The Week: What Caught Our Eye

March 7, 2020

Photo of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center ampitheater on a sunny dayThe Philadelphia Orchestra’s legendary maestro Eugene Ormandy predicted
the season at Saratoga Performing Arts Center would become “one of the
great summer festivals of all time.” He was right.

CLASSICS AND CLASSICAL: Saratoga Performing Arts Center is gearing up for a brilliant summer of blockbuster classic rock and classical premieres, including appearances by Rod Stewart, Steely Dan and Steve Winwood, Matchbox Twenty, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Maroon 5, Backstreet Boys, Journey, Chicago, Goo Goo Dolls, Alanis Morissette and — just to it keep edgy — Disturbed (listen to their Sounds of Silence) and Incubus. The Zac Brown Band kicks off the season June 13; Dave Matthews Band takes the stage for two nights in July. Plus, the New York City Ballet will present three SPAC premieres and the Philadelphia Orchestra 13 SPAC premieres and a 2020 Beethoven celebration featuring all nine symphonies performed over four nights.

WHAT REAL VICTORY LOOKS LIKE: The T-bone crash took place outside a Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was so violent that Josh Speidel’s 17-year-old head swung wildly and his obliterated car spun out of control. The traumatic brain injury he suffered ended one of the most promising basketball careers in University of Vermont history before it could begin. That was 2015. In the years since, Josh has become one of the most beloved and inspirational players ever to wear a Catamount uniform. And this week – with help from UAlbany Coach Bill Brown and his Great Danes – Josh finally got his shot.

A CURE FROM HERE: Regengeron Pharmaceuticals, which has its major manufacturing plant in Rensselaer County, is pursuing a COVID-19 treatment and, depending on approvals, could be manufacturing it by August. Last year Regeneron developed a treatment for Ebola.

THE SUMMER PLACE STANLEY TOOLS BUILT: When they built the place at the turn of the century, they thought of everything: A double-decker wraparound porch, four fireplaces and an enclosed glass sunroom for reading, plus — get this — a distinctive drive-through boat house. Camp Dancing Waters on Upper Saranac Lake could be yours.


TABLE FOR TWO, 2,000-YEAR-OLD MEN: They met 70 years ago, two young New York Jewish guys, quick wits, second-generation immigrants pursuing their first big break on Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows.” Now, their wives have died, their friends have died, but Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner still have each other — and they still have dinner together every night.

RETIRING BOB: Five times Bob Iger has said he was retiring. Five times he pulled back. Now he says he really will step down as CEO of Disney – and serve for a year as executive chairman keeping an eye on creative endeavors. Like many legendary CEOs, he’s climbed the tallest mountains in business. Sometimes the final test is knowing how to climb down.

JACK: BE NIMBLE: John Francis Welch was the only son of railroad conductor John Welch Sr. and Grace Welch. His homemaker mother was the most influential person in his life.  Welch became a PhD chemical engineer and considered a career as a professor. But competition drove his soul. He lived to win. Welch went to work for GE in 1960 and soon spotted the coming global disruption of old-line industry in the United States. He prescribed tough love. For his efforts, Fortune named him “manager of the century.” The New York Times called him “the most influential business manager of his generation.”He famously ran one of the world’s biggest and most valuable businesses by taking many of the best ideas from small business: Be nimble, be candid, be close to your customers, and be generous.

O’ALBLANDY: Dolores Wharton is 92 now and looking back fondly on a full life of generous public service and leadership. She and her husband, Clifton, have lived at the pinnacle of education, finance and philanthropy, including the nine years he served as chancellor of the State University of New York. She recalls that time with fondness, remembers many friends, and recalls that Albany was, well, at that time rather bland. She grew up in rare privilege in Harlem, studied dance with Martha Graham, wrote a book on Malaysian art while stationed with her husband in Southeast Asia, was the first lady of Michigan State University when he was president. She served on the National Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities; was a director of the Kellogg Co., Gannett Co., and Phillips Petroleum Co. and established the Fund for Corporate Initiatives to help women secure leadership roles in business. Now, she and Dr. Wharton live in New York and summer in beautiful Cooperstown, enjoying evenings at the Glimmerglass.

TO BE … A TOP CHEF: Saratoga Springs chef Michele Hunter of Hamlet & Ghost navigates mock meat and “an unusual green powder” to win the Food Network’s “Chopped.”


SON OF THE GUN: David Carr was not The New York Times’ first media columnist, but was perhaps its most astute. His weekly “Media Equation” column was a searchlight on the future of journalism in the emerging digital age. Carr died from complications of metastatic lung cancer, collapsing in the Times newsroom, in 2015. As riveting as any of his professional work was his harrowing personal story: Carr survived a ferocious addiction to drugs and alcohol and an early brush with cancer and nearly lost his life one drug-addled evening as chronicled in his memoir “The Night of the Gun.” He recovered and found his peace on summer days at a family camp at Jenny Lake near Corinth in Saratoga County. Now, the Times has a new “Media Equation” columnist, an equally talented writer drawn from the digital world — Ben Smith, former editor of BuzzFeed, who in his provocative initial column asks: Is the new New York Times so good, it’s bad for journalism?

NO COMMENT: In the 1990s, when they first launched news websites, many newspapers sought to encourage readers by inviting them to post comments online — the gratification of an instantaneous letter to the editor. The gambit occasionally produced hoped-for story tips and insightful analysis, but more often it was a welcome mat for snark, insults, inflammatory statements and off-topic rants. Now, cost-cutting meets good judgment: Newspapers are starting to say no comments.

STILL, SOMETIMES the reader comments are as thoughtful, heartfelt and compassionate as a riveting human story itself. The New York Times recently took a sensitive look at the lonely decline of one New Yorker, a well-read, well-dressed pianist, painter and Wall Street success until his once-grand Greenwich Village world disintegrated. The readers responded.


THE ENGINEER FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE: He used to work for Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Shakira. Now, inside the bowels of GM, a classically trained musician and engineer is designing the distinctive sounds your next car may emit to warn of a collision, a door ajar or low-tire pressure and creating signals to alert pedestrians to the presence of silent, electric vehicles.

ON A MISSION: Anyone who hires people learns something new every day about the digital natives so much in demand in fast-growing organizations. They don’t join companies or organizations. They join missions. They don’t want a job. They want meaningful work. They need a paycheck, of course, but what they really crave is positive impact on people and other businesses every day. They want stretch goals, the autonomy to reach them, and rapid advancement when they succeed.

NEVER PASS UP A GOOD CRISIS: There’s nothing like a crisis to focus the mind — and, perhaps, solidify your leadership team. If day to day your team seems out of sync, siloed, or engaged in petty turf battles, a true crisis may bring clarity, mutual respect and bonding.

LEADING THROUGH CHANGE: Disruption is the daily reality in business. So often you know where to go, but not how to get there. For leaders, it’s OK to begin the journey without knowing the precise path. It’s OK to redefine the route as you go. And it’s OK to share your thinking. Don’t hide the uncertainty.


WHAT GULLS SEE: You’ve savoring a summertime fish sandwich on Cape Cod when a seagull swoops in and swipes it. There’s a reason: Seagulls seem to take their cues about what’s good to eat from watching us.

BRING LEMON AND GARLIC: Remember the old line about confidence: When you go in search of Moby Dick, bring the tartar sauce. Thomas Knight brought a lure, instead: An 11-inch lure. Big bait attracts big fish. It worked. The lake trout he caught weighed in at 37.65 pounds, beating a 60-year-old New Hampshire record — not by ounces, as is the norm, but by more than nine pounds.


“Your people give their days (and sometimes their nights) to you. They give their hands, brains, and hearts. Sure, the company pays them. It fills their wallets. But as a leader, you need to fill their souls. You can do that by getting in their skin, by giving the work meaning, by clearing obstacles, and by demonstrating the generosity gene. And you can do it, perhaps most powerfully, by creating an environment that’s exciting and enjoyable.”
― Jack Welch
The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career


SEEMED TO BE GROWING:  The succulent plant was full, perfect and beautiful. That was the first clue.

PLEASE SHARE: Feel free to pass this along to your friends and colleagues.

THANK YOU to our contributors: John Brodt, Bill Richmond, Bill Callen, Lisa Fenwick, Colleen Potter, Tina Suhocki, Audrey McCarthy (sorry we forgot you last week), Tara Hutchins, Matt Behan and Claire P. Tuttle.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

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