Jack Bogle
Jack Bogle

Jack Bogle: The Model Public Servant in the Private Sector

What better way to honor Jack than for fiduciary advocates to, as he says, “Press on, regardless.”

Wednesday was a roller coaster.

That afternoon a group of 22 fiduciary and investor advocates met in Washington, D.C., to discuss the best ways to advance fiduciary ideas, practices and policies in 2019. Participants walked away feeling we made solid progress.

Then, shortly thereafter, the music stopped. As I sat with friends talking about the day, the news hit: Jack Bogle had passed away.

Jack richly deserved the huge accolades he received after his passing at 89. He was a model public servant operating in the private sector. Founding Vanguard and making the index fund accessible to the individual investor changed the capital markets to benefit tens of millions of ordinary people. Warren Buffett had already previously suggested that a statue be erected in his honor.

Jack’s passing is personal, too. I knew him for 10 years. He actively served on the Institute’s Board of Advisors and he joined our meeting with SEC Chairman Jay Clayton last June.

I compiled the book, The Man in the Arena, which tells the story of his legacy and highlights his books. His writings draw widely from finance and politics to American history and biblical teachings. 

The best parts of Jack’s legacy are the personal stories of others. The correspondence and tales of Vanguard shareholders, crew members, as well as national leaders in finance, academia and public life—they tell Jack’s story. His vision and integrity, his darn persistence in reforming finance. His respect for everyone. People from all walks of life speak, often in intense and emotional terms, of their appreciation for what he did. They speak in terms that seem more adulation for a rock star than appreciation for a public servant. Being witness to this outpouring, through letters and firsthand experiences, has been an experience of a lifetime.  

A visit to Jack’s office was special. Emily, his longtime assistant was there with a cheery greeting and discussions about anything fiduciary. On one visit last year, it was the new SEC proposals. Comments on the news then flowed freely; his sense of humor was always intact, especially when at my own expense, and as an advisor he was constant. Throughout, his overarching optimism for the future of fiduciary and the work of the institute showed through.

Wednesday was personal—and a roller coaster. What better way to honor Jack, though, than for the 22 of us to, as he says, “Press on, regardless.”

Knut A. Rostad, co-founded and chaired the Committee for the Fiduciary Standard and co-founded and is president of the Institute for the Fiduciary Standard, a nonprofit formed in 2011 to advance the fiduciary standard through research, education and advocacy.

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