Like all who knew Al Koeppe and knew of him, I was deeply saddened to learn of his sudden passing. I was also touched by the op-ed piece that Tom Bergeron wrote in NJBIZ the following day.
Though I had caught up with Al in October at an NJEDA meeting where the funding for our Venture Fund was approved, I was really looking forward to keeping in touch and continuing to learn from him in the years to come.
When we met some 15 or so years ago when I was leading FDU's entrepreneurship center, I was astonished and delighted that he welcomed me to his Newark Alliance meetings, and offered to meet one on one to share ideas for strengthening the entrepreneurial and innovation community. I always left those meetings feeling special, re-energized, smarter, more hopeful about meeting our collective goals and deeply appreciative.
Al had many wonderful qualities. When I think of Al I remember these especially fondly:
He connected dots — and people.
Al would so easily rattle off the names of business leaders who could help me and my organization. He never said anything negative, and if he needed to criticize something or someone, he did it kindly.
He was selfless.
In a world rife with big egos, fiefdoms, etc. Al's focus on helping and uplifting others was so refreshing. He consistently looked to help strengthen the business community and promote productive collaboration among people and groups. He really earned the respect he received from so many.
He always mentored.
Al was a great informal mentor and wise sage. He truly wanted others to succeed and did all he could to help them do so.
We lost a great man far too early. I'm confident, however, that as we reflect on his passing we could all strive to be more like Al. I know I will. Furthermore, as RWJHB's Amy Mansue reminded us at an NJCC Board meeting the other day, we should all cherish our family, friends, mentors, collaborators and colleagues this holiday season. Being more like Al, and cherishing our relationships, sounds like a resolution not just for 2017 but for a lifetime.
James Barrood is CEO and president of the New Jersey Technology Council.