The world lost a great man, and I lost a good friend, with the passing of Robert S. Fenn on April 23, 2009. Bob and I were friends for over 25 years and, for 10 of them, we were business partners in ValueNet International, Inc. Bob Fenn was one of the most progressive and visionary thinkers I have ever known and it is worth a moment of OpEdNews readers' time to take notice of Bob's remarkable life.
First, biographica. Bob was born in 1929 and raised in China, where his parents were Presbyterian missionary educators. He studied at the College of Chinese Studies in Beijing and earned a B.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. from Columbia University.
Fluent in Mandarin, Bob served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War ... as a bulldozer operator (!).
Bob began his management career in the 1950s as station manager on Wake Island for Pan Am Airlines. During the 1960s and 1970s, he was human resources vice president at Citicorp and at Warner Communications, and international personnel director for Celanese Corporation.
Bob's cross-cultural upbringing made him an astute observer and student of cultures, organizations, communication dynamics, and societal change. As a consultant in the '70s, Bob advised Xerox, International Paper, Citicorp, New Jersey Sports Authority, The New York Racing Association, New York Life, CIGNA, Colonial Life and Accident, and many others in these areas.
Bob was also one of the founders of The New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation.
As a management theorist, Bob was an early collaborator with George Odiorne on "Management by Objectives;" with Tom Gilbert on "Human Competence;" and with Alvin and Heidi Toffler on "Future Shock" and "The Third Wave."
During the 1980s, Bob was national director of training for The Travelers Corporation, where I met him. In 1993, we left Travelers to form ValueNet International, Inc., a management consulting firm. He retired from our firm in 2002.