On Thursday, April 26, Dick Pogue returned from lunch at the Union Club to Jones Day’s downtown Cleveland offices and an unusual request: His dining companion, retired partner Robert Rawson Jr., was dissatisfied with a first-floor conference room redesign and wanted Pogue’s opinion of the decor. The senior adviser pointed out that he wasn’t involved in making such decisions. But Rawson insisted, so Pogue agreed to have a look.
“I open the door, and here’s 200 people in the room,” Pogue recalls with some amusement as he sits at his desk. “So, I said to Rawson, ‘Oh, we can’t go in there. There’s a meeting.’ And he said, ‘Look again.’ So, I look again, and there was my wife, my daughter and one of my two sons.”
Pogue had just walked in on his 90th birthday party.
It isn’t exactly surprising that the Cleveland icon has reached this milestone. Genetics, after all, were on his side — his mother lived to 96, his father to 103-and-a-half. The stunner is what he continues to accomplish at a time when his contemporaries are leading a life of dedicated leisure. His biggest challenge: “Not having enough time to get everything done,” despite the fact that he tries to be at his desk by 5:30 a.m. each weekday.
Most people would have been content to end their professional and civic lives with the resume Pogue built during the usual career span. As managing partner of Jones Day (then known as Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue), in 1986, he merged the firm with Surrey & Morse, a 100-lawyer firm with offices in New York, Washington, D.C., London, Paris and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “That was a big move back in the ’80s,” he says.
He helped bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to Cleveland as a founding trustee, promoted regional cooperation by co-founding the Regional Business Council (a forerunner of Team NEO), and helped establish Business Volunteers Unlimited to match community-minded executives with nonprofit boards.
But that wasn’t enough for Pogue. After retiring from Jones Day in 1994, he began a second career as a senior adviser at public relations firm Dix & Eaton. In 2004, he returned to Jones Day in his current role.
“In 2003, for the first time in our history, we had a managing partner not in Cleveland — he was in Washington,” Pogue explains. “Our managing partner had always been active in the community, so he asked me to come back to sort of do that community stuff.”
Today, that “stuff” includes serving as a member of the Washington, D.C.-based Legal Services Corp. Leaders Council and New York City-based Council on Foreign Relations; director of the Gordon Square Arts District; and trustee of the Cleveland Institute of Music, Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education, Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation and University Hospitals Health System. The last provides incentive to reach another milestone. “Another three years and, as a technical matter, I’ll pass Samuel Mather as the longest-serving trustee,” he points out with a chuckle. He’s co-chairing a $10 million campaign for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, an organization that benefitted from his offer at a 2016 annual meeting to match, dollar for dollar, donations up to $25,000.
“The response was so successful that they doubled the challenge,” he says.
His latest undertaking: chairman of the Cleveland Ballet.
“I told ’em, ‘Look, the image isn’t good. Having a 90-year-old guy be chairman of the ballet? No, it should be a younger person,’ ” he recalls. But he agreed to do it anyway.
Pogue is considering writing and self-publishing a book on Cleveland’s comeback of 1980 through 1996. He and his wife, Pat, would like to make return trips to Israel, China and England. But he doesn’t have a bucket list. He continues to live his life the way he always has, “just one day at a time.”