Columbus, Indiana – Harry Baya
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Last Updated May 12, 2020

Chapter 13: Columbus, Indiana

We moved to Columbus in the late fall of 1965 (November or December). We rented a nice two bed-room apartment( the Williamsburg Apartments) and lived there for a couple of years before moving to a rented house on Harrison Lake about 8 miles outside of town. We lived in that house when Matthew was born in February of 1969 and left in 1970 to move to Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

The company I worked for was the Irwin Management Company, often referred to as IMCO.

I was the assistant to the treasurer of IMCO, Harold Higgins, for about 4 years and was then a staff member at IMCO. Harold was an M.I.T. graduate, a brilliant, highly respected man. Though we got along fairly well I did not feel I was mentored. I worked fairly hard and felt my work was somewhat interesting and challenging. However, I was not particularly inspired or excited my most of my work. I did get to do some computer programming. I programmed in Fortran on a small computer (I think it was an IBM 1630) that was available in Cummins Engine company, a sister company.

I enjoyed most everything about my time in Columbus but I don’t think it was a good way to have started my professional career..

My wife, Bonnie, and I were both 26 years old when we moved to Columbus, Indiana. We stayed there from the fall of 1965 until the spring of 1970. I could write a book about those years and have a lot of stories I would like to tell. However, the current section is fairly brief. All of the facts stated below are from memory. Though most of them are reasonably accurate, I’m sure there are mistakes.

My employer, the Irwin Management Company (IMCO), was a private company owned by Irwin Miller. Irwin Miller was the chairman of the board of Cummins Engine Company, a fortune 500 firm that was one of the largest manufacturers of diesel engines in the world. The Miller family owned a controlling interest in Cummins. The main factory and corporate headquarters of Cummins was in Columbus, Indiana. Irwin Miller and his immediate family lived in Columbus. His aunt, Miss Sweeney, also lived in Columbus. His sister, Clementine Tangeman, lived in New York City (I think).

The Miller family also owned the Irwin Union Bank and Trust company, also in Columbus. Cummins was by far the largest employer in Columbus. The population of Columbus in 1965 was around 30,000. The only other large employer in Columbus was Arvin industry (where my friend, Al Pilon, worked). My guess is that the number of people employed by Arvin was less than 1/5th the number employed by Cummins. Cummins and the Miller family did, in many ways, control Columbus. My recall is that the Cummins Engine Company had a listed value of around 300 Million dollars. The net worth of the Miller family was probably at least $150 milion.

Here is an excerpt on Irwin Miller from Wikipedia

Miller served as a Trustee of the Ford Foundation and Yale University, and as a director of Chemical Bank. He established the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation, which supports numerous charities and institutions—notably, Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and Emma Willard School, a leading girls' preparatory school in Troy, NY. The family's business interests were widespread, and he served at various times as Chairman of Irwin Union Bank in Columbus IN, Union Starch and Refining Company, and Irwin Management Company.

Irwin Management was the family's private wealth-management and services organization, funded from Mr. Miller's large Cummins Engine Co. dividends and from the income generated by other holdings. The group managed all of the family's assets except Cummins Engine—which Mr. Miller managed personally, as President and later as Chairman. IMCO, as it was called, was divided into departments for Marketable Securities, Oil and Gas, Real Estate, Venture Capital, Financial Planning and Analysis, and Family Services. The company was staffed by about 20 professionals, many of whom had MBA degrees from the leading graduate business schools (e.g., Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, Carnegie-Mellon, Stanford, Oxford). In addition to financial management, the company provided staff services to assist Mr. Miller's roles in philanthropic, foundation, directorship, and trustee positions. It was considered a high-status firm among MBA students, and there was spirited competition for jobs at IMCO upon graduation.

He was active in politics, persuading New York governor Nelson A. Rockefeller to run for president in 1968 (and served as national campaign chairman) and in 1972 he supported New York City Mayor John Lindsay's presidential bid.[1]

Miller also served as a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, the Ford Foundation, and was a member of the Yale Corporation, which governs the university. In 1986 he received the National Building Museum's first Honor Award.[3]

I believe that IMCO got my name from MIT and then contacted me about possible employment. Though I cannot write more than a sampling of my memories related to time I lived in Columbus, I will allow myself to describe one particular part of the experience that I think tells a lot about what Bonnie and I experienced. This relates to how people were recruited by the Irwin Management Company.

I believe the man who hired me as his assistant interviewed me in New York City before inviting Bonnie and me to visit Columbus. We may also have had dinner with Fred Newman, and elderly German NYC based gentleman who worked closely with IMCO. However, the real strength of the recruiting effort by IMCO was in flying Bonnie and me out to Indiana to visit Columbus and the firm for several days. This was the way IMCO recruited couples and once we lived in Columbus we became part of the process of recruiting other couples to join us. This is the way it worked.

Bonnie and I were met at the airport in Indianapolis early in the afternoon and driven to the Holliday Inn in Columbus where we would be staying for our visit. I’m guessing that we were met by a young couple about our age. In any case we were given a schedule for our visit. The first event was a dinner that night at the motel dining room. This was one of the better, perhaps the best, restaurants in Columbus. The dinner consisted of the two of us and three or more other couples about our age. All of the young men worked or Irwin Management and all had been recruited in a similar fashion.

The dinner was a delightful experience. The other couples wanted to get to know us both because they wanted to help the company hire me and because they wanted young couples like us to join them in Columbus. All of the men had been to elite graduate schools, as had I, had done well there, and felt privileged to be working for Irwin Management. They went out of their way to share with us what the experience of moving to and living in Columbus was like. A key part of what we were learning was that there were already 15 or more couples just like us that had been similarly recruited. Some of the men at IMCO had been there for 4 or 5 years, but many had been there less than two years.

The schedule for the next two days consisted of various events around town. Part of the time I would be in the IMCO offices meeting with people I would work with and being interviewed by them. I believe I had already been offered the job, but it may be that the offer was not made till the second day I was there. When I was in the office, or perhaps visiting something like the Cummins computer center, Bonnie was being entertained by some of the wives of the IMCO men I would be working with. They took her around town showing her where they lived, shopped and participated in town activities. I think each meal was scheduled, especially the lunches and dinners so that we would be socializing with our peers. At some meals Bonnie and I would be together, at others she would be with wives and I would be with men.

The point here is that the visit was not simply a professional interview in which I would learn about the work environment and the kind of work we did, it was, more a less, an all-hands-on-deck effort to win us over to deciding to move to Columbus and join these people in reasonably close community. Getting a man who had been near the top of his class at the Harvard Business school to move to a small town in Indiana to work for a little known firm required impressing him with both the professional opportunities and the life he and his wife would have in this town. After we moved to Columbus Bonnie and I were frequently among the couples, and wives, who entertained those being recruited. This process continued the entire 4+ years we were there. It was enjoyable and productive. We became good friends with some of the people we helped recruit.

We were at the same stage in life. Most either had no children yet or had one young infant.

Though there were some professionals with similar backgrounds working at Cummins, there were not many with the same academic credentials and backgrounds as the men at Irwin Management. It was natural to find many of the people you socialized with from among the community of IMCO employees and spouses.

Nearly all of the people recruited were young married couples. A few single men were hired while I was there and, eventually, a woman, Sarla Malkani, a distinguished graduate of the Columbia University business school, was hired. Sarla’s husband, Hiru, was hired into a good position at the Cummins Engine Company. Both had done exceptionally well in the Maters in Business program at Columbia, University. Sarla, years after I left Columbus, became president of Irwin Management.

I will describe a few of the experiences I had while in Columbus, but I think the above description of the recruiting process gives a fairly good picture of the kind of life we led while living there.

Though I had done fairly well at MIT and did have Master’s degree from its Sloan School of Management, many of the other men had more impressive credentials. There were four or more graduates of the Harvard Business School. One had been number two in his class, and probably all were Baker Scholars, a kind of honorary at that school.

So why was I hired? Good question. The man who hired me was Harold Higgins, the number two man in the company under the president, George Newlin. Harold was an MIT graduate, was extremely bright, and played many roles at IMCO. He was the primary recruiter, especially for senior positions like that of Economist. For that position he hired Dick West and Bonnie, with a BS in economics and a year of Katy Gibbs secretarial school, became his secretary and, it seemed to me, assistant.

Working for Harold Hiiggins was known to be a challenge. I don’t think the term “micro manager” catches his management style. He wanted things done well. For example, I was occasionally asked to write a memo on some topic that would go up to George Newlin, or perhaps become a page in a notebook given to Irwin Miller for a meeting, such as a trustee meeting for the Ford Foundation. Harold would have me re-write that memo until he was satisfied. I think that 5 rewrites was not uncommon. I believe George Newlin sometimes did the same thing to Harold.

Keep in mind that this was before desktop computers. Every paper we wrote had to be typed, and each revision was typed, by a secretary. A lot of work went into getting an acceptable final copy.

Harold was the treasurer of IMCO. I was hired as “assistant to the treasurer” and kept that title for three years. I never became, or approached becoming “Assistant Treasurer”. I recall others who had worked for Harold being impressed that I had worked for him for more than three years. I was told that “few others survived that long.”. This was somewhat misleading because I think several of them were promoted out of the job. One in particular, Hank Schacht, ended up in management at Cummins and eventually became the youngest man to become president of the Cummins Engine Company.

Though I am aware of how verbose I can be, I’m going to pursue this topic a little further. During our recruiting visit to Columbus we discovered that one of the men working at Irwin Management had been a friend of Bonnie’s in Boston. Paul Berman was a graduate of the Harvard Business School ( a Baker scholar of course) and had been a good friend of one of Bonnie’s previous boy friends. Bonnie had graduated from Ohio Weslyan College in 1961 and was dating another student there. He went to the Harvard Business school and I believe Bonnie’s decision to attend secretarial school in Boston was to be near him. Paul Berman and her boyfriends were friends at the Harvard Business School. I believe Paul thought very highly of Bonnie and it is easy for me to believe he would have encouraged Harold Higgins to hire me.

I believe Bonnie had also impressed Fred Newman when we had dinner with him in New York. However, though Harold HIggins may have been influenced by Paul and Fred, he would not have hired me if he did not think I would meet his needs. I think he saw in me the ability to dig into numbers and do tedious work together with some intelligence. I also had computer skills and I would fit well into the IMCO work environment.

I may someday write about my career, its successes and failures and my related self doubts and, with hindsight, significant shortcomings. I survived at Irwin Management, but I did not excel. It was for this reason that I decided to look for another job. I was still somewhat ambitious and I could see no path to significant success at Irwin Management.

Life in Columbus:

I want to describe a few specific experiences while in Columbus. I have already mentioned that we had a kind of built in community of the families of the men who worked at Irwin Management. My recall is that we had frequent dinner parties with other couples from this community, probably one or two each month.

Bonnie became friends with some other wives who had an interest in cooking good meals. They formed a Gourmet club and we would meet monthly at the home of one of the members. The hostess would prepare the main course and the others would bring the other dishes. I remember that on one occasion I prepared rumaki. That was probably the only dish I ever prepared. Other couples in our group were John and Mandy Wertz, Al & Barbara Pilon (Al worked at Arvin), and Paul Berman (probably after he was married). These were delightful events for me and, I assumed, for Bonnie. I now wonder whether my perception of Bonnie’s appreciation of our life together was ever accurate. It certainly was not accurate when she chose to betray, and eventually, end our marriage years later.

The Miller family sponsored the Irwin Sweeny Miller Foundation and part of its goal was to support and promote the quality of life in Columbus, Indiana. This foundation sponsored a lecture series that would seek outstanding speakers to come and speak at a public event in Columbus. The fee, thousands of dollars I think, and all expenses would be paid for by the foundation. A committee would select the speakers and host them during their visit. I was on that committee for several years. This meant that Bonnie and I would sometimes attend the dinner party held for the visiting speaker. Through this I met and chatted with a number of somewhat famous people. The two that I remember are Arthur C. Clarke, a well known Science Fiction writer, and Vincent Price, an actor especially well known for his horror movie rolls.

The movie “2001: A Space Oddessy” came out in 1968. The plot was based on short stories by Arthur Clarke and he and Stanley Kubrick were co-writers of the script. I believe I talked to Arthur Clarke about that movie and about his home in Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka).

Vincent Price was also known to be a gourmet chef. What kind of a dinner would we have for Vincent Price? The hostess that evening was Judy Weil, the wife of the IMCO real estate investment manager, Doug Weil. They were one of the three Jewish families I knew of in Columbus. Judy was not shy. She served a gourmet meal. It began with blinis ( I had never heard of them). Vincent Price praised Judy’s dishes. I was in no position to know whether this was because he sincerely thought they were excellent or was simply living up to his reputation as fine gentleman.

My optometrist in Columbus was named Ray Detraz. Ray was in his forties and fairly successful. I believe he owned an airplane. He and I became friends and he invited Bonnie and me to come to his house for “Movie Nights”. Keep in mind that this was well before the days of VHS tapes, or DVDs. Movies were on reels and required a projector. Ray had a room in his house set up to show movies. It had foldable director’s chairs to seat 12 or so people and he had a projector. Ray collected movies and would also rent them from catalogs. Among the movies he showed us were some of the most famous ones from the silent movie era. I think Ray and I may also have been on a library committee that selected movies to be shown in an art movie series in Columbus.

Columbus was about an hour away from Bloomington, Indiana, the home of the University of Indiana. The university had a well known theater department and one year one of their graduate students directed a performance of “The Music Man” in Columbus. This was a well known stage musical and a successful 1962 movie. Robert Preston had starred in both the Broadway show and the movie. I tried out for the musical and was cast to play the lead. There were two of us cast into that part and we alternated nights in the role. The other lead was a man named Gene Weaver. On the nights when I, or Gene, was not the lead, we would be in the barbershop quartette.

I had a wonderful time rehearsing and playing the part. It must have been in 1969 because I recall that Bonnie was taking care of baby Matt when I was rehearsing. Here are a few of the things I remember about this experience.

In preparing for the first rehearsal I memorized the “Trouble” monolog from the show. It was a page or so long. It took me some time to memorize. When we got to that part of the show during the rehearsals I discovered that it was recited in syncopation with a piano part. I pretty much had to learn it all over again, this time with the exact required timing.

Our script called for the lead to pull out a pitch pipe at one point and blow it to give the pitch to the barber shop quartet. One night when I was the lead I blew on the pipe and one of my friends in the quartette (Jim Tener, a tenor of course ) stared at me and moved his head to indicate that there was a problem. I realized I had blown the wrong note and made the correction.

My leading lady was a short attractive woman with a beautiful voice. I enjoyed the on-stage courtship. Gene Weaver had a different experience. Gene was perfectly cast as the Music Man. He had a wonderful, sweeping, stage presence and was a very believable con-man as he conned the town of Gary, Indiana in the play. His leading lady was beautiful red haired woman almost as tall as he was. They were an impressive couple. We in the cast knew that they started having an affair while in the cast. This was made even more complicated by the fact that Gene’s wife was also in the cast. One night Gene’s wife feinted on stage during the show.

One of my friends told me that Gene was a natural “Music Man” and I was kind of “the thinking man’s Music Man”. He said that my Harold Hill could be seen to be thinking and planning his next move to seduce the crowd, while Gene’s just did it because that’s who he was.

Our first son, Matthew, was born on January 22, 1969 at the Bartholomew County Hospital in Columbus. I had attended the Lamaze classes with Bonnie and the plan was for me to witness the birth. As the doctor escorted Bonnie out of the waiting room he told me that if there were no problems I would be sent for, probably in next 30 minutes or so. I sat in the waiting room for hours. I was scared. I heard screams from the distance but had no way of knowing whether they were from Bonnie. I knew there were several women delivering babies that night.

After what seemed like forever the doctor came out to speak to me. He assured me that my wife, and my new son, were both doing fine. He said something like this: “ We had a few problems with the birth and I had to make an incision, but nothing like a full Ceasarian. Things worked out just fine. However, I should tell you that 20 years ago we would have lost her.” That caught my attention.

I went in to work the next day with a box of cigars and a sign announcing the birth of our son. Shortly after I put the cigars and sign out on a table one of my friends came in and asked whether I was sure about the spelling of Matthew’s name. I have never been good at spelling. My friend said the name normally had two “T”s and I had only put in one. I was annoyed and, defensively, thought “If I had known it was spelled like that I would have picked another name.” I put out a corrected sign.

There were so many other experiences I could write about. All in all I thought these were wonderful years and I often wonder how my life would have worked out had I stayed in Columbus. If it would have saved my marriage then I made a mistake in leaving.

“Changing horses in midstream is difficult, but riding a drowning horse is no fun either.”- Harry

When I was thinking about leaving Columbus I interviewed for a position with the University of Western North Carolina in Cullowhee, NC. I went out for a weekend interview. I flew into Asheville and was taken to Cullowhee. It was, then, a small campus in the mountains, probably at least 30 miles from any decent size town. I would be an instructor, probably the only instructor, of computer technology and would be expected to work toward getting a PHD from the University of North Carolina.

I was taken to see the campus computer. It was in a separate building about the size of a house. When we got to the building, probably on a Saturday, it was locked. I was astounded that it was not being used 24/7 like the computers at MIT and in Columbus. I was told that I would be in charge of the computer and that appealed to me a lot. I would have my own computer – still a pretty rare experience.  I met nice people in Cullowhee and realized this would put me into academia with a career in teaching, PHD and all. This appealed to me a lot. I did not mind the idea of being in a small southern community. What I did mind was that the entire community seemed to be focused around the Baptist church. Here I was, at best an agnostic, and to these people I would be an atheist. I realized that Bonnie and I, and Matt, and whatever other kids we would have, would have to be part of this community and that we would either have to hide our beliefs ( or lack thereof) or, if we did not do that, be shunned. This was too much for me. Regretfully I turned down that job. Again, I wonder if that was a mistake from a career point of view. I think I would have loved the work and may have excelled.

I interviewed some other companies but I do not recall any other specific offers that I had to reject. At least one of the companies, in Chicago, did not appeal to me and I did not pursue it.

My interview with McKinsey and Company, which I thought of as the top management consulting firm in the world, did not work out well.

IMCO and Harold Higgins did what they could to keep me in Columbus, including offering me a position at Cummins.