Dick and I met thirty five years ago when we were both young guys starting out in life we both had young children and spent summers in the same community in the first rise of the Catskills up behind Woodstock, New York. Dick's wonderful wife Emily had taken on the responsibility for making a day camp for the kids of the community and it was idyllic and that's how we met through our kids who were the center of our lives. We both liked to read and some days we would sit by the swimming pool together and talk about books. Kingsley Amis. Lucky Jim. Dylan Thomas.
A half dozen years or so ago I was talking to Dick and he said that Bill Gorham, who had been the president of the Urban Institute since its beginning had just decided to retire and he had asked Dick, as a member of the Urban Institute Board, if he would be willing to head the search committee for a new presidnt. My sense of chronology is a little hazy here but this was about the time that Dick had just completed the immense task of bringing together organ Stanley and Dean Witter and still had some iplomatic chores to perform. He and Jeannie had just recently been married. And he had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. And I thought his plate was pretty full so I said to him: you know, I don't think you ought to feel you have to do that there are others who could take it on although certainly no one else could do it better. And he said, I think I'd really like to do it because it would be a chance to meet some really interesting people. And I thought: wow as tho he needed to meet any new people under any circumstances.
That relishing of life, of something else that might be nteresting, of possibility, of another sort of adventure, that positive embrace of another opportunity to experience life
is my model, and my constant inspiration. I think of it all the time. It has come to inform every day I live. I think of it especially whenever I am having a hard time getting through the day I think of that and I have the courage to go on.
He was, of course, the great enabler not just in his business, giving others the wherewithal to be able to do things, start things, make things, but with the urban institute, rockefeller university, bard, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Tate gallery and many other good things and personally: with his family and friends he made life possible and not just life but flourishing. Living as he did, doing what he did: this is the model for how to live.
Dick was the most brilliant man I've ever known. I always thought he could see through walls. And so I sought his advice about the plays I wrote. He and Jeannie, these past years, have made it possible for me to write plays indeed, made my entire life possible as Dick made other whole lives possible.
You would think he might have made a suggestion from time to time about what I ought to write or how I ought to write it. He never did. He said to me: I'm interested in what you would do if you didn't have to worry at all. And so he gave me complete freedom. It's hard even to comprehend such generosity.
And so I've been inspired by his spirit, I hope it pervades everything I do. And often I've been inspired by what inspired him by the music and the art and the books he loved. I always thought that the pieces of art Jeannie and Dick collected were amazing not only as beautiful, individual pieces but when you saw them all together and you had a sense of the collection as a whole then you saw that the sensibilities of the collectors were amazingly harmonious, sweet, gracious, accomodating, alert, curious, irreverent, thoughtful, beautiful.
He loved Jeannie like crazy. I remember, before I'd met Jeannie, Dick told me he'd fallen in love with her, and I asked him what she was like. And he smiled and said, "she makes things happen," which, we both understood, was the highest possible praise any person could receive, and after that she made his life happen all over again every day.
He was reading a lot of Philip Larkin's poetry recently and he told my wife Michi that he read a Larkin poem 8 or 10 times before he decided whether or not he liked it. Dick was too curious, too open to others to judge quickly. He listened to a piece of music over and over to understand where the composer was coming from. And so, of course, he understood and felt things in a piece of art and in life
that others missed entirely. Recently, Dick had bought some drawings by James Castle that he loved. Castle was born in 1900, deaf and dumb, and he loved to draw. But his parents were told they needed to take away his pens and pencils and drawing paper and make him learn sign language instead to communicate as nearly as he could in the way others communicated. And so, deprived of ink and paper, Castle made ink from the soot he found in the fireplace and from his own spit, and he drew on old brown paper bags from the grocery store. Because he needed to make art even if all he had to use was soot and spit.
Dick knew what James Castle knew: he knew to never quit. Never never never never never quit. Never give up. Go all the way to the end. Never stop living. Living as he did, doing what he did: this is the model for how to live.
(A playwrite and friend whom Dick Supported for three decades.)
THANKS ON BEHALF OF JEANNIE AND REST OF FAMILY FOR YOUR ATTENDANCE HERE TODAY AND THE DELUGE OF NOTES OF SYMPATHY AND CONDOLENCES.AND A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO MORGAN STANLEY FOR PROVIDING ALL THE RESOURCES OF THE FIRM TO HELP US ARRANGE THIS SERVICE. THEY HAVE BEEN GREAT.
I AM DICK’S LITTLE BROTHER. HE HAS ALWAYS REFERRED TO ME AS HIS LITTLE BROTHER.I WAS ONLY ONE YEAR OLD WHEN MY BROTHER GOT POLIO IN 1944 AT THE AGE OF 8 SO I DON’T REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT THE EARLY YEARS. WHAT I DO KNOW IS THAT HIS WAS A PRETTY SEVERE CASE AND OUR PARENTS WERE TOLD THAT IT WOULD BE BEST TO PUT HIM IN A TRADE SCHOOL WHERE HE COULD LEARN TO DO THINGS WITH HIS HANDS. HE ACTUALLY WENT TO A SPECIAL SCHOOL BUT OUR PARENTS WEREN’T AT ALL SURE THIS WAS RIGHT BECAUSE HE WAS SUCH A BRIGHT KID.
ONE OF HIS DOCTORS THOUGHT THE SAME AND TOLD OUR PARENTS HE SHOULD BE IN PRIVATE SCHOOL. MY PARENTS SAID THEY DIDN’T HAVE THE MONEY TO DO THAT. THE DOCTOR TOLD THEM HE KNEW SOME PEOPLE AT PENN CHARTER AND THE NEXT YEAR DICK ENTERED PENN CHARTER ON FULL SCHOLARSHIP.THE DOCTOR’S NAME, BY THE WAY, WAS CHANCE. ISN’T THAT SOMETHING!
DICK WALKED ON CRUTCHES FOR MANY YEARS AND BUILT UP INCREDIBLE UPPER BODY STRENGTH. BY THE TIME HE GRADUATED FROM PENN CHARTER IN 1953 AT THE AGE OF16, HE HAD EARNED A VARSITY LETTER IN WRESTLING AND THE GOLD MEDAL FOR THE HIGHEST SCORE IN GYM.
ONE OF THE INCREDIBLY SPECIAL THINGS ABOUT MY BIG BROTHER, AS SO MANY OF YOU KNOW WHO HAVE WORKED WITH HIM HIM IS THAT HE ALWAYS WAS A REGULAR GUY, NO MATTER HOW MANY AWARDS, PRIZES AND DISTINCTIONS HE WAS ACCUMULATING AND THAT WAS WHAT WAS SO SPECIAL TO ME WHEN WE WERE GROWING UP. HE WAS JUST A NORMAL BIG BROTHER, PROTECTING ME WHEN OLDER GUYS WERE TRYING TO HURT ME, TEACHING ME HOW TO PLAY SPORTS AND HELPING ME GET BETTER GRADES. AMAZING WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THE ADVERSITY HE WAS OVERCOMING.
IN 1957 DICK GRADUATED FROM PRINCETON AT THE AGE OF 20 AND HAD CONTINUED TO PILE ON THE PRIZES AND AWARDS.HE RECEIVED THE HAROLD DODDS AWARD AT GRADUATION. IT WAS THE FIRST YEAR FOR THIS AWARD, WHICH IS NAMED FOR PRINCETON’S 15TH PRESIDENT, WHO WAS RETIRING THAT YEAR THIS CAME TO BE DICK’S MOST FAVORITE AWARD BECAUSE OF THE LANGUAGE DESCRIBING THE RECIPIENT: “GIVEN TO THE SENIOR WHO BEST EMBODIES THE HIGH EXAMPLE SET BY DR DODDS, PARTICULARLY IN THE QUALITIES OF CLEAR THINKING, MORAL COURAGE, A PATIENT AND JUDICIOUS REGARD FOR THE OPINION OF OTHERS, AND A THOROUGHGOING DEVOTION TO THE WELFARE OF THE UNIVERSITY AND THE LIFE OF THE MIND.”PRINCETON GETS AN A+ FOR GIVING THE AWARD TO THE RIGHT GUY!
THE FISHER FAMILIES USED TO GET TOGETHER OFTEN AT HOLIDAYS AND OTHER TIMES AND DICK ALWAYS HAD A DIFFERENT GAME THAT WE WOULD ALL PLAY.ONE YEAR WE WENT AROUND THE DINNER TABLE AND ANSWERED THE QUESTION, “WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD?”THERE WERE ANSWERS LIKE PLAY THE PIANO, OR SING BEAUTIFULLY DICK SAID, “I WOULD LIKE TO RUN ”,
THIS EXTRAORDINARY PERSON HAS LEFT US. THIS CLEAR THINKING MAN OF MORAL COURAGE WITH A PATIENT REGARD FOR THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS IS GONE. BUT, YOU KNOW WHAT, I’LL BET I KNOW WHAT HE IS DOING RIGHT NOW ... HE IS RUNNING.
Reflections on a Life Well Lived, Robert G. Scott
Jeannie, David, Emily; members of the Fisher and Donovan families; distinguished guests.
I’ve always known that life is full of irony; and now I’ve learned that death is too. Almost a year ago to the day, Dick Fisher stood in front of an audience at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and gave a wonderful set of remarks at my retirement dinner. Now, a year later, I am profoundly sad and humbled to be speaking at his memorial service.
I met Dick when I joined Morgan Stanley in 1970. I had just gotten out of business school and he was a young and highly respected partner at the Firm. When Dick Fisher died in December, he was a Wall Street icon, trusted and admired by scores of leaders in business, education and the arts who were proud to have called Dick their friend. And I too, am proud to have been Dick’s friend.
Why was he so admired and his counsel and friendship so broadly sought?
It’s no mystery: Dick was as classy a gentleman as you’ll ever find.
In business, he personified Morgan Stanley’s motto “First class business in a first class way.” In his life outside Morgan Stanley, he showed the same dedication to excellence in his commitment to the community, his support of the arts, and even in his taste in wine and cigars. To his friends and family, he was a wise and gentle man who was genuinely interested in the aspirations and accomplishments of others.
Everything about Dick was first class: His intellect, his leadership, and especially his character.
You only had to work with Dick a little while to realize that he was incredibly smart. There was little he didn’t know about corporate finance or the markets. And when the conversation switched away from business matters, he could regale you with his knowledge of sports, contemporary art, music and literature.
His intellect was powerful and unique. Dick was the quickest study I ever met. He was a genius at listening to a group of experts, who couldn’t listen to each other, and at the end of the discussion synthesizing the conversation into a coherent whole. It was awesome to behold, and even though I saw him do it many times, I was always amazed. As prodigious as his intellect was, it was his leadership that helped make Morgan Stanley a global powerhouse.
Early in his career, Dick championed overseas expansion. He understood that succeeding would take an unfailing commitment of people, capital and time – in some cases 10 or more years. Our people accepted assignments to places like Japan, and China and India because they trusted Dick. They trusted his business instincts, they trusted his commitment, and they trusted his willingness to support them in far-flung overseas locations as they worked to build our business. He believed and lived what Lewis Bernard always said: “You can’t keep pulling up the plant to check the roots.” It’s not good for the plant and it demoralizes the gardener. I learned quickly that this was true about business, but Dick understood that it applied to people as well.
Through all of his activities at the Firm, Dick was a man of the highest integrity. He taught each of us every day that we must treat everyone –employees, clients and shareholders, with honesty and respect. He also believed in being responsible and accountable – and not just for the victories. When transactions didn’t work out, or our judgments were proven wrong, he taught us by, his own example, to be straightforward and honest with our clients and each other.
Dick used to counsel us by paraphrasing Mark Twain:
“It’s always better to tell the truth than to lie, that way you don’t have to remember what you said.”
Dick led and mentored all of us in a way that was incredibly personal. It is amazing how many individuals at Morgan Stanley have their own special story of how Dick Fisher counseled them at some important time in their career. And Dick didn’t sugar coat his advice; he didn’t just pat you on the back and say everything was going to be all right. But he understood the need to balance criticism and praise. A quiet half-hour, one on one with Dick, was magical. It is unique, in my experience, that someone as senior and as powerful as Dick could so easily and willingly relate to employees at every level and be helpful to them.
So how did this come to be?
I believe the main reason that Dick was so effective as a businessman and mentor was because he was a great listener. Morgan Stanley was never at a loss for talkers, so maybe that’s how he became a good listener – he got lots of practice. Watching Dick’s style in a group, I learned to listen all the way to the end of the story. The most important fact is often the last revealed. I also learned that in order to listen, you can’t be doing all the taking. Dick genuinely cared about hearing what others had to say, and that encouraged people to be candid and frank in a way which was very helpful to Dick.
Dick had a wonderful sense of humor that was never mean-spirited or hurtful to others. He particularly loved amusing stories – especially those at his expense. Like the story about his limo ride, as a young associate, to Montreal with senior partner, Bill Mulholland. When the car got to the Canadian border, the immigration officer asked Bill Mulholland “who is in the car with you?” Mulholland answered “No one!” When the officer pointed at Dick in the back seat, and asked in a raised voice, “then who is that?” Mulholland replied “that’s just a statistician.” Thankfully, over the next 35 years, Dick became a little better known.
Dick loved golf, and everything associated with it. Many of us here had the privilege to play golf with Dick. He would drive his cart up to the ball, then get out with a club in one hand, and his cane in the other. He would line up his shot, drop the cane and hit the ball. He would then pick up his cane by hooking it with the golf club and move on.
We had a tournament at Morgan Stanley called the Chairman’s Cup. He used to complain that it wasn’t right to call it that, if the Chairman had never won it. He suggested we ought to let him win it, at least once. But you know what, he didn’t really want us to let him win, he wasn’t that kind of a guy. In fact, in spite of his handicap, Dick was a real man’s man and we all loved his company.
Two years ago, Dick sponsored my application to join a golf course in the area. As part of the admission process, Dick arranged a round of golf for me with the president of the club and two other Board members. On the day of the golf game, Dick, who was no longer playing himself, drove around the course in a golf cart, offering me encouragement and advice.
I shot a 76 that day, which is good for me. The incredible thing is that Dick took as much pleasure in my playing well as I did. I was thrilled that I had played well for Dick. He had that effect on people; you always wanted to do your best for Dick. That is what great leaders do for an organization.
On the Friday after Dick’s death, my wife and I went to a Christmas party which was attended by a number of Morgan Stanley employees. It was a party Dick had attended in past years. There was a couch in the living room where Dick usually sat; people would come by to sit with him and chat, and then get up after a minute or two so the next person could have a few moments with Dick. This year, all evening long, the couch sat empty.
But around the room, people stood in groups of three or four talking about their memories of Dick. There were tears, and hugs, but it was also comforting to be sharing these memories. I suddenly realized that even in death, Dick was doing what he always did. He was bringing us closer, helping us find feelings that bind us together and make us a community.
And I thought to myself “we are going to be all right. Dick is still watching over us. We are going to be all right.”
Robert G. Scott
Riverside Church, New York City
January 12, 2005
Remembrance for Richard B. Fisher, Leon Botstein
A few months ago, longstanding friends of Dick's, Sally and Bill Hambrecht (Bill went to Princeton with Dick), decided to support a new Quaker school in San Francisco. Knowing that Dick was grateful for the years he had spent at Penn Charter as a boy, Sally asked him what he thought the impact of a Quaker education had been on him. Here is Dick's answer:
"The point of education and experience is to help each individual develop a set of principles on which one bases the decisions of life. An essential component of these principles is tolerance and respect for the principles of others. This life should be led with a quiet dignity."
What set Dick Fisher apart, as we have heard today said so beautifully and graciously by Chuck Mee, Bob Scott, and Dick's brother David, were indeed his principles and his willingness to be decisive, to act on them. At Dick's core was not only an evident respect for others and the thoughts of others, but a pervasive sense of gratitude and obligation. Dick sustained a self-renewing sense of the gifts of life. He was keen to remember the past, including his own life, with uncommon candor. Therefore it is not surprising that he loved to read history and biography.
Perhaps because Dick survived polio as a child and witnessed the extent to which society sought to place him on the margins, he at one and the same time realized what he could do and what he would never be able to do; consequently, he never forgot the debt he owed those who loved him and helped him. Restricted by immobility and difference, he learned to be determined and forceful and yet contemplate the world, often from the sidelines. The wisdom he accrued centered on the habit of not complaining or feeling sorry for himself. Dick cultivated instead an unsentimental sense of gratitude. Survivors of polio learn to cope with pain; toward the very end, when it was clear in what enormous discomfort he was, he never let on. He saw, as the proverbial phrase goes, the glass half full.
Dick tricked disaster out of its victory. He forged an iron discipline, a powerful capacity to be alone and to concentrate. He cultivated the requisite ambition that is indispensable to the dramatic success he enjoyed in his work. Ambition is ordinary. But ambition coupled with tolerance and patience and an elegant talent for focusing attention on others is extraordinary. Dick's intellectual gifts were prodigious, but they never led him to arrogance. Instead, he pursued a lifelong pattern of curiosity, seeking counsel on his beloved writers from writers, on art from artists, on science from scientists, on music from musicians. For his and Jeannie's weekend place in Westchester, he built a library and surrounded himself with reference works, dictionaries, and readers’ companions in the arts, humanities, and sciences so that he could continue to read and learn.
Ambition without arrogance and the involuntary encounter with his own limitations led Dick to a unique achievement: the capacity to resist the corruption of success, the deformation of character, intentions, and principles that wealth, power, and fame seem to bring. He was utterly singular in our contemporary world in that he retained simplicity of manner, unaffected grace, and an elegant sense of humor and irony. Pride in Dick's character was balanced by humility and a lack of pretension. For all his passion for pens, wacky ink colors, golf, bizarre martinis made with pepper vodka, strange olives, Bombay Sapphire gin (in chilled glasses), Robusto cigars, watches, paintings and books, and good food, in the end material things meant little. Wealth and position were enjoyable and perhaps indispensable, but in truth they were means for nobler ends. When he made it possible for his once-a-week cleaning lady and her family to buy a house, they confronted him with a question: for what possible reason, what manner of self-interest or exchange are you, who barely know us, being so generous? Dick's answer: so that you might someday do the same for someone else. When he helped a struggling Sicilian watch repairman he did so out of respect for artisan craft and eccentricity. He hoped to give the watchmaker's two sons opportunity.
Dick was the finest friend I had. No one, for so little reason, was so good to me and my family. I am stunned by the finality of his absence, his death, and the loss of the privilege of his company. He was most reflective and helpful on the essentials, on life and death, on love and work. In our family we used to joke that Dick was the perfect man. I suspect that he would have had doubts about this grand event and have felt slightly embarrassed, but not cynical, about all the praise and the attention. We therefore might well ask what would he have wanted any of us to have said today.
I believe that Dick would have liked us to remember and celebrate not only his qualities as a father, husband, relative, and friend, but also his public virtue. He was an idealist and a dreamer. He was a lifelong believer in social justice and that now unpopular cause, liberal and secular democracy; in business governed by enlightened, ethical, and visionary self-interest, neither naïve nor self serving—in which greed and vulgar materialism are tempered.
We who survive him—if we wish to honor his life and the principles by which he lived—must now emulate his capacity for public leadership. We must take up where he left off. Dick was eager to counterbalance ignorance, apathy, the philistine, the shoddy, and the crass. Let us step into the breach and fight for the excellence and distinctiveness Dick cherished in science, in education, in poetry, fiction, and scholarship—the world of books—in the visual arts, theater, dance, and music. Let us take up, in his name and spirit, in each of our communities the cause of social progress, fairness, and a vital democracy in which basic freedoms and opportunities for all—including those crippled by poverty and illness—are preserved. Let us work so that the love of beauty, fundamental tolerance, and reciprocal respect he cherished can flourish.
With quiet dignity, Dick returned to the public sphere the gift of his life more fully than anyone I have ever known. To love and honor him is to be inspired by him. Our hearts go out to his family. But Dick would have been the first to look ahead and to see in our loss its opposite, finding new ways to live as he would have, passing to the next generation his love of the world, his admiration for the life of the mind, his commitment to courage and innovation on the part of individuals and institutions, to artistry and the right of all to the have the same chances he had, in private and in public, to live a dignified life of honor, love, kindness, and principle.
January 12, 2005, at The Riverside Church
By Leon Botstein