Wednesday, April 13, 2011

UI&U Alumnus Dr. Sidney Harman Dies

Union Institute & University mourns the loss of alumnus Dr. Sidney Harman, who died Tuesday, April 12, at the age of 92 after a brief illness.

Dr. Sidney Harman
Dr. Harman was a pioneer in high-fidelity sound equipment who dedicated his life to furthering education, the arts, and later, journalism. Dr. Roger H. Sublett, President of UI&U shared these reflections on Dr. Harman:

"I first met Sidney Harman when I became president of Union Institute & University in 2003. I met Sidney at his office during a trip to Washington to visit with graduates of Union. I found him to be one of the most remarkable people I have ever met in my life. He was not only knowledgeable about leadership—a field that we both shared a passion for—but we had both had written on the topic of “Leading from the Heart” which we found almost ironic. Subsequent meetings led to Union inviting Sidney to serve as our National Commencement speaker in 2004.

Sidney’s obvious commitment to education and Interdisciplinarity, his caring concern for others, and his generous philanthropy enriched his life as much as his professional commitment to business. He had a brilliant, innovative mind and an uncommon interest in people. I found all of my meetings with Dr. Harman to be inspirational, fulfilling my strong belief that only people make a difference in our lives. Through a life well lived, Dr. Harman touched all with whom he came in contact through his positive vision and belief that anything was possible.
We have lost a dear colleague and friend."

Read more about Sidney Harman's lifelong impact...

“The maverick's way of conducting business forswears the leader as commanding general; it rejects the practice of top-down, authoritative command. Rather, it proposes the leader as catalyst, conscience, and inspirer… what I call a ‘prismatic’ leader. He or she must be the prism through which is refracted the other rays of light into one coherent fashion.” - Dr. Sidney Harman

Sidney Harman, Ph.D. 1973 and University Trustee, 1981 to 1994
Recipient, of the 2004 President’s Medal and 2004 National Commencement Speaker
Founder and Executive Chairman, Harman International Industries
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, 1977 to 1978
Chairman of Newsweek magazine

For more than 50 years, the name Harman has symbolized high-fidelity sound. For Union Institute & University alumnus and Newsweek chairman, Dr. Sidney Harman, the concept of “fidelity” — faithful adherence to what is true or real — is synonymous with his approach to living and leading in business, education, and government. For decades, Dr. Harman served as the executive chairman of Harman International Industries, which he founded as Harman/Kardon, Inc. with engineer Bernard Kardon in 1952. Together they launched a revolution in the audio industry by creating the first integrated, high-fidelity audio receiver and the very first series of stereo amplifiers.

Dr. Harman became sole owner in 1956 and headed this Fortune 500 company with 10,000 employees worldwide, nearly $2 billion in annual revenue, and products for concert halls, home living rooms, and workplace computer stations everywhere. The company’s repertoire includes high-end digital sound and navigational systems, voice-activated telephony, and climate controls for luxury automobiles.

A pioneer of progressive management theory, Dr. Harman initiated "Quality of Working Life" programs at his plants around the world, beginning with the 1969 Bolivar (Tennessee) Project, which became a model for American industry and a case study at business schools worldwide, because of remarkable improvement in worker commitment, compensation, and productivity. The success at Bolivar led to Dr. Harman's appointment as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce from 1977 to 1978 during the Carter administration. After selling his business to avoid conflict of interest, Dr. Harman organized and administered the government's program to revitalize the ailing U.S. shoe industry.

After retiring from government service, Dr. Harman reacquired his company and resumed his role of successful but “maverick” CEO. He promoted long-term, emotional bonds between company and employees, established in-house classrooms, and built his newest plant in the United States, bucking the trend of outsourcing jobs overseas. During a visit to the Harman plant in Northridge, CA in 1996, President Clinton commended Dr. Harman’s commitment to innovative ideas and products as well as to the success of Harman employees, their families, and the community. “Harman International shows how a cutting-edge company can do well while doing right by its people,” President Clinton said.

An accomplished educator, Dr. Harman was inspired by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to teach disenfranchised African-American students when Prince Edward County, Virginia schools defied desegregation orders in the 1960s. He also served from 1970-1973 as president of Friends World College, an experimental Quaker college. An early Union alumnus in 1973, Dr. Harman’s Project Demonstrating Excellence doctoral dissertation, “Business and Education – New Experiments, New Hope,” reflected his desire to be “an active agent for constructive social change” and his pledge to “reject dogma and rhetoric, and embrace invention, daring, and human development.”

Frequently the subject of profiles and interviews by the media, Dr. Harman has written extensively for publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor, and coauthored Starting with the People (Houghton Mifflin, 1988) with public opinion pollster Daniel Yankelovich. In 2003, he published Mind Your Own Business: A Maverick's Guide to Business, Leadership and Life (Currency Books/Doubleday), acclaimed as required reading in this era of corporate misdeeds and bad behavior.

He tells how he created a culture of personal responsibility throughout his company, and compares his top management team to a jazz quartet that listens to and improvises with one another to create harmony. He also emphasizes his belief that employees at every level are a company’s most valuable asset. “What is essential is an ingrained, developed, and practical system of ethical conduct. We cannot legislate conscience. It must be the raw material of every transaction, every judgment, every decision.” And, he adds, it must begin with the CEO’s consistent exercise of “simple, straightforward decency and respect for others.”

Known to recite Shakespeare on a moment’s notice, his generous support of Washington D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company enabled it to expand in a new home, the Harman Center for the Arts, in 2007. “Sidney’s contributions to both the Shakespeare Theatre Company and the entire arts community are tremendously commendable and invaluable,” Shakespeare Theatre Company director Michael Kahn told The Washington Post. His commitment to the arts, said Kahn, has inspired many in Washington and beyond. Dr. Harman was also passionate about classical music and served as a trustee emeritus for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra.

In 2010, Dr. Harman purchased the iconic Newsweek magazine from the Washington Post Company and hired editor Tina Brown, who merged it with her Web site, the Daily Beast, creating a new source for daily and weekly news. He added the column “Connecting the Dots” to reflect his view of the role of a weekly news publication. Although actively involved in the development of Newsweek, Dr. Harman found time to establish the Academy of Polymathic Study at USC, a program designed to offer a series of conversational encounters intended to intensify integrated interdisciplinary awareness.

A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he served on the advisory board of the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and sat on the Advisory Committee of the university’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program. He served as a trustee of The Aspen Institute and the Carter Center at Emory University, and served on the boards of Business Executives for National Security, the Public Agenda Foundation, and the National Alliance of Business.

His wife, Jane Harman, recently stepped down from her role as a U.S. Representative (D-California), to lead the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, an organization aimed at uniting the world of ideas to the world of policy by supporting pre-eminent scholarship and linking that scholarship to issues of concern to officials in Washington.

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