I enjoyed an idyllic childhood “to the manor born.” After WW II, our substantial landholdings were confiscated by the Soviet occupation government. We were headed for a one-way ride to Siberia – which we declined by defecting to the West – where we re-settled in a bombed out building on an abandoned airfield. During those formative years, I learned to live frugally. When I came to this country as a young adult – with a business degree and a treaty trader visa in hand – I was privileged to work for a multi-national firm called Hoechst – the superlative of “high” – on the 82nd floor of the Empire State Building. That was indeed the physical zenith of my life! After twenty years of faithful service to that company, I ventured out on my own. Restructuring faltering enterprises became my specialty, in the US and – following the fall of the Berlin Wall – in Eastern Germany.
Twelve years ago, I recognized an opportunity to apply my trade as a turn-around specialist in the not-for-profit field: first as a Board member, then as President and recently as Chairman of the German Society of Pennsylvania. This 250-year-old cultural institution, the oldest of its kind, has been put on a solid financial footing, expanded its programs, and thus became a beacon in the German-American community of Greater Philadelphia.
In late 2009, before our Foundation opened its museum in Washington, I was approached by Bern Deichmann to review the projected budget. It showed a six-figure deficit. As I had no way of estimating the potential revenue stream, my recommendation was to cut operating expenses to the bone. When this was accomplished, I was asked to join the Board – with a subsequent appointment as Vice President, Finance. In that capacity, I helped hone our financial reporting procedures, introduced the 90-day rolling cash flow forecast system and a full cost accounting for our exhibits. By recruiting a new accounting firm for the Foundation, our auditing expenses were halved. Several intermittent loans were either converted to gifts or partially forgiven. My own personal contributions over the past five years have amounted to more than $60,000. In 2014, I served intermittently as President for one year.