Category: Education

by Richard R. Tryon & others

This chapter is reserved for vignettes of members who have already completed their mission in this life on earth. At a time when our nation is again being challenged by enemies of freedom and democracy, this time by mostly religious zealots who think that it is their mission to kill all infidels before dealing with those who have fallen from grace within the one form of the Muslim faith favored by the chiefs of the zealots who seem to look to one Usama bin Laden for spiritual guidance.

Eulogy by Susan McPherson

"Dick grew up in Elmira, New York, in a great All—American family. He lived in a big white house known as 2 Cobbles East, with his parents, Harry & Beulah McPherson and his brother Robert and his sister Charlotte. He was instilled with great American values by his parents that would stay with him for all of his life. I’ve heard stories of all the fun times with his brother and sister in Elmira and all the things he did as a boy. He was forever shaped by his family and small town Elmira. He learned to fly glider planes in Elmira, soaring off the top of a nearby mountain called Harris Hill. At 15 years of age, he became the youngest licensed glider pilot in the United States. He regaled me with tales of riding his bicycle up the mountain to go soaring, or just hang out with the glider club, and then riding his bike down the mountain at breakneck speeds, not able to stop if something got in his way.

As a teenager, he was sent to Manlius Military School in Manlius, New York. I asked him if this was because he was bad and he said, no, it was because his brother had been bad! I came to understand that the environment at Manlius shaped him as a person and taught him discipline, manners and perseverance. After Manlius, he enrolled in Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio and earned a Bachelor’s degree. He established great friendships there which would continue throughout his life.

After college, he continued his flying career in the United States Air Force, serving from 1954 to 1968. He became a pilot, flying B-47 bombers in the Strategic Air Command. This was during the Cold War and he practiced bombing runs to Moscow, flying up over the North Pole toward Russia. He told me that he was prepared and ready to drop a bomb on the Soviet Union if the orders had ever come. He was one of the bravest men I have ever known, and I have no doubt that he would have done it if it had been necessary.

After leaving the military, he went to Cornell University and earned a Masters Degree from the Graduate School of Business.

He had married Carole Fish iand they had two wonderful children — Paul and Lynn. He was absolutely devoted to his children and would have done anything for them. The family moved to Buffalo and Dick took a job first at American Machine & Foundry and then in the marketing department of Westinghouse, where he gained much knowledge about marketing which he would put to good use afterwards.

In 1969, Dick and three friends who worked across the street at Calspan — Henry Semmelhack, Jim Morgan and John Cummings — founded a company they named Comptek Research. Their mission was to develop software and they were very successful at it. Comptek became a major defense contractor, but it was not without many struggles. There were tales of the partners taking second mortgages on their houses during the downtimes and borrowing money to keep the business afloat. But eventually they captured significant contracts with the military, developing missile guidance systems and other classified development projects. In 1972, a large law firm in Buffalo asked them to develop a computer system for them to help run the law firm — accounting and word processing. Dick and others plunged into this project with great vigor. They developed a system for that law firm and then sold it to many other firms as well. Dick was instrumental in developing the Office Automation Division of Comptek, which later split off and became Barrister Information Systems Corporation. They became legal industry pioneers, selling multi—terminal minicomputer systems to law firms all over the country and shaping an entire software industry. Dick developed a knowledge and understanding of law firms and how they run that was incredible. He knew how to get inside a law firm and ferret out all their secrets and he knew how to improve their operations and save them money. He taught many sales reps and marketing people how to sell to law firms —— he was a master strategist and people continually sought out his advice.

I met Dick when he sold two Barrister minicomputer systems to the law firm where I worked in Atlanta. I was eventually hired by him and Jim Morgan to work for Barrister in Washington, DC and later transferred to Buffalo. This began my long journey of learning from Dick and being shaped by his knowledge and talents. It took many years of working together for us to realize that we had a connection that was extraordinary.

Dick was a very private person and didn’t always want everyone to know what he was doing and where he was. He spent years trying to keep the company president, Hank Semmelhack, from finding out where he was. He spent a lot of time in New York City and was very comfortable there. He could go to New York with $20 in his pocket and come home with change. Many people tell of going out to dinner with Dick and when the check came, Dick never seemed to have any money or he “had forgotten his credit cards”. He always managed to get someone else to pick up the tab. Eventually I learned why he did that — he finally told me — he said “if you pay for dinner, then I sign the expense report — if I pay for dinner, then I have to submit the expense report to Semmelhack’.!”

Dick and I spent many hours just talking about stuff. We could be happy not doing anything or working on projects together. He came to share some of my passion for horses, leaping into the horse breeding business with great enthusiasm. He learned to wear blue jeans, drive tractors, mow the pastures, build fences, repair barns and handle the horses. He especially loved a crazy brood mare we had, named Gail Napeta. She was an ex-racehorse and I hated her, but Dick thought she was great. He loved leading her out of the barn and turning her through the pasture gate and watching her gallop up the hill at breakneck speed. It turns out his admiration for Gail was right on the money, because she eventually produced a colt who became a World champion. He sat in the stands with me in Oklahoma City and watched this colt crowned World Champion with tears in his eyes. He was so proud.

As I said before, Dick was the bravest man I have ever known. When he got sick, he faced his illness head-on and never complained. He plunged into our house remodeling project with great enthusiasm and was responsible for much of the design. He knew that it was the last great project he would be involved in and he put his all into it. He loved the house and made me promise that he could stay at home until the end. He did not want to die in a hospital. I kept that promise. I’ll miss him very much."



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