John Buller, whose senior executive roles have ranged from higher education to sports to retailing to non-profits to community organizations, has experienced and helped reshape an array of cultures over the years since he arrived in Seattle to play basketball for the University of Washington.
And the immersion in those disparate cultures has led him to publish his second book, "Can You Survive the Age of Disruption," more than two decades and numerous disruptive involvements since his first book. "Survival Guide for Bureaucratic Warriors."
Buller prefers to describe his latest book as "a resource guide to creating the all-in culture," which he sums up as "all about outcomes that bring interpersonal skills that are collaborative in nature," although in his book he details elements needed to bring about an all-in culture.
"I have always been interested in leadership and culture building," Buller told me. "But I believe we are now experiencing a rate of change that demands a new way to look at how organizations manage the pace of this change."
"We are at a point where there are three generations in the work force at the same time," said Buller. "And within a few years we'll have four generations, and technology has now outpaced our ability to manage the rate of change."
Buller's first cultural "all-in" was college basketball, having been recruited in 1965 to come to UW. He led the freshman team in scoring and was sixth man, starting 10 games, in his sophomore year. But a viral inflamation in the heart lining impacted the rest of his playing career.
He spent two years as a graduate assistant for the Huskies while getting his MBA, then went to work for what was the Bon Marche, later Macy's,
Over the next two years and three promotions, he became divisional merchandise manager and eventually senior advertising and brand development executive. It was at The Bon where, he says, he had his favorite job.
"I was responsible for changing the 4,000 employees from a clerk mentality to a customer service mentality and I also got to do more than 40 two day team building workshops to support this cultural transformation.," Buller recalls.
The Bon experience led him to write "Survival Guide."
"Changing the culture at The Bon was an effort to focus on service, both to our customers and our internal attitudes toward our fellow employees," Buller explained. "The book was about my learning the difference between a 'Soldier,' someone who takes orders, and a 'Warrior,' one who has a mission or a cause. I learned how to be a Warrior."
He took the warrior attitude, and the details of building survival skills, to roles as co-chair and director of the organizing committee for the NCAA Final Four in Seattle in 1995, executive director of the UW Alumni Association, CEO of Tully's Coffee and CEO of the Seattle Police Foundation.
His non-profit leadership roles included chairing the board of Seattle Seafair and a dozen years on both the Seattle Center Board and the board of the Washington Athletic Club, where he currently serves as executive director of the 101 Club.
Buller chuckles as he explains his often used process of creating All-In by having the marketing and the accounting teams each put together a business plan for the company.
"As you might guess, there wasn't a lot of similarity between the two plans. So I'd leave the room and say 'I'll be back in 20 minutes. Fix it while I'm gone."
Buller suggests "organizational leaders seeking to create new cultures "are tasked with an almost impossible amount of required intelligences."
"Today's Leadership needs to be proficient in understanding the 'Meyers Briggs Profile' - knowing yourself and understanding others that was the intelligence lesson of the 1980s and early 90s - then, along came 'Emotional Intelligence,' which focused on street smarts vs. book smarts," Buller explained.
"Over the last 10 years you would have also needed to be competent in understanding the 'Social Media' explosion. Then, it helps if you have 'Ethnic Intelligence,' as well as 'Religious Intelligence', and 'Immigration Intelligence' - and now, the biggest new understanding is 'Generational Intelligence.'"
Discussion of changing culture in the workplace automatically includes focus on millennials, those in their twenties and early thirties. In addition to that generation's obviously adaptability to technology,
Buller suggests "they have a social consciousness and they don't want to work somewhere that doesn't fit that. They think broad workplace experience, meaning horizontal movement, is better. They are looking for the perfect culture and perfect outcome."
"If you don't believe the statement that if you can't change you're dead, look at what's occurred with the Fortune 500 over four decades," Buller says. "In 1975 the average age of the companies in that index was 68, now the average age is eight."
It's been five years this coming Memorial Day since the formal launch of the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration to honor those who fought in that war but were never thanked when they returned to a divided nation. And for four of those years, Joseph L. (Joe) Galloway, one of the best-known correspondents of that war, has been on the road doing interviews with veterans of that conflict to preserve their memories.
Galloway's travels to do the interviews, mostly about two hours in length and which he told me last week now number about 350, embody his commitment to produce the "the body of material for future generations who want to know what this war was all about."
Galloway, a UPI reporter decorated for battlefield heroism at the battle of Ia Drang 50 years ago last November, spent a week doing interviews in Seattle two years ago. Now he is returning to the Seattle area next month to do another round of interviews with Vietnam veterans.
I've written several columns on Galloway and his role in the 50th Anniversary Commemoration, partly because we were UPI colleagues (he in war zones and I as a political writer and later a Pacific Coast executive for the company). But more important in a broader sense because of a fascination with his perspectives on the war in articles and speeches, and the import of the battle in the Ia Drang Valley that Galloway and the late Gen. Hal Moore, then a lieutenant colonel in command of the U.S. army forces in that battle, made famous in their book and a subsequent movie.
Ia Drang was the first clash of American troops with North Vietnamese regular army and involved heavy fighting in two main engagements that claimed casualties in the hundreds on the U.S. side and several thousand on the North Vietnam side.
Galloway later described it as "The battle that convinced North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minhhe could win," a conclusion that it turns out was shared by then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara after he assessed details and the import of the Ia Drang battle. But McNamara's conclusion, shared with President Lyndon Johnson, never saw the light of day until years later.
The battle became the subject of Galloway's and Moore's book, "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young," and the resulting movie, "We Were Soldiers," as well as a second book, "We are Still Soldiers... A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam" when the two returned to the battlefield years later.
Galloway continued his correspondent role on into war in Iraq and Afghanistan and those who admired his work included the late General Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who referred to him as "the finest combat correspondent of our generation -- a Soldier's reporter and a Soldier's friend."
And of his time on the battlefield, particularly at Ia Drang, Galloway said: "The men I met and the time we spent together fighting for one another was a life-changing experience that transcends the bonds of friendship and brotherhood."
One of my first columns on Galloway dealt with my urging him to come to Seattle after I first learned, in October of 2014, about the commemoration and his role in it.
He told me he'd need a place to do the interviews so KCPQ-13 offered its studios for the week and Galloway became briefly a high-visibility figure in the area, including an interview at Seattle Rotary, as he helped the group of veterans who each spent an hour or more with him have the opportunity to share their memories. And also to accept the belated thank you that the attention represented.
Galloway's comments during his stay here and with the interviews themselves have also been Galloway's revisiting of his own memories of Vietnam.
During one of our interviews, Galloway said of the veterans: "They are not bitter but I am bitter in their behalf. It make me angry that those who came to hate the war came to hate the warriors who were their sons and daughters."
He's also shared his own emotions that accompanied other activities related to this trail through the commemoration events.
He told me of one occasion a couple of years ago where he and the governor of Kentucky shared the podium at an event for Vietnam veterans that was at the state capital at the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which he described as "one of the most spectacular in our country."
"It is in the form of a giant sundial," he said. "Incredible work was done so that when the tip of the shadow from the sundial pointer hits the memorial floor it points to that day's list of Kentucky soldiers who were killed in action on that date in Vietnam."
"It brought tears to my eyes to see the pointer land on those KIA in the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965," he said.
The recent retirement of Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza as commanding officer of Joint Base Lewis McChord was a reminder of Galloway's last visit, and the coming one, since a commemoration Lanza put on as only the second such event at one of the nation's military bases preceded the Galloway visit by four months.
That high-visibility JBLM event in early October of 2014 was a Commemoration tribute that attracted more than 2,500 Vietnam veterans from around the Northwest onto the parade field for a salute ceremony, massing of the colors and Keynote speech by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey.
Lanza had said he noticed that Vietnam Era veterans were among those enthusiastically welcoming soldiers home from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he realized of the Vietnam veterans: "they had never had that" welcome-home reception so he helped create a thank you opportunity.
Galloway's visit May 22-25 for interviews with the veterans will include a Vietnam War panel discussion at Shoreline College with Bruce Crandall, the helicopter pilot and Medal of Honor recipient from the Ia Drang battle whose exploits were detailed in the book and the movie, and former POW Joe Crecca, along with Galloway himself.
My most recent column on Galloway was in mid-February, the outgrowth of an email from him about the "hard duty" he had of delivering a eulogy for General Moore, the Ia Drang commander and his friend of 50 years, who had died that week two days before his 95th birthday.
From her window in the Oregon Supreme Court Building, the state’s newest Supreme Court justice can look across State Street in Salem to the Willamette University campus where her higher-education journey began 31 years ago.
Meagan Flynn, already Judge Flynn as an Oregon appellate court judge since October of 2014, was sworn in last week by Chief Justice Thomas Balmer after being named by Gov. Kate Brown to the state’s highest court. She’ll have a new office but the surroundings will be familiar since both the supreme and appellate courts share the same courtroom.
The governor said in a statement that “Flynn has earned a reputation as a smart and thoughtful judge while serving on the Oregon Court of Appeals and is regarded as fair-minded and compassionate.”
Indeed those who know her would echo that, particularly her parents who left her standing on the sidewalk in front of Willamette waving goodbye 31 years ago. And as Betsy and I drove away then and headed back to Seattle, past the Supreme Court building, Oregon’s oldest government building, we had no way of imagining it would be where she would eventually office.
As readers of The Harp have guessed by now, this is a personal column, a reflection on our daughter, mother of two of our grandchildren, who wears the judge’s robe.
Meagan had a goal of being an attorney from early on because her role model was her cousin, Sheila McKinnon, who was then a successful Seattle attorney.
Some of the following is reflections about Meagan from an earlier column I did when she was appointed to the Court of Appeals judgeship.
I recalled that as she prepared to graduate from Holy Names Academy in Seattle, where she was salutatorian of her class, I urged her to apply to Stanford because her friend, who was valedictorian, was applying there.
"It would be cool if you could say you were accepted to Stanford," I told her, even though I knew she had already decided she wanted to attend Willamette.
To my surprise, though likely not hers, she was accepted to Stanford and I feared she would decide she wanted to go there since it would have been a financial challenge for us at that time.
But the ducks on the stream at Willamette, which were the initial attraction the day she first visited the school (although its academic reputation and its law school had roles in the final decision), had already drawn her interest to Willamette.
Good thing, since that's where she met her husband to be, Dan Keppler, who was also intent on become an attorney, though eventually Gonzaga law school won out for both of them and after graduating they built partner-role practices at separate small firms in Portland. Along the way also came two daughters.
Meagan always had a competitive bent, which she usually did a good job of hiding, except as a seventh grader in Piedmont, CA, when she found that a male student was challenging her for top student. Her jaw always locked a bit when the male student’s name came up in conversations. The two of them ran for 8th grade class president (except the title was commissioner general) in a hotly contested race that she won, expressing smug pleasure at coming out on top.
The call from Governor Brown was the second from an Oregon governor for Meagan since then-Gov. John Kitzhauber was on the line one evening when she answered the phone. The story comes from her husband, Dan, since Meagan is not one to talk much about herself.
As Dan related of the telephone conversation: “’Hi, Meagan, this is John Kitzhauber.’ ‘Hi, Governor.’ ‘So do you want to be on the appellate court?’ ‘Yes, I do.’ ‘Congratulations, Judge.’”
Of course, due diligence had preceded the call, as it did with the appointment to the highest court late last month.
When she was sworn in to her Court of Appeals post in 2014, the judge administering the oath was the same judge whom she had gone to work for as a clerk 20 years earlier, soon after he had taken his oath as a then-new appeals court judge himself. He brought to her swearing-in session a picture of that first clerk-judge meeting in 1994.
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Meagan is taking her place on the state’s highest court as its youngest, as well as newest, member.
Unaccountability on the part of a public entity, no matter how well cloaked in good intentions or alleged importance of mission, inevitably leads to arrogance when there is no requirement to answer directly to anyone for decisions.
That, not surprisingly, leads to the kind of decisions that create a demand for accountability. Thus hangs the tale of Sound Transit, in the view a growing chorus of critics.
The sense is that the transportation agency officially known as the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority may suddenly be caught with its arrogance on display and feeling the pushback from a public and from lawmakers who are coming to sense a possible need to recast the organization.
The goal of legislation that has now passed the Republican-controlled state Senate and is awaiting action in House would replace the 18 Sound Transit board members, now local elected officials from one of the three Sound Transit counties with 11 directors directly elected by voters in districts that would be created by the legislature.
The first broad perception of Sound Transit arrogance surfaced with the outcry from motor vehicle owners about the leap in the cost to renew their vehicle license after the excise tax this year had climbed dramatically, due in part to the vehicle valuation chart used by Sound Transit.
Geoff Patrick, who handles media relations and public information for Sound Transit, explained that part of the reason for the large jump in MVET fees was that, in approving ST-3, the $54 billion long-term transit package in November, voters said ok to a major increase in vehicle excise tax.
The outcry would suggest that many voters weren't really aware of that.
Patrick was quoted earlier, as the MVET flap emerged, to the extent that Sound Transit could have used a vehicle depreciation schedule that would have meant a less expensive renewal fee but chose not to "for simplicity sake," to bring transportation relief quicker.
Then came the visibility surrounding Sound Transit's legal battle with Mercer Island over its effort to end the ability of solo drivers from the island to access I-90 high-occupancy-vehicle lanes when the existing HOV lanes are closed this summer for construction of light rail. That solo-driver access was part of an arrangement that amounted to a pledge from state transportation officials to Mercer Island residents in exchange for letting the state cut the trench for I90 across the island.
And finally, and perhaps defining for any battle to avoid accountability, came the flap over a political fundraiser for King County Executive Dow Constantine at the home of Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff for his boss and benefactor. As the flap unfolded, it became known that the planned event hosted at Rogoff's home for his boss might breach two clauses in the transit agency's own code of ethics, though it wouldn't violate any state fundraising laws, so it was moved elsewhere. But Rogoff made it clear he would still be one of the sponsors.
It might seem strange to many political observers that Constantine, who holds the most powerful position on the Sound Transit board and is seeking reelection, would stand silently in the wings, awaiting the outcome of a key fundraiser flap rather then step forward and say, "This is an inappropriate issue. I am cancelling this fundraiser."
Attendees for the party at its new location, it turns out, had to first RSVP online to learn the address.
The disappointing thing about that is I was beginning to hope some newspaper photographer or television camera team would be on hand to document how many representatives of companies with multi-million-dollar contracts with Sound Transit would be on hand to pass some of the dollars back to the leader of the team.
A focus on those companies with multi-million contracts may soon provide more negative publicity for Sound Transit when all the details of documents detailing the breadth and depth of the value of contacts Sound Transit has signed with nearly 550 companies to provide a wide array of services begins getting close media scrutiny.
The documents were received by former King County Council member Maggie Fimia from Sound Transit in 2015 and detail all payments over $100,000 made to all entities, public and private, from 2007.
When I talked with Fimia to get copies of the array of contract documents and inquired of her thoughts upon digesting them, she said of the array of contracts: "The breadth of the take was unbelievable."
Touching on only one of the contract categories, Fimia offered "why do you need to spend $37 million on marketing and advertising if you have such a tremendous product?" And that didn't include any marketing costs for ST3.
Sound Transit's Patrick told me that a rigorous competitive-bidding process is in place for contracts with the agency, other than services like legal, accounting, marketing and others where expertise and reputation come into play, since you don't low-bid legal services, but may negotiate with the selected supplier for best price.
Fimia's 2001 defeat was allegedly aided by Sound Transit officials upset at her constant questioning of the agency's manner of operating and its dealing with the communities, questioning that clearly didn't end with her departure from the council.
Charles Collins, whose impeccable credentials as a critic of Sound Transit are even grudgingly acknowledged by the agency's board, told me Sound Transit went after Fimia because "she was a continuing thorn in their side."
"They are the 500-gorilla that no one wants to mess with and she kept messing with them, so they helped oust her," he said. She lost her reelection bid in 2001.
Collins has been a constant critic of Sound Transit's focus on high-cost rail service because all statistics, including the agency's own environmental impact statement, indicate trains won't come close to attracting enough riders to relieve congestion. More like attracting maybe 2 percent of riders.
Collins once told me that he and two former governors, Republican John Spellman and a Democrat, the late Booth Gardner, went to Sound Transit in the late '90s before the first vote embarking on rail as the key transportation underpinning with a novel new plan to provide a vehicles alternative that would carry far more passengers at far less cost.
"But they didn't even want to hear our idea because they were about building a train, not focusing on easing congestion," he said, except for Rob McKenna, then King County councilman and later the two-term Republican attorney general and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate.
McKenna, incidentally, also lost his role on the Sound Transit board, bounced by then-King County Executive Ron Sims for his routine questioning of board decisions and priorities.
Collins, Fimia and McKenna are among those, a list which now obviously includes some legislators, who have urged that spending and policy decisions in the future should relate to relieving congestion rather than focusing only on building a rail network.
"Nothing has changed," said Collins, whose credentials include having been Spellman's Chief King County Adminstrator, Director of Metro Transit and chair of the Northwest Power Planning Council, the State Higher Education Coordinating Board and the State Commission on Student Learning.
Indeed while Sound Transit operates some of the nation's most successful express bus services in addition to rail and light rail service to the region, there has been little doubt in the community that members of the board view themselves as creators of the region's light rail system.
And the fact that the mode of transportation in the region's future has unfortunately become ideological, or maybe was from the start, is the reaction of a liberal commentator on Senate passage of SB5001 and that four Democrats joined the Republican majority in passing the measure to the House.
The columnist said the four Democrats" betrayed Sound Transit and the progressive movement," and urged that "every activist and every organization who was involved in helping to pass Sound Transit 3 last year needs to pitch in to ensure that this bill gets a burial in the House of Representatives."
Rogoff is an intriguing case, having been a strong supporter of bus rapid transit and critic of the "enormous expense to build and maintain rail" while head of the Federal Transit Administration. "Busways are cheap."
Almost amusingly, now that he heads an agency dedicated to rail, he said in a speech back in 2010 that riders often want rails, "but you can entice diehard rail riders onto a 'special' bus sometimes by just painting the bus a different color than the rest of the fleet."
He hasn't yet explained at what point between then and his joining Sound Transit that he changed his position of bus over rail, which he viewed as enormously expensive to build and maintain.
If the idea of an elected board to replace the current appointed board is approved by the legislature, a new board might find it could dramatically reduce current and future expenditures by focusing on bus rapid transit and a much more zealous process of contract oversight for other than actual infrastructure expenses.
Only contracts specifically relating to construction bond covenants have been held by the court as illegal to change. That doesn't likely apply to things like contracts with law and accounting firms and advertising and marketing agencies. or construction contracts that won't have been signed when an elected board might replace the current board.
“As we kick off our 85th anniversary year, the inauguration of Cuba service marks the latest in some fascinating twists and turns to our route network,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska’s senior vice president for external relations.
Indeed the Cuba service launch brought back particular memories of Alaska’s far-out decision a quarter century ago to begin regular service to the Russian Far East, seizing what was then a thawing of relations between the two countries and the emergence of the Seattle area as a key player in that relationship that was beginning to verge on friendship.
Back in 1991, Seattle had already hosted the Goodwill Games competition between the U.S. and Russia, and business relations were being pursued. So Alaska launched summer service that year to Magadan, a sister city to Anchorage, and Khabarovsk, described as a European-style interior city that was the commercial and industrial hub for Russia’s Far East.
Part of the U.S.-Russia relations that emerged prompted creation of the Foundation for Russian American Economic Cooperation FRAEC), whose then-president Carol Vipperman recalled in an email exchange this week “the Alaska flights to the Russian Far East were very meaningful to both sides.”
The challenges of some of Alaska’s early flights, eventually extending to five cities in the rugged Far East of Russia, could provide comedy-script material, but also confirmed the pioneering spirit of Alaska’s people.
The inaugural flight to Magadan, 400 miles south of the Arctic Circle, turned up the fact the airport had no de-icing service. It was reported the pilot rounded up every bottle of vodka available and sprayed it on the wings with a garden hose.
And when Alaska launched service to Petropavlovsk, the largest city on the Kamchatka Peninsula, as the inaugural flight loaded with dignitaries was about to land, ground authorities told the pilot he did not have landing rights so the Alaska jet was forced to turn around and return to Anchorage.
Alaska was forced to end the service, on which the airline insisted it made money over the nearly a decade of doing business, when the Russian economy collapsed in 1998.
Vipperman recalls being on the next-to-last flight, with long-time Secretary of State Ralph Munro and some Alaska officials.
“We had come from a bilateral meeting, and at the Kamchatka airport we were taken off the plane to meet with the governor of Kamchatka and other officials so that we could talk about the impact the closure would have on their region,” she recalled in our email exchange. “While we sipped vodka, the plane sat on the tarmac waiting for us to come back.”
“I was personally sad to see the service to the Russian Far East end,” she added.
Alaska’s innovative outreach to the Russian Far East actually went back almost two decades earlier, in the early ‘70s, when the still young carrier began charter service to the Soviet Union’s Siberia as a result of what have been described as “secret negotiations” between the airline and Soviet Authorities.
When the U.S. Department of State learned of the deal, it decided not to block the plan, indicating it didn’t want to create a negative response from the Soviet Union. It might also be assumed the agency wanted to avoid a negative response from Washington State’s two U.S. senators, Warren Magnuson and Henry Jackson, then among the Senate’s most powerful members.
I emailed Sprague for some thoughts on the service that began in the ‘90s.
“The service to the Russian Far East was really something,” said Sprague, who was then with an Anchorage-based regional airlines. “It still amazes me to look at the map and think how far away from home base we were flying our old MD-80s for that service.”
Sprague noted Alaska’s long history of connecting communities, with the Russian Far East and now Cuba as key pieces, but also including launch of service to resort cities in Mexico, Hawaii, then points to the East Coast and Midwest.
The latest, of course, being the merger with Virgin America, which will create Alaska linkage of all the major cities on the West Coast.
“Our various moves have been good for the company, but we also like to think they have been good for the communities we serve,” Sprague said.
An example of serving communities is the fact that, despite filling it planes with passengers destined for popular vacation and business destinations, the airline continues to serve a special role in the infrastructure of the state where it was born as an airline connecting remote locations.
As Sprague noted: “We are proud that we still serve 19 points within the state of Alaska, only three of which are connected to the road system.”
The young entrepreneurs who bought the state's main winery with money they didn't really have then gave their wine a name that became the soul of what would eventually be a dramatically successful industry represent the little-known "rest of the story" of Washington wine.
Details of the story were recalled by two of those four entrepreneurs after they read last week Flynn's Harp, which focused on Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and the role its president and CEO, Ted Baseler, has played in presiding since 2001 over the growth and success of the company and its impact as leader of the Washington wine industry.
As detailed last week, the 1967 Washington Legislature had approved a bill to, for the first time, permit California and other quality wines to be sold on retail shelves alongside the basically fruity wines produced by the couple of wineries located in this state. At some point, the Washington wine industry would have to change to survive.
The four who emerged to save the wine industry became dramatically successful in various business sectors over the coming years. Wally Opdyke, Kirby Cramer, Don Nielsen and Mike Garvey came up with the money to buy American Wine Growers, a producer of mostly fruity wines with high alcohol content that Nielsen referred to jokingly as "skid road" wine.
Nielsen and Cramer, with Garvey and Opdyke as investors, had already formed a young company called Environmental Sciences in 1969 to take advantage of the need for high-quality rat cages for the pharmaceutical industry, becoming eventually the largest in that industry.
Then Opdyke, the only one who had much knowledge of or interest in wine, convinced the three friends to join in putting up the $100,000 necessary to buy the $3 million-revenue American Wine Growers, its winery and acreage.
Cramer recalled, in an interview this week, that the families who had owned AWG for years were convinced to sell the business for $3 million and the purchase took place after Cramer and Opdyke convinced Seattle First National Bank and an insurance company to each put $1.5 million with plant and acreage as collateral.
"We basically bought it on our good looks." Cramer chuckled, "but we thought it would be an interesting investment and Wally was a marketing genius, leading us to change the name to Ste. Michelle Vintners, start putting corks in the bottles, and started work on the chateau that is now the company's headquarters."
Meanwhile, knowing that creating quality red wine would take several years, Wally, as president of the company, guided growing and bottling of riesling, a white-grape with what Cramer referred to as a quick turnaround time.
In what Cramer described as "a marketing coup," Opdyke entered the Ste. Michelle riesling in a California wine competition and it took the gold medal.
"For a Washington wine to take the gold medal in a California competition in the early '70s was something no one could have imagined," Cramer said. "The gold medal made the Washington wine industry."
The legacy of that marketing coup is that today Ste. Michelle is the nation's leading producer of riesling.
Under Opdyke's leadership, the four put together a prospectus looking to raise $3 million to grow the company with more land, grape growing and production. Cramer recalls putting together an eye-catching prospectus cover that displayed a number of wine labels, including the new label for Ste. Michelle.
The four would be the first to concede that luck plays a huge role in success. But not the roll-the-dice kind, but rather where preparation meets opportunity. So it was with the four, over the years, prepared t seize opportunities that came their way.
Thus the prospectus, instead of landing in the hands of prospective investors, which Cramer admits now probably weren't many, the prospectus landed on the desk of a top executive at U.S. Tobacco, which was seeking to diversify at the time. Before long the deal had been struck that paid off the loans and left the entrepreneurs with $4 million in stock to share 18 months after their $100,000 investment.
"The dividends the year after the sale equaled my original investment," Nielsen quipped.
Having overseen dramatic growth for Environmental Sciences Corp, in 1972 they purchased Hazleton Laboratories from TRW and took the name of Hazleton, a contract laboratory that conducted toxicology testing. They took Hazleton public in 1977, had additional stock offerings in '78 and '80.
By 1982 Hazleton had become the largest independent biological testing company and life sciences laboratory in the United States, as well as the largest manufacturer of laboratory equipment in the world.
Garvey, who in 1996 launched a law firm that would become one of the most respected in the Northwest, and Opdyke were involved in the purchase of K2, which had been bought by Cummins Diesel from founder Bill Kirschner, who had bought it back. And the four also bought some 140 condos at a Colorado resort from Ralston Purina.
"It became the big thing in the early '70s for big corporations to think they should diversify and so they bought businesses they knew nothing about and eventually new leadership would ask 'what are we doing with this' and would sell it off for a cheap price," Nielsen observed. "Entrepreneurs looked for those and that's how we got into K2 and Colorado condos."
In 1987, Corning, Inc., purchased Hazleton but retained Nielsen as CEO for five years and when he retired in 1992, Hazleton had grown to $165 million in sales and employed 2,500 people in five countries on three continents.
For the past approximately three decades, Nielsen and Cramer have continued to guide companies and serve on numerous boards while Garvey proceeded to build Garvey Schubert and Barder into one of the region's most respected law firms. Opdyke stayed for some years at the helm of Ste. Michelle before becoming closely involved in a corporate role with U.S. Tobacco.
Cramer was named a few years ago as a laureate of the Puget Sound Business Hall of Fame. Nielsen was selected this week to join the Business Hall of Fame as a 2017 laureate and will be honored in May at the annual induction ceremonies.
An unusual incubator to nurture new healthcare technology will be the first “classroom” to open for business at Elson Floyd College of Medicine. It will be a key part of the effort by the new Washington State University medical school to make innovation and entrepreneurship key parts of the curriculum.
Thus Andrew Richards, who the unusual title for a medical school of College Technology Incubator Officer, will be attracting increasing attention and interest as he seeks to create what he describes as a “hub of innovation” on the College of Medicine’s Spokane campus.
“The dream is that we will have up to 10 companies at a time being incubated, with the first ones arriving first quarter of 2017,” Richards said. “But realistically, we’ll get six or seven there.”
Richards, 36, is a Spokane native and WSU computer-science graduate who is convinced that bringing enhanced healthcare to underserved communities will require uncovering and nurturing technological innovations specifically focused on medicine and health.
That would be part of fulfilling the promise of the college, referred to for brevity as EFCOM, that it will seek to find ways to address the shortage of doctors in rural parts of the state. And the promise of of its founding dean, Dr. John Tomkowiak, to foster innovation.
Richards said companies that will be included in the incubator are already being vetted and conversations are under way with what he calls “partner companies,” like Amazon that will make collaborative resources available to nurture the incubating companies.
The incubator will be a two-part endeavor, first hosting entrepreneurial startups that require the standard resources and mentoring but also building a seed fund to bring the companies to maturity and reward WSU with equity.
Richards explained that the strategy is to set up the incubator as a 501c that would separate the incubator from the med school by setting up a nonprofit.
“That would give us a more flexibility as to how we take equity stakes in companies we incubate and/or invest in, and It would also give us more flexibility as it pertains to taking in or spending money for our seed fund,” he added.
He concedes that “culturally, healthcare is a difficult nut to crack in creating an innovative environment in which you have to be willing to try things, knowing there will be failures.”
The incubator won’t be the first for a med school but it will one of a small handful of such facilities in the country, the most notable being at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Texas Medical Center, both of which have become regular contacts for Richards.
While WSU health care incubator is one of only a handful in the country tied specifically to a medical school, other entrepreneurial hubs, including healthcare start-ups, are an emerging part of the health science infrastructure in this region.
One is Cambia Grove in Seattle, a healthcare focused hub which bills itself as a place “where innovators and entrepreneurs can convene and catalyze new solutions,” adding that it “offers a shared space for the region’s emerging health care economic cluster.”
And the UW CoMotion is an innovation hub to provide “the tools and connections” necessary to speed the development of technology innovations, including health care and life science startups.
“We’re building a really cool network and we’re already starting to send companies to each other,” Andrews, 36, said in an interview.
EFCOM characterizes itself as a “community based” medical school “training doctors to fill healthcare gaps across the state” and to fulfill that, med students will spend their first two years in Spokane before spending years three and four in Everett, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver, in addition to Spokane.
The first 60 students, to be selected from the hundreds of applicants that have flowed in, will arrive for class on the Spokane campus in the fall.
The key selling point that eventually convinced the legislature to create a second medical school in this state, despite the significant national stature of the University of Washington Medical School, was the dearth of doctors in rural parts of the state, which proponents of the WSU medical school promised to make a focus.
Part of the value of that multi-community presence is pointed up by the comment from Bob Drewel, senior advisor at WSU’s Everett Campus and a former Snohomish County executive and past head of the Puget Sound Regional Council.
“A lot of people think the only shortage of docs is in Eastern Washington, and that’s not true,” Drewel said. “If you look at Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties, the numbers are just as significant in need as anywhere in the state of Washington.
Richards talks about the myriad of companies, including a start-up called ReelDX in the healthcare IT space that he helped co-found, that are developing new technologies that give patients more options for accessing health care. He notes that some patients are using smart phone apps for video appointments with their doctors; sometimes those doctors are in other cities —or other countries.
In addition to co-founding and serving as CTO for ReelDX, described on its website as providing “an easy to use, secure, HIPAA-compliant platform for medical videos” with the Medvid.io platform he developed, Richards’ experience includes software and API development and other healthcare techonology.
In one presentation he showed a photo of Mercy Virtual Hospital, a new, first-of-its-kind hospital in suburban St. Louis that cost $54 million but has no beds. It is a telemedicine hub where doctors and nurses sit in call centers with video screens. They see and talk to their patients, have access to their medical records and can monitor vital signs. In many cases, the providers are able to diagnose problems and prescribe remedies. In others, they make referrals to other providers.
Richards is quick to express his view that the WSU medical school won’t be seeking to compete with UW School of Medicine, which he says does what it does with success that merits the national recognition it has.
“But UW medical school doesn’t do everything and what we need to do is focus on doing well what we do that they don’t do,” Richards said.
His philosophy is that to fulfill its mission. EFCOM must seek to “build the medical school of 30 years from now, not 30 years ago.”
Steve Paul and Santa-bound child
Alaska pilot and happy child
The award honoring the memory of the Major League Baseball star and manager for whom the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is named has been presented for more than half century, but it has yet to gain the visibility traction that would put it on the prestige pedestal that it’s supporters think it merits.
To students of baseball lore, the name Fred Hutchinson brings to mind a Seattle kid who became a star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, went on to manage three big league teams, including guiding the Cincinnati Reds to the 1961 World Series, but succumbed to cancer in 1964 at the age of 45.
But to those afflicted by the disease that claimed his life, his name on the renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, created in 1975 by his brother, Dr. William Hutchinson, to honor his memory, has conveyed hope.
A year after Hutch’s death, three Midwest sports media admirers who saw him in action created an award to honor his memory, and ever since then The Hutch Award has been presented to a Major League Baseball player who exemplified the fighting spirit and competitive desire of Fred Hutchinson.
For years the award was given out annually in New York, starting with a flourish as the first honorees were New York Yankee legend Mickey Mantle and Dodger pitching great Sandy Koufax. But it was an event far from Seattle and wasn’t a fund raiser until, in 1999, it was brought back to Seattle and was moved to Safeco Field a year later.
But despite the fact the Seattle Mariners are a sponsor and, for the past 16 years, have hosted the annual luncheon where the award is presented at Safeco Field, attracting about 1,000 attendees and raising about a half-million dollars a year for The Hutch, it has not yet achieved the success its supporters think it could and should.
The missing link to bring the award to a visibility level equal to the prestige of The Hutch itself is viewed as active support from Major League Baseball.
And a new push to achieve higher visibility and broader support, including from Major League Baseball, is under way by officials of The Hutch as well as those who have long been involved in this event.
“We hope to take this prestigious award onto a national stage to increase the support and awareness around our world-class science at the Fred Hutch,” said Justin R. Marquart Deputy Director of Development at The Hutch. He was quick to note that local sponsors like the Mariners and Alaska Airlines have provided key support but that what direct involvement from Major League Baseball would mean is national sponsors.
Organized effort to gain visibility for what it is and what it does has not been part of the strategy for The Hutch as an institution until the last year or so, which is part of the explanation for the fact that this event hasn’t received a lot of media visibility, even locally.
Certainly the achievements of The Hutch’s “stars” have gained attention over the years. Those range from the Nobel Prizes in physiology or medicine that have gone to Donnall Thomas in 1990, Dr. Lee Hartwell in 2001 and Dr. Linda Buck in 2004, as well as the major awards across the medical industry to individual researchers. Perhaps the most compelling of advances for which The Hutch is known is the life-changing research of Thomas into bone marrow transplantation.
But research into cancer and related diseases has come to require huge amounts of money and the quest to attract those dollars from grants, individuals and events has come to require a visibility strategy and focus matching the research itself at the institutions where research and treatment are carried on.
“It is our goal to eliminate cancer as a cause of human suffering and death through prevention and curative treatments accessible to all patients,” as Marquart put it. And that “accessibility to all” is a major cost driver. Among those is the Hutch School, where patients and family members of those living temporarily in Seattle while being treated at The Hutch have classes, from kindergarten through high school.
The success the award has achieved since returning to Seattle is due to a large extent to the involvement of Jody Lentz, regional sales manager for Mass Mutual, who set up and chaired a committee to oversee planning for the event.
“We had about 25 to 30 people at the event at the hotel the first year and I thought ‘we should make this a fund raiser,’” she recalls.
Her plan included getting a hall of fame player as keynoter each year, and the event has generated attendance of between 1,000 and 1,400 and about $500,000 a year for The Hutch.
Her commitment to the event has stemmed from the fact that both cancer and baseball are part of her life. Husband, Mike, was the highest pick in the baseball draft ever from this state, being the second overall pick as the first choice of the San Diego Padres in 1975.
Her sons Ryan, Richie and Andy were all baseball All-Americans at the University of Washington and Ryan and Richie had careers that included high minor league play and time on the roster of the Major League teams that drafted them.
And she has suffered two cancers, the latest, thyroid, hit her in 2008, as that year’s event was in planning, after she had chaired and overseen the event the previous eight years.
“I just never got involved again,” she told me as we talked about her sense of frustration over the fact “I guess I figured it was time for others to have a chance to guide this event. But I do believe this event could be so much more as a source of funding for The Hutch.”
It was that 2008 event where John Lester, a native of Puyallup and most recently on the mound for the Chicago Cubs in this year’s World Series, was honored after being successfully treated at The Hutch for anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
Lentz is convinced that a lack of local visibility for the event is a reason that major local sponsors have not stepped up in major fashion to add value to the funds raised for The Hutch.
The 2017 event, an 11:30 to 1:30 luncheon, will be January 25 at Safeco with Boston Red Sox star Jim Rice as the Hall of Fame keynote speaker. The honoree for 2017 will be announced in the next few days.
Honorees are chosen by a vote of each Major League team to determine which player on the team meets the criteria and those chosen represent the finalists from which the winner is selected. Jamie Moyer is the only Mariner to be selected.
Last year’s honoree was Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals as the event raised just under $550,000, which The Hutch put toward faculty fellowships.
The tiny nonprofit that over the past 13 years has enhanced the lives of families, particularly the children, in the mostly Hispanic Yakima Valley Community of Granger has provided growing evidence that caring can pay dividends.
Sharing the story of the launch and growth of the little nonprofit, born spontaneously at a Thanksgiving table in 2003 as Bellevue businesswoman Joan Wallace and her sister in law Janet Wheaton fretted about the Granger children going hungry during the holidays, has become my Thanksgiving offering for the past half-dozen years.
It's the kind of story that deserves being shared anew, particularly since each year brings new successes and new chapters of the story for the small 501c3 called Families of Granger.
But the visibility Granger’s schools and the community’s families have gained over the past year could not have been imagined by its most committed supporters. What’s happened in Granger has become a success story that deserves replicating in other communities where need abounds.
The dividends for the community and those who have supported the annual plea from Wallace to her email friends and, for the past couple of years, including the letter signed by Wheaton, were the Granger middle school establishing the best attendance record in the state. And following that, Granger schools being honored with the first Innovations in Education award.
From a mediocre attendance record typical of the schools down the length of the Yakima Valley and in most of rural Washington, schools in the Granger district for the 2014-2015 school year recorded a chronic absenteeism rate of 3.6 percent, more than four times better than the statewide average of 16 percent.
Results for attendance marks for last year have not yet been announced by the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia, and unfortunately no plaque or certificate has been presented to the school for its attendance performance in the 2014-2015 year.
That seems like a sadly missed opportunity to recognize a dramatic accomplishment for a district in a community that is 85 percent Hispanic or Latino and where nearly a third of the families live below the poverty level.
To become the school with the state’s lowest incidence of chronic absenteeism (defined as missing 18 or more school days during the year), Granger middle school, had an average that was more than twice as good as the rates in Bellevue, Mercer Island and Lake Washington districts.
The quest for perfect attendance at Granger middle school was keyed to "Every Child, Every Seat, Every Day," which became a mantra for students, teachers and parents that allowed the district to achieve the best attendance in the state last year.
The program was created by Alma Sanchez, a mother of three turned student at Heritage University, turned education entrepreneur working at the Granger schools. She conceived and, with Wheaton’s help, “sold” to the students and parents as a “we can do it” belief in the full-attendance program,
While there is no display of the top-attendance mark, the Innovations in Education Award “is proudly displayed in the trophy case at the entrance of the Granger Middle School,” Wheaton said. Wallace, Wheaton and Sanchez were also honored in the Innovations in Education Award for their roles in the attendance program.
The award, presented by the Discovery Institute and sponsored by Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, the Seattle law firm of Patterson Buchanan, KCPQ Television and Sound Publishing, is intended to become an annual award, which will enhance the Granger School District’s visibility as the first recipient.
And Wheaton noted, in an email to me, that the state has “put a very big focus on attendance this year,” adding her sense that the recognition given to Granger for its remarkable accomplishment has had much to do with that state effort. She noted that a panel from Granger was invited to share their success and the program’s specific strategies at a regional forum held in Yakima this fall.
The Friends of Granger 501c3 was instrumental in the district being awarded a $15,000 grant from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, which has been renewed again last year and this year with the grant helping pay the costs of the attendance-incentive program.
Granger’s children are attracting broader attention as the women in Wallace’s Bellevue Presbyterian Church knitted hats, mittens and scarves and the importance of that was explained in a letter to the church women from a developmental preschool teacher in Granger.
“My children have not come to school with any sort of winter wear to cover their heads, necks, and hands. I have noticed that these little hands and ears are very cold as our weather has been changing to colder temperatures. My young students really appreciate your kind hearts,” she wrote.
“Melts your heart,” emailed Wallace as she sent me the picture of the youngsters in their hats.
“I never thought, when we started this, we would still be doing it and seeing how much has happened,” Wallace emailed me.
Then she shared, with obvious amusement: “(Husband) Bob looked at me at the outset and said: ‘you know if you start this, it won’t end. When you are working with a poor community, the needs never end. There’ll always be kids that need a new coat or their families are a little short.’”
And so it has been, to her obvious satisfaction.
There was surprisingly little fanfare or discussion over the fact that Gov. Jay Inslee’s re-election extended his party’s record hold on the governor’s mansion so that when his term ends in 2020, it will have been four decades since a Republican was elected governor in Washington.
But both John Spellman, elected to what turned out to be a single term in 1980 as the state’s last Republican chief executive, and Dan Evans, who left office in 1976 after a record three terms, are convinced it’s more than running in an increasingly blue state that has denied the GOP the statehouse for a longer period than any other state.
Inslee defeated Republican challenger Bill Bryant, 55 per cent to 45 percent, with the GOP lamenting that there wasn’t much bad that could be said about a governor who hadn’t done a lot.
And as Evans quipped, when I asked him about what it would take for Republicans to win the governorship again, ”what we need is someone with Inslee’s looks and Bryant’s brains.”
In fact, although Washington is far more blue now than it was in either Evans’ or Spellman’s time, both had as much appeal to Democrats as to Republicans and that could help indicate the challenge for a rightward drifting state GOP.
Both Evans and Spellman were strong protectors of the environment. The State Department of Ecology was created during Evans’ term, as well as legislation to protect shorelines. And Spellman became the darling of environmentalists while raising the ire of everyone in his party, from the president’s energy secretary to members of Congress and legislators, over his decision to prevent construction of the Northern Tier Pipeline project.
And neither shied away from taxes. Spellman told me, during an interview in 2011 on the 30th anniversary of his inauguration, “we passed more taxes in my four years than they have before or since. One of the challenges in seeking to get re-elected was that I said I would raise taxes only as a last resort and some people took that to mean I wouldn’t raise taxes.”
Spellman paid the price for raising taxes and defying special interests in a tumultuous term marked by a serious recession and a hard-right Republican Party, losing in 1984 to moderate Democratic businessman Booth Gardner.
I asked Spellman, who turns 90 next month, what kind of governor he had been and with a twinkle in his Irish eyes, he replied “I was a darn good governor.” And beyond the tumult of his times, including what he’d suggest may have been the worst economic period the state has experienced, there’s much to suggest in retrospect that may be an accurate assessment.
For his part, Evans, who just had his 91st birthday last month, was and remains a fan of a state income tax, as long as it’s part of “tax reform,” saying in an interview “I killed the income tax for two generation by getting a vote on it. After that, the no-tax pledge became required in campaigns.”
“If we had prevailed with tax reform and the income tax component, we would be $4.5 billion better off in this state,” Evans added.
The governing philosophies of those two may indicate how close to ideologically blue a GOP gubernatorial candidate might have to be to break the Democratic hold on the state’s chief executive job.
Of course the Republican candidates have been competitive in some recent elections, with Dino Rossi losing to Christine Gregoire in 2004 only after a recount confirmed her victory, and Rob McKenna seen as losing to Inslee four years ago primarily because of some campaign missteps.
Spellman, handsome and personable with a winning smile, was an attorney, graduate of Seattle University then Georgetown Law School, whose ever-present pipe would be lit and relit during lengthy discussion sessions.
Because one of his legal clients was the United Steelworkers Union local, he had support from a lot of labor-union members as he successfully campaigned to become the first King County Executive. In fact, my first meeting with Spellman in 1967 was when my steelworker uncle introduced me to him at a cocktail party in downtown Seattle after explaining to me what a fair and fine man this was who I was about to meet.
The passage of years has dimmed the remarkable courage Spellman evidenced in holding firm to his decision not to permit a pipeline to be constructed under Puget Sound despite pressure from a Republican administration, his own congressional delegation and the legislature.
That conviction brought him national attention in the form of a People magazine April 1982 profile of the little-known elected official who was “bucking president and party to turn an oil pipeline into a pipe dream.”
The profile went on to discuss how “one of the nation’s mightiest public-works projects, the $2.7 billion, 1,490-mile Northern Tier Pipeline designed to carry Alaskan crude oil from Puget Sound to Midwestern refineries, is being blocked by a single man, Governor John Spellman of Washington.”
And given the current political controversy about what attitude should guide this country’s view of international trade, Spellman’s thoughts on its importance would put him in the thick of any discussion on the topic today.
Spellman was an early believer in the importance of establishing relations with foreign nations and is proud of initiating relationships with Schewan Province in China and furthering relations with Japan during his term.
“Both world trade and world peace were in play then, as now, and relationships are very important in international affairs,” said Spellman in our interview. “The relationships we have are extremely important to the world in terms of peace and tranquility and trade, but trade is third among those in importance.”
I asked Spellman during our telephone interview for that 2011 column how it felt to lose his re-election bid. “It wasn’t devastating. Maybe to some of my kids it was, but not to me,” Spellman replied. “I knew I had done a lot of things that weren’t calculated to make getting re-elected easy.”
But despite her growing national, and international, recognition in bringing the world men's event to the this country for the first time, and for the series of squash events being scheduled in Bellevue over the next year, she is still struggling for recognition and support in the city she is seeking to turn into a global squash capital.
One of the prize events that will take place in Bellevue will be the first Bellevue Squash Classic in May, squash's equivalent of a PGA golf tour stop. The event, which will bring the world's best squash players to the Pacific Northwest, will showcase the four-wall glass court inside the Hidden Valley Boys and Girls Club, a location that Khan enthuses about.
When I first met and wrote about Khan a year ago, it was as she was struggling to make sure the men's event would come off as planned to fulfill her goals of providing Bellevue an opportunity to promote its role as host of a world-championship sports events, foster a sense of community involvement and support empowering a woman entrepreneur.
And with the growth of the sport and the accessibility to new squash players, the U.S., along with England and Egypt, are the three countries where the squash game is thriving most.
It was her father who turned the Seattle area into a center for squash and it was he she partnered with to put on the Women's World Championship in 1999, the first time that event had ever been staged in the U.S.
They are called "Ayahuasca Circles." And in with-it places like New York, Washington, Chicago, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and, yes, Seattle, the in-crowds are being drawn to evening gatherings to share a tea made from a natural drug with ancient Amazon ties that takes them on group "trips" where spiritual revelations occur.
(As the 15th anniversary of 9/11 nears, a compelling question to ponder is whether the global regard for us that existed then, as evidenced by the outpouring of grief that came that day in our behalf, remains our national treasure or whether it is merely a squandered legacy.
On the 10th anniversary, I shared a piece written a few days after that tragic 2011 September day by a former, now late, United Press International colleague, Al Webb, who did a wrap-up of the grief that citizens of every country shared on our behalf. Webb's article, written then from his post in London, captured that display of shared pain in a way that deserves, or rather requires, remembering. So I share it here again.)
By Al Webb
LONDON (UPI) -- A small girl with a Cockney accent shyly waved a tiny American flag, and a queen brushed away a tear. In a Scottish town that has known its own tragedy, a lone church bell tolled. On a German river, foghorns sounded a low moan.
Across countries and continents, waves of sympathy for a nation in anguish rolled on. A young woman in a Kenyan park wept over the sad headlines in newspapers spread on the ground. A one-time terrorist donated blood for the victims. Hundreds stood in line in cities from Dublin to Moscow to sign books of condolences.
And over the outpouring of grief and mourning for the lives lost in the boiling flames and rubble of the World Trade Center towers and a wing of the Pentagon, time and again came the strains of "The Star-Spangled Banner," sometimes in places where it had never been sung before.
In a gesture reminiscent of John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner," symbolizing his solidarity with another troubled people a half century ago, the Paris newspaper Le Monde perhaps summed it up best: "We are all Americans."
In London, where the little girl with the funny accent and her American flag pressed her damp face against the gates, the band performing the traditional Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace suddenly did something it had never done before -- it struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner."
For 45 minutes, the Mall in front of the palace became a little piece of America for hundreds of its citizens who were there because there were no planes to take them home. And the band of the Coldstream Guards played on.
As tear-stained faces lifted and sang along, as Americans and British and other nationals waved Old Glory, the marches rolled -- "The Liberty Bell" after the national anthem, followed by "The Washington Post March" and "Semper Fidelis" and finally, heart-rendingly, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
What the Coldstream Guards had triggered was the greatest mass demonstration of grief in Britain since Princess Diana was killed in a car crash four years ago. And as with Diana's death, a carpet of flowers, children's toys, poems, letters, all illuminated by tiny candles, built up this time at the fortress-like U.S. Embassy in London.
Amid the hundreds of bouquets, a single American flag was wrapped around a tree. One woman pressed her tear-dampened lips to its fringe in a soft kiss.
The sweeping tide of mourning reached its crescendo at 11 o'clock Friday morning when Britain, France, Germany and scores of other countries in Europe, Africa and Asia went silent for three minutes, in honor of the innocent dead in America.
In Paris, the elevator at the Eiffel Tower stopped halfway to the top. Buses, trams and cars halted in their tracks across the continent.
In Spain, more than 650 city and town halls became gathering centers for tens of thousands who bent their heads in silent prayer -- and then, at the end of the three minutes, they lifted their eyes and applauded in that people's traditional tribute to the victims of terrorism.
On the River Elbe leading into Hamburg, ships flew their flags at half-mast. The minutes of silence crept by -- and at the end were broken by the sound of a thousand foghorns rolling across the water into the city's very heart.
In Lockerbie, Scotland, there was no applause, no singing, no bands, only the ringing of a single church bell and the flutter of flags at half-mast. This is a town with singular links to America, forged in a terrorist attack in the skies 13 years ago.
In all, according to an estimate by The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London, some 800 million people across Europe joined in the three minutes of silence.
At Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, once part of a dividing line between freedom and tyranny, a crowd of some 200,000 -- among them Germans whose relatives had died in terrorist attacks -- gathered beneath a black banner bearing the words, "We Mourn With You."
In Paris, crowds jammed the Place de la Concorde, itself a symbol of reconciliation, while church bells rang for five minutes before the silence.
In the government's Elysee Palace, "The Star-Spangled Banner" rang out, while over the French air waves, radio stations played John Lennon's "Imagine."
The bankers of Switzerland are not noted for their sentimentality, so they dealt in their own currency. At the end of the three minutes of silence, they announced they were donating more than $500,000 to the families of the victims of the atrocities in America.
Lloyd's of London, the insurance market based in the British capital and one of several insurers of the World Trade Center, rang its Lutine bell and observed a minute of silence in memory of the dead in America -- some of them in the several broker offices Lloyd's has -- had -- in the WTC.
In Belfast, the bullets and bombs of Northern Ireland's own form of terrorism, known as sectarian violence, went silent as tens of thousands from both sides of the divide -- Roman Catholic and Protestant - gathered in front of a makeshift stage at City Hall, to stand in silent tribute.
It is a city that knows the heartache of terrorism. "We have suffered for 33 years," said Betty McLearon. "People here have to be admired for the way they can cope with it. It will take the people in New York a long time to get over this."
In Moscow, the Russians observed a minute's silence as they laid wreaths and floral tributes outside the U.S. Embassy, once a symbol of the Cold War. Thousands of Muscovites lined up patiently to sign books of condolences.
In turbulent Israel, a nurse gently inserted a needle into the right arm of Yasser Arafat, himself a one-time terrorist who is now head of the Palestinian Authority. In a demonstration of support, he was donating blood to help the American injured.
Back in London, the minutes of silence were followed by a service of remembrance in the capital's majestic St. Paul's Cathedral, led by Queen Elizabeth II herself. In the audience of 2,400 inside, Americans hoisted the Stars and Stripes for the rest of the world to see via television.
Outside the cathedral, the tens of thousands who could not get in waved their own tiny flags and listened over the loudspeakers that carried the words and music for blocks around. The cathedral's huge organ rumbled into life, to open the service, appropriately, with the American national anthem.
Then something happened that has never happened before, certainly not in public and doubtless not even in private. Softly, the queen began to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Now, the British monarch does not "sing" national anthems. When they are played, she never even opens her mouth. Until now.
But Queen Elizabeth sang it all, this song whose words were written 187 years ago during Britain's last war with her lost American colonies, through the final words, "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave." With the last note, the queen gently brushed away a tear.
That said it all.
(Note: Al Webb, who died in February of 2015 at the age of 79, spent most of his career -- 28 years -- with UPI, separated by a few years in the 1980s for a stint with U.S. News and World Report. His reporting ranged from the civil rights struggles to the battlefields of Vietnam to the Houston Space Center covering the conquest of space.
Webb, along with Joseph L. Galloway, another UPI colleague, were two of only four civilian journalists who were decorated for their battlefield heroism, in Webb’s case for evacuating under fire a wounded marine during the Tet Offensive in 1968.)
John Stanton and Mikal Thomsen were in their late 20s when they teamed up at McCaw Cellular to become part of the birthing of a fledgling communications technology whose growth globally they helped guide through several major companies over the next 20 years, becoming iconic figures in the wireless industry.
Now just into their 60s, both have parlayed their business success into owning and guiding professional baseball teams, what they might well agree is a passion that rivals their business focus.
A business focus remains, however, as they continue to manage their Bellevue-based wireless venture and investment firm, Trilogy Equity Partners, formed by a collection of long-time wireless partners after the sale of their Western Wireless to Alltel Corp. in 2005.
Thomsen once told me that the opportunity six years ago to create the ownership team that bought the Tacoma Rainiers was like his “dream come true.” He would be owning his hometown team that he had grown up rooting for from the time his dad took him to his first game at age three. That was the year that the then-Tacoma Giants returned after a 55-year absence.
Stanton, who will soon assume the role of CEO of the Seattle Mariners after the ownership group he leads completes its purchase of the team from Nintendo of America, also recalls attending the games of his hometown team with his father. That was in 1969 when, as a teenager he became a fan of the Seattle Pilots in their first and only year of existence and recalls crying when they left town for Milwaukee.
Thomsen would undoubtedly echo Stanton’s “I am first and foremost a baseball fan” comment that he made to the media gathering at Safeco Field when he was introduced as the leader of a 17 member local group that would become 90 percent owner of the team and he become the CEO, once Major League Baseball owners bless the deal.
Thomsen and his wife, Lynn, and Stanton and his wife, Terry Gillespie, are all alums of McCaw Cellular in the ‘80s and are now on the team of co-owners of the Tacoma Rainiers, though the oversight of the franchise, including attending many games and spending about 10 hours a week in the office during the season, falls to Thomsen.
The owners are fortunate that the baseball team acquisition included Aaron Artman as club president, a former Microsoft executive who oversaw the $30 million renovation of Cheney Stadium and remained with the new owners in the role of president.
Stanton’s and Thomsen’s baseball involvement extends across the state and all the way down to the West Coast League, an amateur collegiate summer league, where they are among owners of both the Walla Sweets and the Yakima Valley Pippins.
But it was when Thomsen had the opportunity to put together the purchase of the Tacoma Rainiers in 2011 that he turned to Stanton and his wife, an avid baseball fan herself, to become part of the ownership group.
Thomsen has immersed himself in his hometown baseball team and has enthusiastically committed to its increasing success, despite being the smallest market in far-flung Pacific Coast League and being the closest Triple-A team to a major league city.
In fact, the Seattle Mariners and the Rainiers are not only geographically close, which Thomsen admits may sometimes cost the Rainiers attendance of fans heading for Seattle, but close in that the Rainiers are the Mariners’ triple-A farm team.
As Thomsen puts it: “Most of the Rainiers fans are Mariners fans who enjoy keeping up with both teams and hearing about the players they saw in Tacoma performing with the major league club. I think the nearness of the M’s cuts both ways.”
In addition, the relationship is good for the Rainiers’ bottomline since the Tacoma roster is determined by and players’ salaries paid by the Mariners.
A lot of the changes brought about since Thomson’s group bought the team relate to community things, but he is pleased about what has happened in the stands and on the field.
At this point, atop PCL pack, the Rainiers seem headed for their first playoff appearance since Thomsen’s group bought the team, though Thomsen cautions that “it’s a long way from certain. We are only three games up on Fresno.” Plus the team appear on the way to another franchise attendance record, though beating the 352,000 attendance mark of last season is well behind the nearly 680,000 of the Sacramento River Cats.
In addition, Thomsen notes that the decision by the ownership group three years ago to build a new set of stands in left field “has been a stunning success,” adding that he celebrated his 60th birthday there in early May this year “with a couple hundred friends.”
He says the change of the team’s logo two years ago to “the now somewhat iconic ‘R’” has helped drive merchandise sales “through the roof.”
In terms of community involvement, he says the Rainiers “teamed this past off season with Tacoma Parks, the Cheney Foundation and Mary Bridge Hospital to add a playground behind the right field berm that includes a whiffle ball stadium,
“It is packed for most games and open as a public park when games are not going on in the stadium,” he adds.
“The community views this as a partnership and we go out of our way to be great partners,” Thomsen says with obvious pride.
Stephen Vella, a congenial Brit who spent his career building airlines before turning his attention to creating flying mansions for the global elite, is the man whose Kestrel Aviation Management oversaw creation of the first VIP interior on a 787-8 Dreamliner.
The first VVIP outfitted BBJ, as its officially referred to, has gotten global visibility for those who partnered with Vella’s company, which had turnkey responsibility for the project from purchase of the plane to planning and design of the special interior to meet the requirements of the Asian client who will operate the aircraft. The partners included Greenpoint Technologies of Kirkland and Pierrejean Design Studio of Paris.
The specially outfitted Dreamliner is back in Moses Lake, where the work to install the unique interior was done, as it awaits final signoff by the FAA and final closing of the sale to an undisclosed owner.
“Undisclosed owner” is the usual description of individuals, countries or companies who decide they wish to own a castle in the sky and contract with Vella and Kestrel to manage the purchase, design and delivery of the aircraft. Nohl Martin, Vella’s vice president for business development and communications, says outfitting the special interiors can cost as much as the airplane itself with the finished product, once the widebody is aloft, sometimes described by buyers as airborne oases of peace.
But these are oases that are reserved for the elite, both in stature and resources, and the fact they seek out Vella has made him a valued relationship for Boeing, but also for Airbus, since the contract for design and implementation of one of these widebody interiors begins with the purchase of the plane itself.
I had an opportunity recently to interview Vella while he his partner Martin, a longtime friend of mine, were on a visit to Kirkland, where she has family.
The Dreamliner, representing the first conversion of a composite and nearly all-electric aircraft to incorporate a high-end cabin and thus requiring virtually the entire focus of the Kestrel team for the past two years, is the 11th widebody conversion that Vella’s team has managed from purchase through entry into service. The company has also done 10 narrowbody VVIP cabin conversions.
But as communications vice president Martin points out: “Sadly it is a sector that rarely allows us to publicize our work -- until this 787 project.”
Visibility was not a problem for Vella when he was turning around airlines, particularly the nearly 15 years he spent helping turn Qatar Airways from a struggling, five-plane regional airline into one of the handful of the world’s Five Star airlines.
When Akbar Al Baker, Qatar’s group chief executive, was tapped by the Qatar government in 1997 to take over the failing airline, he contracted with Vella, who functioned for the next 15 years as basically the airline’s COO, doing the long-term planning, fleet management, overseeing brand development as well as mergers and acquisitions.
By early this decade, Qatar Airways was operating 150 planes with another 200 on order, producing billions of dollars in sales for Boeing, but also for Airbus since the fleet, Vella estimates, is about half from each manufacturer.
Vella, 62, is a native of Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, and he explains that, despite being a citizen of the United Kingdom, Spanish is his first language.
His upbringing in Gibraltar and his fluency in Spanish, along with a healthy dose of self confidence, allowed him to build his reputation in the airline-turnaround business early.
He recalls that he was still in college when he took time off to visit with an official the prime minister back in Gibraltar and convinced him to grant Vella a Masters scholarship in return for assisting the City architect in redesigning the airport terminal.
After graduation, he approached executives of British Caledonia and pitched that the fact he was bilingual would allow him to launch the airline’s Latin America routes.
He recalled with a chuckle that the pitch allowed him to land a job at a time when there were no jobs to be had and while he worked for peanuts, he was able to see the world.
By his early 30s he had become general manager of British Caledonia’s fleet management division, but at that point left to start his aviation consulting firm and early on helped Richard Branson acquire his first 747.
Vella has turned around eight airlines, including Qatar and the Spanish airline Air Nostrum, a Iberia affiliate, which is now the largest regional carrier in Europe, and started several airplane leasing companies, including one for Rupert Murdoch.
I asked Vella to give me a sense of what he thinks the future holds for the industry and he offered a couple of predictions. One, Asia is a fertile field for new airlines to come into existence. And he suggests that in this county we’ll see consolidation bring the industry down to four large airlines. He declined to name those he thinks will compose the final field of four.