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.
Fifteen years ago, I recognized an opportunity to apply my trade as a turn-around specialist in the non-profit field: first as a Board member, then as President, Chairman, and until recently as Treasurer, of the German Society of Pennsylvania. This venerable 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 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 the operating expenses to the bone. This was accomplished, and I was asked to join the Board – with a subsequent appointment as Vice President of Finance. In that capacity, I helped hone our financial reporting procedures, introduced the 90-day rolling cash-flow forecast system, and developed a full cost accounting for our exhibits.
In 2014, I served intermittently as President for one year. During that tenure, we acquired Arbeiter Hall from the Singing Society of Trenton, NJ which had been dissolved for lack of supporting members. After satisfying all third party claims, we were able to sell the premises to a local church group. The net revenue of that transaction has been set aside as seed money for the establishment of an endowment fund. Incidentally, my own contributions to GAHF exceed $100,000, over the past decade.
Recently, I was again entrusted with the leadership responsibility for our organization – serving as President for the calendar year 2018, while our organization needed to be restructured – with a set of new officers and a change in executive staff. Fiscal discipline was reintroduced, resulting in a financial turn-around at the operational level, and an improvement of our bottom line. As current Treasurer, I am willing to continue my service at the Board level – for as long as my health and age permits me to do so.
The German-American Heritage Foundation (aka United German-American Committee of the USA, Inc.) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (EIN 23-2033554), and donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Please remember GAHF in your estate plans.