Class Notes: December 17, 1997
Class notes features
Class notes features
For Ben Edwards '53, it began with brass
IN 1980, 15 years after being named president of A. G. Edwards, a brokerage firm in St. Louis, Ben Edwards III '53 bought a pair of brass candlesticks. At the time it seemed an innocuous purchase, something to brighten his and his wife's home. But with that purchase, Edwards contracted the collecting bug. Two years later, the collection had grown to such proportions--with 117 candlesticks--that "my wife and I had a problem. There was no comfortable spot to sit," Edwards says. "The place began to look like a forest."
Undeterred, Edwards continued collecting, turning his eye to Oriental rugs, English furniture, objects carved from Blue John, also known as Derbyshire Spar, and 17th- and 18th-century Delftware, blue-and-white, tin-glazed pottery.
Before the collecting bug bit, did he have any inkling of its power? "No, all I did was save money--and I didn't make all that much. I never even knew I was a big spender." But once he began, his wife started to react. "She's an antiques collector. She would make one or two purchases a year, not two or three a week. She became nervous about what I was doing." Nonetheless, Edwards plowed ahead, and began to acquire the centerpiece of his collection, an array of Chinese Imari porcelain, a rare decorative-arts phenomenon--Chinese copies of Japanese-design originals. Seasons magazine calls the porcelain "the most distinguished area of his incredible collection."
The bug struck Edwards well into his professional career at A. G. Edwards, a career that has now lasted more than 40 years. He began work for his family's company in 1956 after three post-Princeton years in the Navy. "I was an assistant in a two-person syndicate department and wasn't making enough to live on. So I worked as a broker at night." In 1965, however, "my dad moved to Florida, and I took over."
Edwards started making changes, and one of the first was the firm's operating philosophy. Edwards insisted "that people should enjoy what they're doing." This criterion yielded an open management style, a style that grew out of the Golden Rule--treat others as you'd like to be treated. "When I became president I faced my own limitations and had to depend on other people. I decentralized and began trusting others with significant segments of the company's activities." This attitude of trust became the brokerage firm's credo. It shaped management's view of employees and, in turn, employee treatment of clients and vendors. Other changes included instituting a profit-sharing plan, eliminating over-ride compensation, and setting a policy of not selling in-house mutual funds.
Edwards's management changes resulted in higher profits. The company, which 30 years ago had 400 employees, now has more than 13,400, with 580 offices in 48 states--numbers that rank the company "fourth or fifth" nationally, says Edwards, and make it the largest national brokerage concern not headquartered in New York.
While A. G. Edwards has grown exponentially, the expansion of Ben Edwards's collection seems to have reached the saturation point. It is now so extensive that the 15th floor of the company's corporate headquarters, overlooking downtown St. Louis, can barely house it. It fills his office, bulges from glass display cases, spills into corporate nooks and crannies, and carpets the floors.
"I'm just running out of space," Edwards confesses. "I have got to stop. It's time to develop a new addiction."
--Jamie Spencer '66
Thad Hutcheson '63 works to bring water to people with none
WATER HAS been a longtime source of interest for Thad Hutcheson '63. As a young boy in Houston, he was fascinated by tales of the floods that swept down from the hills of central Texas. Family dinner-table talk often included discussion about his grandfather's role in the Texas Senate, which created the Lower Colorado River Authority to tame the river that regularly tried to sweep away Texas's capital city.
At Princeton Hutcheson's interest in water and rivers was the genesis of papers on the Nile, in which he argued against building the Aswan Dam, and on the Colorado River, which his grandfather considered a great model for water development, because the river's entire drainage is in a single political jurisdiction.
Now, as a senior vice-president of Enron International, Hutcheson is working to bring potable water to people and nations whose lack of it threatens, and in some cases destroys, the people's lives, the nation's economy, and the future of both.
Enron, Hutcheson notes proudly, operates one of the largest natural gas transmission systems in the world, with more than 38,000 miles of pipeline and approximately $19 billion in assets. It is the largest nonregulated marketer of electricity in North America and one of the largest independent developers of electricity and gas projects in the world. Under Hutcheson's watch, Enron is bringing technological and management know-how to bear on water resource development in nations desperate for help.
To begin to solve the problem, Hutcheson estimates that over the next 10 years, "an investment of $50 billion per year, world wide, is required. No big infrastructure company, including Enron, is going to be left out of that," he says, noting Enron is among the leading entities arranging new capital in the infrastructure industry.
"Roughly one-third of the world's population is without drinking water," he says. And that deprived share will grow, he notes, because this one-third is concentrated in areas with the fastest population growth.
"If you don't have water to drink, you sure don't have water to grow food," he adds. "And these areas have high rates of infant mortality and disease because without water there are no sewage or treatment systems." Another third of the world's population is forced to drink water that is heavily polluted, often with industrial waste. "The disease rates are fearsome," says Hutcheson.
Often populations that do have water have a big problem with subsidence, Hutcheson notes. Subsidence, the slow sinking of the ground as water is withdrawn from underground sources, is a major cause of flooding along the rivers of China and Vietnam. Subsidence also affects cities like Houston, where the land around the famed San Jacinto Monument sank six feet before water withdrawals were controlled.
Projects conceived and executed to solve a resource problem aren't always successful. Hutcheson's Woodrow Wilson School paper was an accurate forecast of difficulties for one of the biggest infrastructure projects of all time, the Aswan Dam.
"That was a very poor place to put a lake. It's a vast evaporation pond," Hutcheson says of Lake Nasser, which was created by the dam. "It looks great but means very little." The dam destroyed fishing and fertilization of the area along the lower Nile that for thousands of years was renewed by the annual floods. To alleviate the situation, he says, the government is digging canals around the dam, a huge project.
Although large water projects are very much an engineering venture, the lack of water is critical on an individual level, especially for women, since they most often are responsible for drawing and carrying it, and are thus deprived of educational opportunities.
Its ironic, Hutcheson says, that the cost of water is so low. In developing countries, for a weekly price of about the price of two packages of cigarettes almost anyone can have water at their home. And most countries, says Hutcheson, have abundant, but poorly managed, water supplies.
Hutcheson says the real market is in managing the water and in bringing it to the consumer. "In Texas, when oil prices dropped, we developed a number of innovative ways to reduce costs, including cutting down on leakage in oil pipelines. There is technology now that allows us to line pipes already in place. And all of this works with water as well."
Another area of concern is old water systems that often either hold contaminated water or lose as much as 45 percent of their water. "Even in Houston the loss (from the water system) is over 20 percent," Hutcheson says. Pipe liners reduce leaks, are sanitary and smooth, and "help reduce pumping costs by reducing the coefficient of friction."
"We know pumping technology and pipelines and how to manage electricity costs. We are an excellent partner for any of the big water companies. In some cases they already are customers of ours because we provide their electricity," he says.
"My focus," adds Hutcheson, "is on bringing capital and water to urban communities in developing countries or countries that are in transition."
Chilling out at the Meadowlands