Robert Solomon

IN MEMORIAM

Robert C. (Bob) Solomon 
(September 14, 1942 -January 2, 2007)

Academic Advisor Robert C. (Bob) Solomon died on Tuesday, January 2 in Zurich, Switzerland at the age of 64 while traveling with his wife, Kathleen Higgins, a philosophy professor at the University of Texas. Solomon collapsed while transferring to a flight to Rome and died within minutes from a congenital heart defect.

Solomon, a world-renowned scholar in the study of emotions and business ethics, was the Quincy Lee Centennial Professor and a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers at the University of Texas at Austin where he had taught since 1972. He had previously taught at Princeton University, the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh. He served as a consultant for corporations on issues of business ethics and was a frequent visitor at universities and business schools overseas. In 2004 he was selected to be part of the inaugural class of Academic Advisors for the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics.

Solomon was a prodigious author, penning more than 40 books and 150 articles during his career. His books on business ethics, include: Above the Bottom Line: Ethics and ExcellenceIt’s Good Business: A Better Way to Think about Business; and Building Trust(with Fernando Flores). His books on philosophy and the emotions include: The Passions,A Passion for JusticeAbout Love and The Joy of Philosophy.

Later this year the philosophy department at the University of Texas will hold a conference in honor of Solomon’s work. The Daily Texan quotes department chair David Sosa as claiming that Solomon “was one of the University’s treasures.”

While Solomon’s exceptional academic achievements and talents were widely admired—especially his renowned lecturing skills—friends and colleagues also deeply cherished his personal qualities. Some of their reflections celebrating his life follow below:

A Tribute to Robert C. (Bob) Solomon
Friends and Colleagues Reflect on a Life Well-Lived

When you are 48 years old, I guess you can’t say who you want to be like when you grow up. That’s pretty well happened. But many times in my career I have said that Bob Solomon was one of those people I wanted to grow up to be like and the little boy in me still wants to emulate Bob Solomon and people like him.

The first time I met Bob was in Tom Donaldson’s office. Tom was then at Georgetown and Bob was giving a talk for him. I happened to be in Washington and Tom invited me to join he and Bob for coffee. Talking to either would have been a nervous experience for a second year assistant professor, but when both looked at me to hear my answer to one of their questions, I didn’t think words were ever going to come out of my mouth. I have no idea what I actually croaked out, but these gracious guys made me feel like they were interested in what I had to say, which amazed me.

What continued to amaze me over the time I worked with Bob was how this incredibly gifted giant of a scholar was so human, so kind, and so down-to-earth. I remember bringing him to Michigan, his Ph.D. alma mater, for a talk. He didn’t want his old professors invited though because he was still a student and they were still his professors. He thought he might be too nervous. How, I thought, could Bob Solomon be nervous of anyone? Yet, when I went through a debacle in “almost” getting hired at Texas, Bob was fierce in his fight for me. He read and commented on nearly everything I sent to him – how could someone as busy as him possibly have the time to do that? How could someone as busy as him generate so much brilliant work year after year? How could someone that intellectually powerful have such a warm giggle? I still laugh at his gentle reprimand for my “rosy portrayal of Camus’ Sisyphus” at the Ruffin Lectures. He could have ripped me – I should have been – but he knew how to make a serious point without harming the person making the point.

Last fall, my doctoral students commented on how passionate I was in making sure that Bob’s points were understood when we read his book. They could tell – and said so – that it was obvious how much affection I had not just for his work, but for him. I will miss him.

Timothy L. Fort, PhD, JD
Exec. Director, Institute for Corporate Responsibility
Lindner-Gambal Professor of Business Ethics
George Washington University School of Business
Professorial Lecturer, George Washington Law School
Academic Director, Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics


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Bob gave the very first philosophy talk I ever heard. I was an undergraduate at Duke and he was giving a job talk at Carolina on Hegel. He handled some very difficult (arrogant and rude) people with intellectual toughness, confidence, and humility.When I got to know him some 15 years later, I found that those traits were just part of Bob Solomon. He always had time for our students, and he went out of his way to go to doctoral student presentations, always with an encouraging word for them. We spent a lot of evenings (but not enough) over good food talking about philosophy and friends. My most poignant memory was watching him treat my children with respect. He talked to them as if they mattered and this meant more to me than any book or article or class. Bob was a friend who cared enough to try and make us all better. We will miss him a great deal.

R. Edward Freeman
Academic Director, Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics
Elis and Signe Olsson Professor of Business Administration
Darden School Graduate School of Business Administration