Early this decade, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra was on fiscal life support. It was lurching from one generous donor bail out to the next, always praying there was one more angel to keep it out of bankruptcy.
In stepped Randy Adams, a retired banker, first as a temporary consultant and then as the ongoing president. Could someone without an arts background save one of St. Louisís most prized institutions?
The answer ó six years later ó is a resounding yes. Adams increased the endowment seven fold so that it now approaches $150 million. He was a tough but fair bargainer who negotiated contracts that retain and attract superb musicians without undermining the operating budget.
When Hans Vonk, a talented music director but not much interested in community outreach, retired because of ill health, Adams recruited David Robertson, who is equally compelling on the symphony podium and in the St. Louis region.
"Passionate" and "banker" are not usually found in the same sentence. But, in his own calm determined way, Adams has been passionate about first saving and then enhancing one of the St. Louis areaís most precious assets. Without Adamsís accomplishments, St. Louisís major league symphony would have become a minor league operation.
In February, Adams decided it was time for him to move on. Earlier this month, the Symphony announced his successor: Fred Bronstein from the Dallas Symphony.
Before Adams is completely off the stage, he deserves a standing ovation as a selfless civic leader and an unsung hero.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Terry Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.