Unlike such CFOs as GE’s Keith Sherin or Goldman’s David Viniar, Ron Box was hardly a household name in finance circles. For 17 years, until passing away on August 10, he headed finance for Joe Money Machinery, a small, regional construction-equipment dealer based in Alabama.
But he was on the top of my contact list. Having met Ron was nothing less than serendipity. Back in 2009 when I began a 12-month stint as the technology editor for CFO — without, frankly, much of a background in the subject — Ron, also his company’s CIO, appeared to have no more pressing business than to serve as my mentor. I have no shame at all in saying that I could not have done it without him. From suggesting article ideas, to helping massage angles, to providing contacts, to being there with a kind word for my work when I most needed it, he kept me afloat. My gratitude will last forever.
But while it seemed I was hanging out in the center of his world, I’m sure a lot of people thought the same. He had complete focus on people he communicated with, and whatever he did, those around him were glad he was there, because he did it with passion. Another reason he was a great mentor was because he was so strongly connected to a wide range of business and professional interests, from which he absorbed tons of information and perspectives. The holder of several technology certifications, he led or helped lead numerous technology and other initiatives for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He was a leader of the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Society of CPAs. He spoke and wrote about all kinds of things, most recently as a banking columnist for CFO, banking being another of his passions.
His wife, Martha, told me, “Ron felt he was being struck down in his prime, despite being 55. He really felt like he was just starting to reach his potential.”
(The disease that claimed Ron’s life is called sarcoidosis. It can afflict any bodily organ with abnormal, chronically inflammatory cells. Attacking Ron’s lungs, over many years it produced more and more scar tissue that steadily reduced his breathing capacity. Martha says no single charitable organization is accepting donations on his behalf, but she welcomes support for any reputable efforts to prevent and cure lung disease. Here is one suggestion: The Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research, http://www.stopsarcoidosis.org/.)
I am perhaps an odd person to write a tribute to Ron Box, because I didn’t know him for all that long. But he made an immediate impression when I met him in February 2009, and notably, as he became friendly with several of us here at CFO, he never once hinted that he was out for personal aggrandizement. He simply, and sincerely, wanted to help us provide worthy information and reporting for the community of financial executives.
That we quoted him in 12 articles, from that February through last month, and put him on the cover of our October 2010 magazine, and ran a column under his byline, was purely because we asked him, even twisted his arm, to do it. He was more genuine, and less guarded, than anyone we knew. And it was a pleasure; in my 25 years as a writer and editor, among thousands of contacts made, no one was ever nicer.
My hat is off to the Keith Sherins and David Viniars of the world. But Ron Box will always be my number-one CFO. Rest in peace.