As we approach the opening of the baseball season, we will occasionally hear the phrase “total package” in reference to that rare player who excels in all facets of the game. To Twins fans, it was Kirby Puckett; to the Yankees a DiMaggio or Mantle while a Cardinal fan (me) will cite Stan Musial. When applied properly, it is the mark of a Hall of Famer.
Today it refers to Edson Spencer who passed away last Sunday. In everything he engaged, he excelled; a Rhodes Scholar from Williams College, an athlete, World War II veteran, engineer with Honeywell rising to become its CEO in 1973. That alone represents a brilliant career.
But Ed Spencer was more than a story of success. He was the person we all wanted to be. He radiated warmth, acceptance, intelligence, modesty and he treated all people in the same engaging way whether it be the waitress, the cab driver, or a fellow CEO. Everyone was important.
If there be one characteristic that could summarize this man it would be his impeccable sense of honesty. He was the gold standard. I would submit that it was this extraordinary virtue that drove him to dedicate such a large portion of his life to public service.
He understood the power of “we” over “I” and his commitment to honesty compelled him to lead by example. Yes, he was given gifts of talent but he worked hard to develop them. And when successful, he dedicated his life to working for the betterment of the lives of others. By serving as chairman of the Ford Foundation, a leader in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and assuming major roles in the Mayo Clinic and the Minneapolis Foundation, Ed Spencer directly affected millions of people all over the world and in such a positive and uplifting way. In spite of that enormous load, he devoted additional energy and resources to serving on the Board at Carleton College and working with the University of Minnesota. And yet he found time to help lead the old Republican Party in Hennepin County and launch numerous political careers.
This marvelous man had an impact on everyone he met and every task he took on. I cannot imagine a leadership post where he would not have excelled from President of the United States to managing an athletic program.
Yes, Ed Spencer was the “total package”. Absolutely.