On Aug. 1, 1993, Ewing Kauffman died. To honor this great man, several of us (pictured left) who currently work at HCF and who used to work at the Kauffman Foundation went to the Kauffman Gardens (where Mr. and Mrs. Kauffman are buried), along with several former Kauffman Foundation board members, and paid tribute to the remarkable person who meant so much to each of us and to the community we love.
Shortly before Mr. K became too ill to come to the Foundation, he invited me to join him in his office for a one-on-one conversation. After we talked about current projects I was working on, we talked some about his hopes and dreams for the future of Kauffman Foundation.
After about 20 minutes of conversation, Mr. K asked me if I had any questions for him. I asked, “Do you have any regrets?” He told me his main regret was that he spent most of his life making money and did not devote more of his life to the foundation and “giving back.”
Make no mistake: Mr. K loved the challenges of the business world. However, he told me that he wished he spent more time getting his foundation established. He enjoyed philanthropy and creating opportunities for at-risk children and adults to become self-sufficient and productive members of our community.
I then asked him my final question: “What was the secret to your success?” He looked at me as he was smoking his pipe, and said the secret to his success in the business world, in baseball and in creating his foundation was to hire really hard-working and smart people and treat them with dignity and respect. Treat others as you would like to be treated — that was Mr. K’s secret to all his success.
As we remember this outstanding leader 20 years after he left us, it is important to keep his memory alive and to reflect on Mr. K’s secret to his success: Treat others as you would like to be treated.
We may forget the specifics about what we accomplished in our lifetime, but we will never forget how people made us feel. Thank you, Mr. K, for making so many of us feel special because of how you treated us.