The founder of the company that employs me, Fred Ruffner, passed away this month. He built the company from one desk and an idea in 1954 into something with 400 employees and a large range of vital library references that he sold in 1985 for $66 million. He then started another publishing company, along with a few other library and book organizations. Library Journal had a fine obit for him.
His tenure and mine overlapped for just a short while. I started about six months after the big sale, and he stayed on as president for a year or two after the sale. Of course, since I was a measly assistant editor, our paths did not cross. His influence still impressed me, though. My favorite bits were the odd things he did with the company, such as the reprint business — rescuing long out-of-print reference works across many different subjects (which Gale no longer does). He also purchased artifacts, such as The Bookworm that was mentioned in the LJ article, or the Cotgreave Library Indicator that I photographed last year. People who have been at Gale longer than I have tell fascinating stories about Fred. It certainly is a different company these days, that’s for sure.