Our Gentleman Scholar
Aside from his commitment to his community where Bob played an enormous role in giving of his time to civic activities such as chairman and committee member of The Children's Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, New Jersey; as a member of the Westfield Recreation Commission; and serving on the boards of the Presbyterian Church in Westfield, the United Fund and the Westfield Adult School, we at The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel were especially blessed and honored to share his dedication to the law.
We at The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel shall miss our Deputy Publisher, who spent six of his last years at this newspaper making generous contributions of his talents in providing editorial support at the highest level of excellence. His interviews represented studies in depth of the interview candidates and their specialties so that each interview rolled off his computer as a work of art, extracting the real essence of a person's skills and knowledge. While here, he garnered high praise and many friends in the legal community - a theater in which he played an important role throughout his career, first as a partner at DeForest & Duer in New York Cityand then as General Counsel of the American Management Association.
Bob was a perpetual scholar and practiced fine scholarship in all that he undertook. Even while he was severely ill and in and out of the hospital, he insisted on keeping his date with his interviewees, maintaining the same high level of perfection in his writing skills that he had applied while healthy.
He believed in the mission of this newspaper - that of educating corporate lawyers and eliciting their sympathy and support of worthwhile causes, and feeling a total commitment to the rule of law. His several interviews with Mike Greco, former President of the ABA, reflected this passion.
A lifelong resident of Westfield, New Jersey, he graduated from Westfield High School, continued his education at Princeton University, Magdalen College, Oxford University and Harvard Law School.
We shall surely miss our friend and colleague who brought so much of himself to this newspaper.
Remembering Bob Duncan
Douglas S. Eakeley
Bob Duncan was my brother-in-law and my friend. He was also, from my earliest recollection of him, my role model. Bob was born three years and 27 days before I was. We grew up in the same home town (Westfield), and belonged to the same church (he was in my parents' fifth grade Sunday school class). He was a scholar and an athlete. By the time he reached high school, he was almost legendary: Bob starred on the football and track teams and excelled in the classroom. I am virtually certain that my mother was not alone among mothers of my classmates to single Bob out as someone we should emulate as we grew up.
He went on to Princeton, where he played varsity football - failing to heed George Will's admonition that "football incorporates the two worst elements of American society: violence punctuated by committee meetings." He also - as he put it - "threw things" (namely the shotput, discus and javelin) as a member of Princeton's varsity track team. He majored in the classics, graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and went on to study at Magdalen College, Oxford University as a Fulbright Scholar. His wonderful experiences at Princeton and Oxford set up one of the classic tensions that would remain with him for the rest of his life: whether to wear his Oxford blue blazer or his Princeton colors when going out in the evening.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Bob joined the law firm of De Forest & Duer, ultimately becoming chair of the firm's nationally prominent non-profit organization practice and serving on the boards of several clients, including American Water Resources and Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. In 1998, Bob left the firm to become General Counsel of the American Management Association International, which gave him a wonderful opportunity to link his expertise in corporate governance with his passion for travel.
For the past several years, Bob was the Deputy Publisher of the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. He loved the publication and the many opportunities it afforded him to interview a broad array of lawyers, judges and public officials and to write on a myriad of interesting topics. One of Bob's last articles - about the settlement of the Robertson Foundation litigation against Princeton University, in which I represented the University and its President, Shirley Tilghman - linked our professional lives for the last time.
Bob's professional life was complemented by his civic commitment. For many years, he served as a trustee and later as chairman of the Children's Specialized Hospital in nearby Mountainside. CSH is the largest freestanding pediatric rehabilitation hospital in the United States, and served over 16,000 children last year. Bob was a founder of American Friends of Magdalen College and the American Achilles Foundation - an organization that brings British athletes to the United States for track and field competitions. He served on the board of the Westfield Presbyterian Church, along with the boards of the United Fund, the Westfield Recreation Commission and the Westfield Adult School.
Even in childhood, Bob was a scholar; he continued to be intellectually engaged his entire life. He loved history and the classics, and would periodically return to the writings of Thucydides, the works of Shakespeare, and many others. He also loved great food and fine wines, and could make a mean Mulligatawny soup. His Scottish ancestry may have left him with a genetic predisposition to enjoy malt whiskey; I'm not sure whether his taste for Madeira derived from spending his honeymoon there with my sister - or whether they went to the island of Madeira because he loved its fortified wine.
Woody Allen famously said: "It's very hard to get your heart and head together in life. In my case, they're not even friendly." Bob Duncan experienced no such difficulty. He was a wonderfully loving and caring husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, stepfather, uncle and friend. And he will be sorely missed by all of us.
A True Gentleman
Julia R. Dillon
Robert L. Duncan was more than a Deputy Publisher, more than a colleague. He was a man to be admired, and today, a man to be missed probably more than he imagined.
Bob's "niche" at the paper was interviewing public figures such as ambassadors and politicians. He spoke clearly and articulately and, perhaps even more important, and certainly rare today, he listened with an open and attentive ear. A conversation with Bob was always more than you expected it to be; he was equally engaged - and engaging - with summer interns and diplomats.
To those outside the newspaper, Bob was the epitome of grace and ease, and he maintained this warmth and collegiality to every single soul at the office. His notion of "work" went beyond executing a task. It extended to those best practices one sees within the legal profession. Especially attentive to his younger colleagues, he mentored, encouraged and counseled several of us here, and, just as important, he fostered an open exchange of ideas with all of us.
Because my door opens directly opposite Bob's old office, I have a store of visual and aural memories to draw from and smile about. On face-to-face interview days, Bob would head out the door wearing the most colorful and stylish ties, shirts and even vests to be seen this side of the Atlantic, and when he came back, I could count on him tuning in to the classical music station - but not before giving me a warm smile and sincere hello. As he became more ill, Bob traded in his suits for the equally dapper sweaters from his college days, but he kept his kindness and warmth to the very end.I like to imagine Bob reading these tributes, chuckling indulgently, smiling but nonetheless shaking his head humbly and perhaps issuing a gracious "thank you." This is how I will remember him, the very definition of the word "gentleman."
AMan Of The Highest Class
Irene A. Jacoby
As a new member of the staff of MCC, I was honored and fortunate to have been able to meet and work with Bob Duncan during the recent past months.I respected Bob highly and I liked him very much. He was a person of the highest class. His professionalism, his knowledge, his demeanor, his kindness, and above all his gentleness will be missed.
Published March 1, 2009.