When Harry S. Dennis III walked into the room, more times than not, he was the smartest guy in that room.
So it is with great sadness and a profound sense of loss that I inform OnMilwaukee.com readers that Harry passed away on Sunday, April 27, from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.
One of Harry’s greatest loves and the legacy he leaves behind is TEC –The Executive Committee. Harry was hired as a TEC chairman in 1974 by TEC’s founder, Bob Nourse. It was then that Harry formed his first TEC Group - TEC IV - which remains in existence 40 years later.
"Harry was best known for his intellectual brilliance and superb business savvy. All of us, TEC staff and chairmen, loved Harry for his unwavering adherence to TEC’s values, his absolute fairness and his huge heart. He always treated us like family," said Priscilla Kemp, who has succeeded Harry as president and CEO of TEC.
Harry began writing business insight columns for BizTimes and its predecessor, Small Business Times, long before I joined the company in 2002. Harry was a significant element of our company's brand. I cannot count the times over the years that readers remarked to me about how much they learned from and respected Harry.
Once a year, Harry booked a prominent guest author or consultant to come to Milwaukee to share their wisdom and knowledge about business or leadership. However, I always learned more during the dinner with Harry on the night before than from any of the so-called hot-shot experts he brought to town.
Soft-spoken and humble, Harry always tended to let others hold the spotlight. Over the years, he declined many offers to be THE keynote speaker at various events.
When Harry wasn't building TEC or sharing his wisdom with other CEOs, he could often be found flying his twin-engine Beechcraft Duke. Harry served in the Vietnam War, where he often flew bodies out of battlefields.
"He was a scrapper who backed down to no one. He affected so many - so much more than he ever realized. He related equally as well to the high-powered CEO as to the ordinary Joe," Kemp recalled. "He was a straight shooter. He said what he thought."
BizTimes can never repay Harry for his help in helping us build our company. I can, however, recount one of Harry's shining moments along the way.
Last year, for our annual Economic Trends special report, BizTimes needed a voice of authority to help us tell the cover story, which was headlined, "The show must go on." The essence of the story was that the Great Recession was over, and that businesses needed a clarion call to rise out of their bunkers, shake off their doldrums about uncertainties and resume their missions of growing their companies. In other words, we were calling for intestinal fortitude.
It was one thing for me to make that call to action. I needed a higher authority. I needed Harry. So, I asked Harry to share with our readers his perspectives as an executive who had weathered many economic cycles – good and bad – over the decades.
Harry's response came In an e-mail about 20 minutes later:
"Someone said the Mayan calendar predicted that the world was going to fall into 'hell and a hand-basket' on Dec. 21, 2012. Well, we all know what happened ... NOTHING. Many so-called experts are predicting 'doom and gloom' for 2013. Some management consultants can't wait for their phones to start ringing off the hooks.
"If our 800 TEC members in Wisconsin and Michigan are any 'clue' of what 2013 holds for us, then disregard every single word in the last paragraph. Will 2013 be tough? Yes. Was 2012 tough? Yes. When do you remember it not being tough in the world of business? I don't.
"Since 1973, I've witnessed at least nine different recessions, each one with different names and presumed causes. In more recent times, even the horrible word 'depression' has been used. But you know what? Over all these years, small business has found a way to survive and grow for another tomorrow. Obamacare and tax hikes will not change that in 2013. The will, the way, the experience and the knowledge of small business people, will demonstrate that we will make it, just as we have in the past, in spite of the pundits.
"Come on. New year, new challenges and new opportunities. Be bold, be brave, be strong and move forward! I hope that all of us will show the leadership to take our companies to new highs, and at the end of the year to be proud of our achievements.
"By the way, all of TEC's economic gurus say that while the GDP as a whole will be frail in 2013, it will still be uphill, thanks largely to the work of 80 percent of our economy. Who? Us, small business. Have a super 2013."
Thanks again, my friend. You will be missed.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Steve Jagler
Published Feb. 9, 2015
Since 1851, Wisconsin's state motto has been "Forward." However, these days, a more appropriate motto might be "Just hold on a minute..."
Published Jan. 14, 2015
If it seems like so many public policy decisions are hanging fire in Wisconsin these days, it's only because they are. And so many of these loose ends seem to be intertwined and interdependent.
Published Dec. 23, 2014
As the legal slog to develop a new streetcar system in Downtown Milwaukee continues to play out in court, in City Hall and at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, proponents and opponents alike would do well to keep an eye on Cincinnati.
Published Dec. 2, 2014
If asked to return for another term as secretary and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Reed Hall says he would be honored to serve again.
Published Nov. 14, 2014
In recent years, the Milwaukee Bucks have not had much to celebrate when they've conducted their annual preview luncheon with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. This year, however, there was a tangible buzz in the room at the event, which was held at the Harley-Davidson Museum.
Published Nov. 12, 2014
In essence, preserving net neutrality would ensure that all consumers and businesses will have universal levels of access to a fast Internet, not just some preferred customers who would pay for "faster lanes" on the Internet.
Published Oct. 29, 2014
Over the years, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and its president, Tim Sheehy, have been vocal and ardent opponents of new taxes. That's why more than a few business leaders were still trying to process the messages Sheehy gave them when he spoke to the Milwaukee Rotary Club recently about the need to raise public financing for the region's cultural and entertainment venues.
Published Oct. 19, 2014
Empower your people to think like entrepreneurs and serve your customers. That was the leading takeaway message from the panelists at the first Next Stage Workshop recently presented by BizTimes.
Published Oct. 8, 2014
The Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE) recently unveiled its list of the "Fastest Five" companies.
Published Sept. 17, 2014
Bottom line: Koss is losing money, has halted production at its plant in Mexico, is pulling back on research and development of new products and is suspending payment of dividends to shareholders.