Alan Schonberg passed away this morning, Friday, November 15th, 2013…
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
–John Donne (1572-1631)
Alan Schonberg was 85 years young. For those of us in the contingency search business, he was The Man…The Big Kahuna…our Father Figure. Whether you came up through the Management Recruiters International (MRI) network, or not, if you spent any time in our industry, you were influenced by Alan Schonberg. Alan co-founded MRI in 1965 promoting the brand new recruitment approach of the employer-paid fee concept, exclusively. In 1972, he was the first to put together the two words “contingency search”. Under his guidance our industry grew the right way. I remember many times Alan admonishing our franchisees, who were going astray, “to fail our way first, then you can fail your way.”
Personally, Alan hired me and so, for a time, was my boss. And over the subsequent years he became a friend; a confidant; a mentor. When you received advice from Alan, you treasured it. In recruitment in particular, and life in general, he was one of the wisest men I knew. I am not saying he was an angel (although I am sure that he is one now), but he wasn’t a devil either. The simplest way to put it is that he was our industry’s main Giant. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, we all are able to be more successful in our search industry by standing on the shoulders of our giants. And our tallest giant was Alan Schonberg.
For a time, while working with MRI, I developed a fear of flying. Now this was particularly debilitating to my career and exasperating to Alan. Since I was based at the time in San Diego, it took me three days, by train, to reach Cleveland. It wasn’t until December, 1992 that I enrolled in a fear of flying class and vanquished that demon. Since then I have flown well over half a million miles and completed over 300 individual flights, in the US and overseas. Knowing Alan’s disappointment in my not flying when I was with MRI, I told him often about my flights. I wanted him to know that that obstacle was behind me. I don’t think he ever realized it, but he was the main reason I wanted to fly again.
I will miss Alan—from his complimentary emails to his too infrequent calls. One of my last dear memories of the man was during a presentation I was giving at the MRI Southwest Regional Meeting in Plano, TX in February, 2009. Before I began my presentation I was talking with Alan and old friends and MRI franchisees, Bob Bassman and Mark Rednick. Alan pulled me aside and said that he wanted to apologize but that, while he enjoyed listening to me, he had to leave about 10 minutes into my presentation to take a very special phone call and wanted me to know that it didn’t have anything to do with me or my presentation. I told him that was fine and then Mark introduced me. Well, I began my hour presentation and noticed that Alan never left. After the presentation, he came up and congratulated me. I asked if he missed his call and he said that it didn’t matter. That he would rather listen to me. What a nice thing to say to a speaker! And even though his words were just between the two of us, I valued that recommendation more that if it had been published and distributed widely!
Yes, I will miss you Alan…we all will, more than you would have ever believed!
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
–General George S. Patton Jr (1885-1945)
“Blessed is the True Judge”
…Godspeed Alan Schonberg!