YAM Notes: March/April 2006

By Rich Banbury

Many corporate leaders are said to be high-profile, ego-driven, shoot-the-wounded alphas, who thrive on being the dominant male in the room with a glass floor.  This stereotypical, or perhaps mythic, image could not be further from reality in the case of John Pepper, whose modest and unassuming style has been so effective during his tenure as Yale’s Vice President for Finance & Administration, a position from which he retired in January.  Prior to undertaking that assignment two years ago, the former Navy officer was twice tasked by the Board to captain Procter & Gamble, having been recalled on the second occasion to steer the drifting ship back on course.  In announcing John’s return to Cincinnati, Rick Levin described him as a “transformational leader of thousands of Yale employees who provide administrative support for faculty and students … John has taught us to appreciate that everyone in our community makes an important contribution … Invariably modest yet entirely secure in his own identity, John is a person of complete integrity and deep caring.”  With similar leadership styles and many of the same personal qualities, John and Rick were obviously a good match.  In his remarks at the time of his departure from New Haven, John made the following observation concerning Yale:  “It has meant and given much to my life over the now almost fifty years since I walked through Phelps Gate as a freshman, never having been on the campus before, filled with a mixture of apprehension, excitement and curiosity”.  Reflecting on his management philosophy, and particularly on his assignment to improve relations with organized labor, John emphasized the value of appreciating the uniqueness and dignity of every individual.  “Our trust is the greatest gift we can give each other … tell me what you think; act on what you believe to be true”.  Back in Cincinnati, John has now assumed the role of CEO for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, another of his leadership projects, which welcomed over 300,000 visitors during its first year of operation in 2004-2005.

Steve Baruch is internationalizing Broadway theatre.  His production of The Sound of Music has been touring throughout East Asia and was the first Broadway musical ever to play in such venues as China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  Several other productions are in the planning stage, beginning with The King and I, which hopefully will open in Bangkok.  Using hundreds of “small investors” for each show, Steve and his partners are able to keep a number of balls in the air at once, including Hairspray, Sweeney Todd, and The Producers, all currently running as big hits and tough tickets in New York.

Capitalism and free market enterprise are gaining traction in Armenia, thanks in part to Stew Cole’s work as a technical advisor to various financial institutions in Yerevan.  The objective is to “kick start capital markets” by the issuance of traded market securities.  A number of the investors are expatriates with an interest in commercial development and the export of Armenian goods.  Yerevan is an Old World city of 1.2 million, where one can find the locals strolling the streets, going to movies, and lingering in cafes late into the evening.  Getting around town, however, is risky business, since there is a total lack of enforced traffic laws and no test to obtain a driver’s license.  Stew reports that high-speed U-turns in the middle of an intersection are a “favorite maneuver”, and the carefree pedestrians are dangerously on their own.

Having bought himself a couple of new knees, Fred Jacobson is again hiking his beloved Val d’Anniviers in the Swiss Alps.  Fred is often joined by Chad Dilley, who decamped for the pleasures of Old Europe many years ago.

From Versailles, Steve Phillips recommends the wine but laments the dearth of classmates visiting his villa to enjoy it with him.  Steve reminds us, and it was news to me, that “the Peace Treaty giving the American Colonies their independence” was signed in Versailles.

Rob Hanke had no problem rooting against the Yale basketball team in its encounter this season with Providence College.  The starting center for Providence was Rob’s towering son Randall, whose 14 points were pivotal in a competitive 13-point win over the young but highly athletic Bulldog squad.

From the east bank of the Mississippi in New Orleans, Mike Mackenzie reports that he survived his encounter last Fall with an emotional lady named Katrina.  By the end of the year, Mike was describing New Orleans as “a giant very, very slowly awakening … candles of life gently coming back on”.  Also dodging the big storms, Janey and Austin Church, along with their two cats, hunkered down in their Coral Gables home through the 2005 hurricane season, reporting that Rita and Wilma were the wild ones in their neighborhood.


Lew Lehrman, was one of eleven citizens to receive a 2005 National Humanities Medal during a White House ceremony late last year.  Lew and Richard Gilder were honored for having founded the Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale.  Ed Elmendorf, still living in Washington, D.C., has been serving as President of the local United Nations Association, as well as a consultant to the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program.

Secret War in the Pacific, a video documentary recently produced by Peter Parsons, tells the story of his father’s valiant role with the resistance movement in the Philippines during World War II.  Chick Parsons was imprisoned by the Japanese in Manila but escaped within months and found his way to Australia, where he reported to General MacArthur in Brisbane.  Chick was then transported in and out of the Philippines by submarine, as he organized and coordinated guerilla forces throughout the archipelago.  The video includes extensive documentary footage, as well as many interviews.  Additional information is available through www.chickparsons.com or by contacting Peter in the Philippines at ppars@aol.com.