Death of a Former Boss

Richard T. Morgan May 19, 1937 - March 9, 2012

In his tragedy Julius Caesar,William Shakespeare had Marc Antony say, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” We don’t say enough about the good ones when they die. The good pays forward as strong or stronger than the bad; it’s just more quiet about it.

A good man died March 9, a former boss of mine and of many other people. His name was Richard (Dick) T. Morgan. When I heard, I alerted people I’d worked with who had the same boss or knew this man in a similar context as I’d known him. To a person, responses included one of these words: “sad,” “loyal,” “integrity.” Although each response was a single sentence, I knew there had to be at least one meaningful story behind it in each case. People’s reactions to a death do not include those words if the deceased was a person who sat on the sidelines. Those words describe a person who actively supported the needs and efforts of others even when it was not his or her job to do so and no one would have blamed him/her for doing nothing.

Dick Morgan spent time thinking about and acting on what was right, what was just, and he did it in the context of his job and his industry. He was straightforward in his words and actions, always cognizant of company goals and objectives but never ignoring the human beings he worked with. He was reasonable, caring, and focused—not sometimes but all the time. He was famous within his industry, which was educational publishing, and especially publishing for grades K-12, the “el-hi” world. He never raised his voice or swore to get a point across; at least, I never heard him do that. He managed meetings efficiently, wasting no one’s time. He was the kind of person that parents want in charge of the materials going into their kids’ hands, the kind of boss that workers want guiding their professional growth, and the kind of employee that bosses want directing progress.

He was retired over fifteen years when he died. Our industry was bettered by him in ways the brief obituary reproduced below can only hint at. The good that Dick Morgan did will live on in all of us who knew him. He was a rare role model in business, and I tried to emulate him when I ran my own company. I’m sure I’m not the only one. The ripples could not be interred.

Quoting from Publishers Weekly (3/12/2012):

Richard Morgan, who during his career served as AAP [Association of American Publishers] chairman and CEO of Harcourt Brace & Company, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Scott-Foresman, died March 9 at the age of 74.

After serving as a high school and college math teacher, Morgan began his publishing career in 1968 as an editor with Ginn and Company. He moved up the executive ranks in a period when the major educational publishing houses were undergoing tremendous change and consolidation. As chairman of the AAP, he initiated the organization’s Reading Initiative for Children program, and he later received the AAP’s highest honor, the Mary McNulty Award, for his contributions to educational publishing. He retired in 1995.

In remembering Morgan, his colleague and competitor Jim Levy observed, “Dick will be remembered perhaps more than anything for his fierce loyalty and integrity. His dedication to his people and family was unwavering.”

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4 Responses to Death of a Former Boss

  1. Natalie says:

    “Fierce loyalty and integrity,” such admirable qualities, and exactly what you would hope for in a boss. Sorry to hear the news.

  2. Liz West says:

    A touching tribute, Mer. And I agree that the good pays forward in ways that are unforeseen but often wonderful. The people who worked for and with this man were truly lucky.

  3. Kimberly Jane Morgan says:

    Richard Morgan is my uncle whom I never knew because my dad and brother stopped communicating before I was born. I am so sad to read this and not have met him because I am a math person and always wanted to know my uncle. The photo looks just like my dad, Fred and myself. Wow. Now I wish I could find his two children. My cousins. I think their names are Richard and Sarah.

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