In the beginning of the classic 1989 film, Back to the Future: Part II, 17-year-old protagonist Marty McFly travels 30 years into the future to visit his grownup self in the year 2015.
A Warrior Rests
I don’t know how many people the average person meets in a lifetime.
I don’t know how many people the average person meets in a lifetime. I’m guessing it’s between 20 and 30 thousand, if you get around a bit. So if you were to put someone on your list of "Top 10 humans I have known," that person ought to be beyond just "very special." I think it should be reserved for someone truly exceptional - at about the 99.9th percentile. I’ve never made such a list, nor has anyone ever asked me to. But if I did, someone who would make it without question would be Douglass C. Campbell.
Doug died on January 18, just a few weeks ago, following a five-month battle with brain cancer. He was a colleague, a mentor and a friend. A true Renaissance man. He was an author, a painter, a musician, a teacher - and a genuine expert in construction and management. I have never met anyone like him.
He put in 20 years of service with Pulte Home Corporation, serving as a construction director in Wyoming, Tucson and South Florida. But his influence was felt most strongly while serving as the corporate vice president of construction during Pulte’s incredible growth and expansion period of the nineties. For the past two years, I was lucky enough to have him as Director of Construction Training for TRUENORTH DEVELOPMENT. He made an immeasurable and irreplaceable impact.
Circle of Friends
By the Friday morning of this year’s NAHB convention, Doug had slipped into a coma from which he would not awake. A year ago, he had been in Dallas with me, making a presentation and, as usual, impressing everyone with his intelligence, wit and wisdom about all things construction. As I moved around the show this year, person after person stopped and asked about Doug’s health. Michael Dickens from IBACOS. Jim Waldrop from BRI. Lynne Hartzel from Owens-Corning. Bernie Gleiberman from Crosswinds Communities. Mark Adler from Adler Building & Development. Mike Simmons from S. R. Jacobson. Todd Clifton from Centex. There were so many people from Pulte asking about him that I can’t even remember, and countless others - from Kaufman & Broad, Del Webb, Ryland, Lennar, Drees, Beazer, Estridge, PCBC, MASCO and on and on. It was dramatic punctuation to a life well lived.
During Doug’s illness, his hundreds of friends around the country rallied to his cause with countless letters, e-mails and boxes of Jell-O (in response to a little gag I thought up.) Doug and his wife Sherry cherished every one. There was attempted surgery, radiation, chemo-therapy, immune-system therapy—the best science had to offer. But it wasn’t enough. Doug fought the cancer with the same passion and intensity that he met every challenge in his life. We all believed he would make it.
That strikes me as sadly ironic, because Doug was one who always gave his best in every situation—and that was always enough. At 62, he had the energy and zeal of a 25-year-old. I had the privilege to get to know Dr. W. Edwards Deming during his 80’s and 90’s, and I fully expected Doug to mirror Deming’s remarkable drive, teaching and giving until he was an old, old man. Whenever we “consultant types” reflected on who would still be fighting the good fight of dragging the construction industry into the 21st century, we always figured Doug would outlast us all.
Perhaps Doug’s finest talent was an innate ability to hold a mirror up to an individual - or an organization. If you were willing and able to listen and learn, it was an invaluable experience. This was not always a painless exercise. Those who bring the truth are not always well received - it’s the old "shoot the messenger" syndrome. But Doug’s gentle yet firm way of bringing the message won over almost everyone in time. And his sense of humor was always there. Usually this was reflected in a dry, witty repartee full of subtle meanings. At other times Doug would fill an otherwise sophisticated discourse with a string of creative expletives. The incongruity of it coming from Douglass C. Campbell made it all the more humorous.
Doug’s impact was reinforced further as I received letter after letter in tribute to him as we prepared for his memorial service. Stories about how Doug had opened the sender’s eyes, changed his or her thinking and, in many cases, saved careers. The admiration and devotion expressed was astounding - and sobering. It can’t help but make you consider the merits of your own life. Generally speaking, I don’t care much for overly simplistic theories saying you can classify everyone on the planet into two types of people - there are a hundred versions. But one that seems appropriate here is that there are ultimately two kinds of people in the world - givers and takers. Doug Campbell was a giver extraordinaire.
Generally, I find it fruitless to try and draw logic and sense about any untimely death. Doug certainly went before his time. There was so much more he had to do. But his prolonged illness produced some serious thinking in many people who can continue to make a difference. It gave us time to pause, reflect and contemplate, to consider again"or for the first time" just how we impact our friends and colleagues. This industry has so much to offer, but still lags behind many in application of modern principles of management, leadership and technology. If we can do one thing in Doug’s memory, it would be to pick up that torch he so resolutely carried, and move it a few yards further down the road.
There were many wonderful speeches and tributes at Doug’s memorial service. There were lots of funny stories - especially from the golf course, another passion of Doug’s. But of everything said, Bill Pulte captured it best. Bill talked about material wealth and spiritual wealth - and how critically different they are. Bill Pulte’s concluding statement was poignant and profound. He said that if he died with even half the spiritual wealth of Doug Campbell, then he, Bill Pulte, would die a happy man.
Godspeed, Doug Campbell. You fought the good fight. It is now up to us to carry it on.
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