memories

Reading Richard's obit underlines the truth of the expression "youth is wasted on the young", because to me, during some extremely formative years in my life starting in about 1983 or 1984, Richard was simply "Laura's Dad"…and we had no idea at all of how accomplished a person he was!  What were we then, 18?  19?  I shake my head at my younger self.  It's entirely to Richard's credit that my memories of him are always of an affable big bear of a guy who never talked down to the cadre of long-haired misfits that were his daughter's best friends.  He was someone who never lorded over us his very demonstrable intelligence and accomplishment.  As a parent now, I can only imagine the very understandable horror that any reasonable father would experience at sight of so many Grateful Dead patches, customized army jackets, and secretive whispered conversations amongst his daughter's friends.  But Richard was always nice to all of us, always gregarious and outgoing.  It was true of her whole family, in fact.  The house was always open to us.  "Laura's House" was a location of primary importance all throughout our high school days.  I told Laura the other day that of all the many memories I have of times spent at her house in Bethany, one that stands out is a time when Laura, her father, and I went fishing.   I can no longer remember how this day came about, but knowing all involved, it probably stemmed from a conversation between me and Laura in which she revealed how into fishing her Father was, followed by me saying "I would totally go fishing with you guys!", followed by Laura laughing and slowly realizing that I was actually serious, and then her no doubt telling her Father about the weird friend of hers who totally wanted to go fishing.  And Richard then of course probably extended his very genuine offer.  And so I remember meeting Laura and her dad at a lake somewhere, very early for our 18 or 19 year old selves, probably.  I remember the process of getting the boat into the water and, although I had some acquatic/sporting knowledge, it erred decidedly on the "some" end of the spectrum…and I recall neither Laura nor myself being much help in getting underway.  My memory might fail me, but I seem to recall Laura baiting her own hook, but maybe in fact Richard did it for her, uncomplainingly….either way says something great about both of them…and while I can't remember any specific conversation, the memory I have is of a guy who was very happy to be right where he was, and very happy to be with who he was with, and who took great delight in his daughter and in sharing something he loved.  It was unexpectedly fun.  It's not an experience I would have otherwise had.  Laura's Dad passing reminds me of something I hope I will share with my own daughter one day; that she not underestimate the importance of getting to know her friends' parents, and that she should take them up on any offered chances to do things with their families, and to extend the offer for her friends' to do things with our family.  I'll remember to use this story of that one morning from the 1980's.

Jason CiloPresident, Meetinghouse Productions, Inc

I am so sorry to hear that Richard has passed away. I was a Ph.D. student in Organizational Behavior at Yale when he taught there, and I feel very fortunate to have been a student in his class on high performing teams. As others have said, he often taught without his shoes on. He would get so excited about the topics he was teaching that every now and then he'd walk into a wall. One day we came into the classroom and someone had pinned pillows on each of the walls so that he wouldn't hurt himself when he walked into a wall. A joke, of course, but one that says a lot about his passion for learning and teaching about teams. To this day (twenty-five years or so later), I continue to use his goals-design-coaching model for creating high performing teams when I teach about high performing teams, and that model is universally useful. Richard was a thoughtful and enthusiastic professor who was also generous in making his ideas and resources available to others. My sympathies go out to his loved ones.

-Paula Caproni

I first met Richard when I had the pleasure of taking his self-managing work teams course as an SOM student in the early 80’s.  We then reconnected at Harvard some years later in my role as co-chair of the IEM program.  It was such a privilege to have him as a member of the IEM faculty for eleven years.  Without fail, participant reaction to his sessions placed him in the “rock star” category.  I so enjoyed reconnecting with him each summer, learning about his latest work and thinking, and witnessing the many thank you’s he received from IEMers for his outstanding sessions.  There was a particularly special twist to my connection with Richard three or so years ago when my daughter – a member of the Harvard College Class of 2012 – took (and, not surprisingly, greatly enjoyed) his undergrad course.  I was so delighted and thankful that two generations of Zolners were able to benefit from his wisdom and many other gifts.

I hope it was abundantly clear to Richard during the GroupFest activities just what kind of impact he had on academe and the world.  A truly amazing scholar, terrific teacher, unbelievable mentor for academicians and professionals alike, and, perhaps most importantly and impressively to me, a genuinely nice guy.  I’m sure he was also a wonderful son, spouse, father, and grandfather.

The Hackman family will very much be in my thoughts and prayers.  I truly hope that reflecting on and celebrating Richard’s amazing life and legacy will provide some consolation in the days and weeks ahead.

With warmest wishes,

Joe Zolner

On 11 January 2013, the flags at MacMurray College, Richard's alma mater, were flown at half mast to acknowledge the MacMurray community's "respect for Richard, and our love and support for Judith and their family."

Dick was a member of my theses committee at Yale (along with Tim Hall and Ed Lawler). I believe I had the best committee ever, and Dick was a major contriutor in terms of both scholastic and emotional support. Dick and I also shared a love of fishing that provided another bond. I haven't seen Dick for several years now, since I retired in 1999 and we live in Tulsa. He was never out of my memories, however, and I'll always apprecieat his friendship and suport.

-Don Bowen

I first met Richard when I read a article that he had written in a Journal when he was at Yale.I was deeply involved in Job Enrichment as a consultant for Roy W Walters & Associates and i just called him up. He was so delightful on the phone that I wanted to meet him. We stuck up a wonderful working relationship with Richard and Greg Oldham that became the basis for the JDS and much future work with Job Design.Over the years I would meet Richard with different clients and he always gave fantastic energy to a project and taught all of us new approaches to improving jobs, teams and organizations. My prayers are with his family.

-Bob Janson

I am Richard's cousin, Sue Schaeffer....our moms were sisters. We grew up in a small town, Virginia, Il., and having Richard as a cousin was very exciting! I remember laughing, teasing, joking, and anxiously awaiting his visits to our house! Being six yrs. older than I, he had graduated and gone 'off to college' before I was in high school. Reading the wonderful memories sent by students, peers, and others who knew him, brought me to tears! He never bragged or told us much about his work, so learning of his contributions to the academic world was quite impressive! One of the things I remember was that we had a 'flash cube' (on the much older cameras) contest of sorts each time he would come over. We secretly stashed away our old ones so we could 'get' the other one first by putting them in the other's pockets!...so simple and so silly, but it was so much fun! We'd run around the house trying to 'win' this silly obsession of ours til we laughed ourselves sick. As you all know, he didn't give up! Very competitive. He always beat me at ping pong, but we played another game of trying to knock the other person off balance by standing still, feet apart, and smacking each other's hands until the other one fell off balance. I most frequently won that game, and it made him so frustrated! One of my most pleasant memories was usually on holidays.....his family would come over and after the meal it would be POKER TIME!!!! Always dealer's choice, and what a fun time we had! Richard always made things more fun. There was such ferver in him. However with my mom and his mom, we could barely get through a game! We laughed til we cried! He was the janitor at the Methodist Church, played basketball, football, and the trombone in the band. His mom told me that when he was young, he'd come into their bedroom every night with a problem. She'd ask him how he might solve it, and/or give him suggestions until he was satisfied. He started early learning to think and solve problems! All in all, I will miss him greatly. Such a unique individual and a deffinite contributor to his fellow man! I'm proud that he was my cousin!!!

-Sue Schaeffer

Visualize, if you will, the following scene: It's late on a winter day, in the seminar room on the 15th floor of William James Hall. The heat was acting up that day and it was sweltering. Standing behind the podium is a huge man, wearing a jacket and tie. This man, Richard Hackman, was interviewing for a senior faculty position. We were all baking. About 10 minutes into his talk, Richard took off his tie. Five minutes later he took off his jacket. And then a few minutes later he took off his shoes. At this point the audience was transfixed, waiting to see what was next. All the while he was presenting his work, absolutely clear and with an intensity that signaled his deep commitment to what he was doing. He somehow made his giving the talk and his incremental disrobing seem absolutely natural.

This incident proved to encapsulate many of Richard's qualities. Most obviously, he was not a creature of convention. Richard was intellectually fearless; he relished going boldly where no man had gone before. For instance, I recall when I first broached to him what I thought might be a flakey idea: Maybe a team could be considered as a kind of uber-brain, with each person playing the role of a specific brain system. (Someone else, not a researcher, had first raised this idea to me casually in conversation.) Richard loved the idea, and the Group Brain Project was born soon thereafter. This project took that idea seriously and produced some ground-breaking work. Richard was not afraid to follow his instincts, which were almost always right on-target.

During the course of the Group Brain Project I got to know Richard well, as a close collaborator and close friend. Richard was a joy to work with. Richard was one of the overall smartest people I’ve ever known. He was equally comfortable with things quantitative and qualitative, and picked up new ideas without effort. I loved talking to him; he was always thinking and always willing to lend you not just his ear, but his brain. He was the most constructive critic I've ever known. But more than that, he took seriously what you had to say and used it as a springboard for creative thinking.

Richard was intensely committed to his work, and uncompromisingly serious about achieving the highest possible quality. He would sometimes sit on a paper we co-authored for many months, not sure that it was really good enough. He truly believed in the value of psychological science, but only if it was done right – and his standards made that a very high bar.

Richard was also one of the most ethical people I've ever known. He reflexively considered whether an idea or action was appropriate. But that's not to say that he was dogmatic. Far from it; Richard was always open to discussion, always willing to debate. He listened and—characteristically—thought about what the other person had to say.

In spite of his great gifts and enormous range of knowledge and skills, Richard was humble. He knew his own faults and frailties, perhaps too well, and never in my experience showed a shred of arrogance or hubris. Richard embodied a deep kind of humanity. He cared about other people and made time for them. People who knew Richard came to love him. For good reason.

 -Stephen M. Kosslyn

Richard always knew a lot more than most people, but he was always curious about what he did not know. He had an elegant way of teaching, prodding, agitating, examining. He had a great gift of turning complex subjects into simple, accessible universals. We experienced his passion to help working people. He left his mark on unions for decades to come. We miss him.

-Larry McNeil, Executive Director, Institute4Change

I first became aware of Richard's work in 1974, and met him for the first time five years later. He was a giant in the disciplines of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior. Through my classes alone, his work has influenced more than 10,000 academics and practicing managers. I must also add, he was a delightful colleague. He will be missed, but his influence will continue.

-Roger Manley, Professor Emeritus, Florida Institute of Technology

I know Hackman since last 7 seven years through his knowledge contributions as a business student in Pakistan. Although I never met him but most of the time during my MBA and then PhD , I have been citing his name frequently. Although he was far away from me in physical boundaries but through his knowledge and thoughts he was very close to me and my colleagues discussing always about his contributions. His work will always be remembered as a great scholar in the field of management. May his soul rest in peace. 

-Farooq Ahmed Jam (Pakistan)

A few years ago I reached out to Richard to seek his help advising our most senior leadership teams within the National Park Service. He had been recommended by a colleague of his whom I had met during the Senior Executive Fellows Program years earlier. I was surprised by Richard's immediate and down-to-earth response, and his eagerness to work with us. I soon learned that he cared deeply about the preservation of our country's special places, and was therefore committed to improving the leadership of an organization dedicated to that mission. I subsequently had the privilege of working with him in multiple NPS locations, and each time witnessed his special magic. Richard's extensive knowledge and keen ability to assess what was really going on within a senior leadership team enabled him to hone in immediately on suggested ways to restructure to more effectively meet our organization's needs. More importantly, his quick wit and warm personality created a genuine relationship with his clients - an atmosphere of trust and respect. His impact has been substantial within the National Park Service, and his contributions to our future are yet to be truly realized. We are in his debt.

-Kathy Hanson

What an inspiration Richard has been to me throughout my career. His challenges to "do great work," "deal with real problems" and "come together intellectually across the crazy silos we create between disciplines" always ring in my ears as watchwords to live by in my scholarly life. He will be missed by so many who knew him well, but his inspiration will live on in the stories they pass on to those of us who knew him less well. I find myself at this moment inordinately glad that we (the OB division of the Academy of Management) honored him this past summer with our highest award. He was gracious and generous with his time at the meeting - I'm so glad we collectively got to honor him in what turned out to be his last meeting. We should all strive to be the contribution he was to our field. We will, of course, most likely fail to achieve it, but it is in the striving that we make a difference.

-Sue Ashford

We will remember him as a great mind. His work will live on. Prayers and support for his family.

-Constant Beugre

As a doctoral student at MIT, I cross registered for Richard Hackman's graduate seminar in group dynamics at Harvard. What a marvelous and unique experience that was. Professor Hackman’s knowledge of the field, analytical mind, enthusiasm, and refreshing personality fueled wonderful discussions. Over the years, I kept track of his research and saw him speak at several conferences. We also collaborated on a project to improve the management of symphony orchestras. Richard Hackman's work has served as the foundation in group processes for my own writing, teaching, and process consultation. To experience Richard Hackman’s soul in this existence was a blessing. He will be missed, but his insights and contributions live on ………………………………………………………….. My condolences to his family.

-Anthony DiBella

I first met Richard at Yale in the mid-1960's. I followed his work on the JCM which I taught and researched over my career. When I moved to Cambridge in the 2000's I connected with him again and he was very helpful as I settled in at Cambridge after my retirement. Richard always took on "difficult" problems to research -- like teams -- and increased our understanding immeasurably. I will miss him.

-Martin G. Evans