Passings: Richard R. Ellsworth, 1941-2022, Management Expert and Colleague of Peter Drucker
In a 2001 video interview, Drucker School Professor Richard Ellsworth recalled the first time that he worked closely with Peter Drucker, his colleague at CGU who is regarded as the father of modern management.
The pair was asked to address a group of chief executives in Southern California about managing their firms at a time of increasing international competitiveness.
Ellsworth spoke first. He’d just published a piece on the topic in Harvard Business Review and explained that he felt very confident about his perspective. When he was done speaking, it was Drucker’s turn.
“Peter stood up,” Ellsworth told the interviewer, smiling, “and the first thing he said was, ‘I hate to be disrespectful, Dick, but I disagree with all you had to say.’ ”
Later, however, when the group of executives broke for lunch, Drucker leaned in and tapped Ellsworth to get his attention. What he had to say was surprising.
“He said, ‘Dick, I actually agreed with all you had to say,” Ellsworth recalled, “but it would have been a very boring morning if I’d stood up and said that. That’s kind of who Peter Drucker is. He wants people to think. He sees part of his mission to get people to think more about what is and why it is and to manage those realities.”
The same thing can also be said of Ellsworth, a professor who inspired generations of students at CGU and elsewhere—including Harvard Business School—to focus on existing leadership realities in order to create the best outcomes for their firms.
The Drucker School community mourns Ellsworth’s passing last month in Cambria after coping for many years with the challenges of Parkinson’s Disease. According to a published obituary he died at home with his wife Maribeth at his side after receiving loving farewell visits with his family.
A Life Inside and Outside of Academia
Born in 1941 in Kansas City, Mo., Ellsworth was raised in Tulsa, Ok., and San Marino, Ca. While attending San Marino High School and Occidental College, he played football on both varsity teams and maintained long-term friendships with many of the players.
After graduating from Occidental, he pursued an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which led him to his career at Kaiser Corporation in Oakland, Ca. He rose rapidly to become vice president and general manager of the Commercial Development Division.
During his lifetime, Ellsworth developed the strength, integrity and courage to face numerous challenges with grace, humility and perseverance. As a young single dad with a demanding job, he managed to provide his children with loving care while undergoing experimental treatments for cancer. He came through those challenges with the sense of faith, compassion, and deeply held values that were admired by his family, friends, colleagues, and students.
He went on to enroll in the DBA program at Harvard Business School in 1976. After receiving his doctorate, he remained as an HBS faculty member until 1985, and subsequently returned to the West Coast to take up an appointment at the Drucker School of Management, where he taught for the next 23 years.
An ‘Exemplary Professor’
Throughout his academic career, Ellsworth was consistently recognized as an exemplary professor with an uncommon commitment to scholarship, teaching, and academic integrity.
A highly accomplished scholar, his research focused on effective executive leadership, the integration of financial policy and strategy, and corporate competitiveness. His books Leading with Purpose and Leadership and the Quest for Integrity are widely admired contributions to the field. Upon retirement in 2008, Ellsworth and his wife Maribeth moved to Cambria to enjoy the abundant gifts of nature on the central coast.
Ellsworth is survived by his wife, Maribeth; his children Jody Ginsberg (Greg Ginsberg), Deborah Calzini, and Robert Ellsworth (Kristin Ellsworth); Maribeth’s daughters Kristine Schoemann (Christopher Schoemann), and Jennifer Subia (Terry Subia); his 12 grandchildren; and his sister Marcia Ellsworth. Ellsworth was predeceased by his parents and former spouses Priscilla Terrell Brody and Ginger Veirs Ellsworth.
The family will hold a memorial service on September 17 at 11 a.m. in the Jenkins Courtyard (just south of the Drucker School building) on the CGU campus, 1021 N. Dartmouth Avenue. Drucker School faculty and staff are invited to attend. A reception will immediately follow the service.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Yosemite Conservancy or The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
- Watch Ellsworth’s 2001 interview in The Claremont Colleges Digital Library
- Read a full obituary about Ellsworth’s life and career