.D. and teaches mathematics at a prestigious university. His role in supporting her achievement was one of my father’s proudest accomplishments.

Are we fostering that kind of pride in educators today? Do we measure our teachers as mentors, as individuals who inspire? Not these days.   We assess teachers on their students’ exam scores, regardless of whether the students are reeling from malnutrition, lack of sleep, divorce, and other turmoil that happens outside school.  As Jim Collins would ask, are we striving to be good rather than great?  In a hyper-competitive global job market, is good really good enough?    My father didn’t think so. Before his death this month, he talked about the decline in true standards for education. “There is nothing more important now for this country,” he said, “than passionate learners.”

My father, who believed that math skills were essential for our workforce, was proud that Purdue offered honors Calculus courses and is now expanding this program he had started — an investment in their students and our nation’s future.