November 20, 2011

On the Passing of Bill Aramony

Frank mentioned that he saw it online: the disgraced former head of United Way of America had died. William Aramony was 84 and had been out of jail since 2002.

Aramony with President Reagan
When I knew Bill Aramony, he was the "big boss" at United Way of America. He was respected for his incredible ability to convince business leaders to make large contributions to our organization or to local United Ways. (For those that don't know, United Way of America is like an association for local organizations, providing training and support in exchange for dues. Your local contributions go to local charities, not generally to the national association.)

I was an executive secretary and before that an administrative coordinator at UWA. There were nice things about working there but pay was not great for support staff and eventually I realized there was no upward career path for me unless I wanted to work in Aramony's office, which I could not imagine doing because of his temper and his reputation for shameless womanizing. He was one of those people who felt his success entitled him to pretty much whatever he wanted. And that was his downfall.

It happened long after I had left UWA for a more promising job. He was convicted of stealing from the organization and brought great embarrassment to the United Way movement. It was sad because he was talented and brilliant in some ways. Yet he ruined much of what he had accomplished and brought other people down with him.

Read John Glaser's book, The United Way Scandal if you want the inside story. For a thoughtful blog viewpoint, see William Aramony and the Fallen Hero Dilemma.

About the photo: I took the picture when Ronald Reagan visited United Way of America  to support the "Second Century Initiative" circa 1987.

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