This I Believe

Koegler, Frank J.


  • Frank Koegler, Executive Vice President of Doehler-Jarvis, describes how he was forced to accept responsibility at an early age because of the death of his father, and how he came to view responsibility as a privilege rather than an obligation.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. That classic American phrase "self-made man" has taken some kicking around, from people who have tried to use its tag of respectability to disguise ruthless drive for power. But manufacturer Frank J. Koegler, a product of New York City's night schools and the YMCA, is a self-made man according to the rules. Executive Vice President of Doehler-Jarvis, the world's largest producer of die castings, Frank Koegler now gives us his beliefs.
I was born in Brooklyn. My father died when I was 10, and my mother ran
a stationery store to keep the family going. I had to go to work to help out, and before I was 14, I had learned pretty well what the word “responsibility” meant. Now, looking back over the more than 50 years of a full life, it becomes clear to me that a man’s beliefs change with time. As a kid, I accepted responsibility because I had to—sometimes grudgingly. I welcome it now, because I recognize it as one of the forces which drove me most convincingly through a life of continual struggle in a highly competitive world toward distant goals.
To me, responsibility has always had a strong overtone of obligation, the need to carry through, not only for the need in itself but for the implications to everything around it. Perhaps I am saying I recognize in life an obligation to myself and to society. I have been fortunate because my work has given me many opportunities to express this drive in concrete form. Most of us, I think, feel a need to justify our existence. My firm manufacturers thousands of articles: from waffle iron griddles to hydraulic brake pistons. To be a part of an organization which makes so many items which our culture uses fulfills for me a sense of
social responsibility. And there is pride and a teamwork involved in the making of useful things.
The increased responsibility of these times offer a continual challenge to me, crowding zest and interest into each working day. My appreciation of friendship has heightened, as well as the understanding of loyalties associated with friendship. The sense of personal integrity involved, the obligation to give fairly and receive with understanding, are all tied into my credo. Like most men, I’ve had a chance to express these things in my family life, in the happy years
with my wife and son, and now with my daughter-in-law and grandchild. But this is only a part of the larger feeling of having a family of thousands of employees to each of whom, in some degree or another, there seems to be an obligation too.
Besides these strong drives, there are those very personal reactions that have to do more with a man in relation to himself. I feel a joy when I ride through crisp, morning air with the rhythm of a well-trained horse beneath me, a quiet happiness in the response of the chords of an organ, and leisure hours. I
admit to a strong belief in order and system, not as ends in themselves but because they are important means to understanding, planning, and applying all those productive forces which contribute to enrichment of our way of life.
But what if this order and system was swept away, and the other things I love and believe in were destroyed with them? I cannot be sure, but it seems to me that lonely and sad as I would be, I would want to carry on. For in any system in which human -- humans live, there are contributions that must be made. I should want to contribute, too, using my experience and training. I’d want to
carry on because I believe in the inherent goodwill of man and would seek those who felt as I did, so together we might serve as a rallying point for others. This makes me realize even more that my sense of obligation is not directed primarily to individuals, but toward the ideal that what needs doing should be done well.
That was Frank J. Koegler, an industrialist and a man with a broad sense of duty, who keeps a full life well-balanced in thought and action.