Francis E Gilbert, V P
If Charlie Lofgren was the engine that powered Sanford Ink Company, Francis Gilbert was the tires on which it moved. Charlie was emotional, forceful, and dynamic. Francis was even tempered, thoughtful, and decisive. Charlie dreamed big, Francis brought the dream to life.Sanfordgrew and prospered because Charlie Lofgren recognized opportunity, Francis Gilbert turned opportunity into reality.
Francis was a little more open to casual conversation, and I learned some interesting things about the company from him. Only on a very few occasion would Charlie relax enough to share with me some of theSanfordhistory and how success had been realized. One of the times I recall the most clearly was when he told me how the Lofgren / Gilbert team was formed.
When Charlie would tell me things like this he had a routine that he used. Facts came in short bursts. He would take a drag on his cigarette, grin, pause and then continue for one and no more than two sentences. After that, the routine was repeated.
On this occasion he started by telling me how after becoming president atSanfordhe needed a chemist and he hired Francis. It was Francis’ first job out of college. As was common is the profession as chemistry, Francis put in enough time on his first job to make himself more marketable, and then interviewed for and was offered a better job. After telling me about Francis’ intended resignation he did his cigarette routine, and then continued, “I knew Francis was the chemist I wanted. And I needed to figure out how to keep him”. Then came another drag, exhale and chuckle. “And I knew that to keep Francis, I was going to have to convince Edna Mae”. Francis was a devout Christian and was married to a graduate of Wheaton College, a Conservative Christian College with very high academic standards’. They were a team, and Francis placed a lot of importance on making important decisions together with his wife. After another drag, puff chuckle routine Charlie concluded, “So I went to their home and used my charm on to convince Edna that Francis should stay”. Then after one more routine with his cigarette he concluded, “It worked”.
Not only was Francis Gilbert intelligent, he kept himself thoroughly up to date with current science. He belonged to a professional group called the Chemical Arts Forum. Here monthly meetings featured presentations of chemistry work being done in the Chicago area by scientists in many different areas of chemistry. I attended these meetings regularly with him. This became an invaluable source of information and professional contacts as we worked through the development of new products for theSanfordline. Francis Gilbert’s experience, his depth of knowledge and his broad scope of industrial chemistry was incredible. It was matched only by the content of his character.
For those who insist on putting Evangelical Christians (a misuse of the term) into the evil person category, I recall that when the Nixon Administration tried to control runaway inflation with a wage freeze, he cut his own salary to be able to give me a raise because he knew I had a young family and annual raises were important to the well being of my family. When the Teamsters organized theSanfordlabor force, an African American employee named Artis Allen who had been with the company for many years, was not given proper credit in the new labor contract for his years of service. As a result, when he retired Artis, who could barely read and write, did not get appropriate retirement benefits. Years later I learned that Francis remained in contact with Artis after they both were retired, and often shared his own retirement money with him.
In the final December before I leftSanfordI happened to be in the factory area and was talking to one of the fairly new employees. During a pause in our conversation, the employee nodded toward a different part of the factory and remarked, “I don’t know who that guy is that is wearing a suit, but he is walking through the factory wishing all the factory workers a Merry Christmas and shaking their hands”.
My mouth dropped. “You don’t know who that is”?
“No. Who is he”?
“His name is Francis Gilbert. He is the Executive Vice President. He is the reason you have a job. He is the reason all of us here have jobs. When he stops to wish you Merry Christmas, be sure you wish him one in return”.