Remembering UTS Supporter Bob Binger
The nature of my work puts me in touch with leading decision-makers, power brokers, entrepreneurs and deep thinkers from around the world. It's my job to showcase their views on a cerebral television program.
As I look back on three decades of doing this I can say comfortably that one of the biggest personal influences in my recent work life has been a fellow who was never on television and I'm pretty sure would never want to be.
C. Robert "Bob" Binger died on August 15, succumbing to the consequences of a fall in his White Bear Lake, MN home Tuesday. It is a place I went as frequently as I could for stimulating post mortems on my recent stories, which he followed as a faithful viewer of the PBS NewsHour. I will deeply miss these conversations.
He grew up in an affluent Saint Paul neighborhood, the son of a prominent doctor, and enjoyed an Ivy League education. However, his was not a coddled upbringing. During the summers, Bob worked as a laborer on farms and laid railroad track. The latter was particularly grueling, he told me, but helped sensitize him to what it was like to labor with one's hands. No doubt this earned him credibility-and labor peace-when he later managed a large unionized paper plant.
Bob was keenly interested in global issues of poverty and in his younger years tended to engage at a very personal level, not content to simply donate money. During the Ethiopian famine in the early eighties, for example, he personally arranged for grain to be shipped to the Horn of Africa. He wanted to travel to the refugee camps too to oversee the deliveries but was rejected by the coordinating aid agency.
"They said I was too old!" he said to me recalling what must have been a painful indignity for a man who had hiked the Himalayas and in the Arctic Circle and went on to live another 30 years to age 93-curious, engaged until the end with a wide variety of causes that he felt could improve the plight of humanity.