Thursday September 12, 2019
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- Thomas Boone Pickens died.
- Like Newt, or Cher, or Michaelangelo you didn't need to use a surname for almost everyone to know who you were talking about when you said "Boone." Nobody in America thought you might be talking about Daniel.
- I first met Boone in 2008 when I was hired to be the writer on a project known as The Pickens Plan by the showrunner, Tom Synhorst. I had to pass a test - having dinner with Boone - before we could finalize the deal.
- I nearly flunked it. Boone was going on and on about OSU. Given my Marietta, Ohio (45750) experience I assumed he was talking about Ohio State University.
- I couldn't understand why, so I didn't participate in the banter around the table.
- After dinner, Synhorst said, "If you're going to be around this gang, you better get in tune with what's going on at Oklahoma State University."
- I was hired anyway. VU
- Everyone knows about the $165+ million he gave to OSU for a new football stadium. What many don't realize is he also gave tens of millions - enough so they named it after him - to the Oklahoma State's College of Geology from which he had graduated in 1951.
- This may be wrong in the details, but correct in the thrust. Boone was asked how much he had made in his lifetime. As I remember it he said: "Four Billion Dollars. I've made a billion, lost a billion, given a billion away … and I can't remember what happened to the other billion."
- Boone grew up in the tiny town of Holdenville, Oklahoma. A favorite "Boone-ism" was remembering his father saying to him:
"A fool with a plan will beat a genius with no plan every time. Your mother and I are worried that you are a fool with no plan."
- Those days of The Pickens Plan, were like being on a Presidential campaign. Boone's private Gulfstream would leave from its home base at Dallas' Love Field and we would go on a two or three day swing to corporate headquarters, to college campuses, to town hall meetings - often three or four events per day.
- Boone's stamina was legendary.
- He was a very good athlete. He first attended college at Texas A&M where he was offered a scholarship to play basketball. As he used to say, he was a small kid with limited skills. He scholarship was withdrawn after his freshman year after which he transferred to Oklahoma State.
- Boone reveled in telling how many times over the ensuing decades a president of A&M expressed despair over the thought of Boone having spent four years at College Station, Texas instead of finishing his degree in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
- Boone was usually the smartest guy in any room he was in. And he wasn't shy about that. One of the secrets about getting along with Boone was not to make him think you were challenging him. Many times we would watch as someone thought they needed to show how smart they were and Boone would ask a question; then another, and another, and keep going until he got to the edge of the person's competence.
- Then he would ask one more question to which Boone knew the answer, but the other person did not.
- The best course of action, when Boone asked a general knowledge question was to simply say, "I don't know," even if you did.
- Boone was a great team builder. He knew what he was looking for and when he hired someone, if was usually because they filled a hole in his organization. Two of the longest-serving employees were Sally Geymuller, his assistant, scheduler, and all-around good person; and, Jay Rosser who served as travel aide, director of communications and external affairs; and protector of the brand.
- The thing about people like Sally and Jay is this: Too often people in their positions deal with other people as if they ARE the principal, not just representing the principal. I never saw Sally or Jay ever do that. They treated everyone with courtesy and friendship. AND they have beeb terrific at their jobs and in their roles.
- That's what it took to be a member of Boone's team.
- I saw Boone shortly after he suffered one of his strokes. I had to be in Dallas for something and I called to see if I could pop in to say hello. Sally said to come around lunchtime, that Mr. Pickens would be happy to see me.
- I got to the office and was led around to Boone's suite where he was sitting at his small conference table being coached by his speech therapist. He glanced up and said, "Hi, Rich."
- I was pretty sure Sally said something to him like, "The next person through that door is named "Rich," but that she had allowed me to be believe the Boone remembered my name.
- The last time I saw Boone was at his 90th birthday party. There was a photo op line. When I got to the front and stood next to him, Boone looked at me and said, "You've gained weight."
- He did know who I was.
- I'm sadder about Boone having passed away than I thought I would be. I haven't known that many billionaires in my lifetime, much less worked for them.
- I knew and worked for T. Boone Pickens and I'm a better person for having had that opportunity.
- On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Link to Boone's Wikipedia bio and to the Pickens Plan home page.
The Mullfoto is a head-scratcher sent in by Mullpal Shawn McBurney
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