Dick Pogue’s golden years have never been the period of rest and relaxation most people envision. A mere day after he retired as managing partner of the law firm Jones Day (then known as Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue) in June 1994, he was beginning a second career as senior adviser at public relations outfit Dix & Eaton, helping colleagues tackle prickly issues such as determining what information to disseminate to shareholders, news outlets, etc. during corporate takeovers. When he returned to Jones Day a decade later, it was as an independent adviser assisting in planned development and civic engagement.
“For the first time we had a managing partner at Jones Day not in Cleveland — he was in Washington, [D.C.],” the Shaker Heights resident, now 88, explains as he sits at his desk. “Our managing partner had always been active in the community, and he couldn’t do that from Washington. So he asked me to come back. I’ve been back ever since.”
Each weekday Pogue rises at 4 a.m., arrives at Jones Day’s downtown offices by 5:15 a.m. (“I don’t always make it,” he admits) and works a 12-hour day.
A simple list of Pogue's nonprofit board positions runs a page and a half. He has been a guiding force in Northeast Ohio nonprofits since the 1960s, when the new Jones Day partner became a trustee and president of the Goodrich Social Settlement House (now known as the Goodrich-Gannett Neighborhood Center) and subsequently co-founded the Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association, a group of 20-plus such facilities around the city. The board seat resulted from his volunteering at Goodrich as a counselor for approximately 15 teenage boys, most of them financially disadvantaged, to make up for some minor after-hours mischief.
“I stayed out too late one night, and I had a guilty conscience the next day,” Pogue recalls with amusement. “So I went down the hall and asked Thomas McKay, one of the partners, if I could do some good to atone for my [actions].” But he becomes serious as he describes the rewards of his first foray into community service. “You could sense that you were opening a whole new vista for these boys. They’d never thought about what they were going to do after they got out of school. They began to start thinking about the future, thinking maybe they should get a little more serious about life.”
Pogue went on to sit on a long list of boards, particularly after he was named Jones Day’s managing partner in 1984. He modestly takes credit for introducing the focus of economic development and concept of fundraising to the Cleveland Foundation during his 1985-1989 tenure as chairman. “In those days, we never asked for money,” he says. “‘Development’ was a bad word.” As a founding trustee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, he helped bring a major tourist draw to the North Coast; as a co-founder of the Regional Business Council, a forerunner of Team NEO, he was an early supporter of regional cooperation.
More recently, Pogue co-chaired a seven-year capital campaign that raised $30 million for the Gordon Square Arts District, where he and wife Pat had been supporters of the Near West Theatre. He good-naturedly relates that he was lured into the position with the promise that he’d only serve as an honorary co-chair, then operating co-chair.
“I’m a sucker for this stuff,” he admits.
Pogue’s current activities include serving as a member of the prestigious New York City-based Council on Foreign Relations and a trustee of the University Hospitals Health System, Cleveland Institute of Music, Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education and Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation. As chairman emeritus of Business Volunteers Unlimited, an organization that matches civic-minded executives with nonprofits boards, he just finished heading a $400,000 capital campaign.
The octogenarian misses practicing law. “After you reach a certain age, the clients are younger and used to dealing with younger people, so it’s very unusual for people who pass retirement age to do much legal work,” he says without a trace of self-pity. But he’s got plenty to keep him busy. “I think I’m pretty well set with what I have,” he says.