We counted him rich for his intellect, honesty, persistence, justice, generosity, and an absolute inability to be mean. Of most of these gifts, he was aware, but never boasted of them. Not a month before he died, before he knew of his mortal illness, he counted himself fortunate to have “a good wife, good children, good colleagues and a good job.”
He was not born a wealthy man, nor did he die as one, contented instead with the modest security of a professor’s life as he sought to help others create a similar security for themselves.
To staunch Ohio’s job losses from deindustrialization, in 1987 he founded the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, which helped tens of thousands to share in the ownership of the companies where they worked. A great egalitarian, he was no admirer of state socialism, but advocated bringing willing sellers, mostly retiring owners of small businesses, together with willing buyers, their employees, in a market approach that kept those viable companies in business. With zest, he took on every obstacle that might stand in the way of the ownership transfers that were threatening Ohio. If owners and employees didn’t understand the complex legal arrangements of Employee Stock Ownership Plans, he explained it so they could understand. If companies were in trouble, even at the brink of closing, he would set aside other work to investigate the feasibility of a buyout. If employees lacked the funds needed to see if it made sense to buy their companies, he worked with Ohio’s Department of Development to help them. If financing couldn’t be found to close the deal, he cultivated friendly bankers and investors. If the company was too small to afford to establish an ESOP, he found a way to create employee cooperatives that could buy from owners.
If some research or scholarship was needed to make the case for employee ownership, he did it, or found someone else who had. A quick and fluent writer whose gifts were developed under a devoted father’s tutelage, he willingly shared his access to publishers and journals in coauthored articles, lending not just his name, but his considerable scholarly powers to every endeavor. Through his research, he helped scholars writing about different kinds of broad-based ownership in several countries to find what they had in common and what they could learn from each other.
No one was too great or too small to be asked for help, nor to be thanked for it publicly.
He was usually at his cluttered table in the hall at home by 8 a.m., and he was often at the Center until 7 p.m. Six or seven days a week. His office was the same size as everyone else’s, but had at least twice as much paper in it, because he had an interest in every project the Center undertook, and maintained at least a little involvement in even the most smoothly running aspects of its work.
To honor him for the rich gifts he bestowed on us, we have pledged to continue the Center and its work as long as we are needed. There continues to be much to be done.