Editor's note: We reproduce here a eulogy delivered by Sidney Aroesty, DPC Senior Vice President and COO, at the memorial service for Dr. Sigi Ziering held on November 15 at Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles.
It is with a pervasive sense of inadequacy that I speak this morning for the many people, both known and unknown to him, whose lives and futures have been touched by the vision, compassion and wisdom of Sigi Ziering. I am also conscious of the irony that, but for some unique twists of fate during the years 1941 - 1945, everything might have turned out very differently for many of us sitting here today and for countless others.
Today, there are over 1700 employees who are directly tied to Sigi and Marilyn's creation in 1971 of Diagnostic Products Corporation. The welfare and futures of many thousand others are in turn related to these people. Even more compelling are the countless thousands of beneficiaries of the technology and products delivered by DPC. I do not want to dwell on the external measures of these successes today. Instead, I am hoping that in the telling of a few stories I can provide a glimpse of the vision and inner workings of this quiet man who had extraordinary dreams and ambitions.
The audience is filled today with people from around the world who have come to honor Sigi. They each have their own perspectives on what made Sigi unique to them. Most of these relationships span at least two decades. They will all point to different aspects of his character that made their respective relationships so strong and long lasting. Some will say it was his sense of loyalty and continuity, some will say it was his visionary thinking, others his unwavering integrity. A few, myself included, will say it's the wonderful way he could express himself in writing to us on issues of our mutual relationships or to provide his perspectives and aspirations for the future. Parenthetically, I should add that his closest confidants knew that it was often not verbal accolades and expressions of gratitude they should expect for a job well done, rather moments, often silent, of shared intimacy. It was more often, however, that he shared himself in his writings to us, and most of us learned to appreciate this as much, if not more than, public displays. For those who needed a more tangible sign: you knew you had done something worthwhile if a gold-wrapped Hershey bar showed up on your lab bench or desk.
All of these perspectives
are valid and true, but let me turn to another very
When it came to asking the Nobel laureate James Watson to join our Board of Directors, he didn't seek advice or counsel from anyone as to the wisdom of a small company, not entirely dedicated to DNA technology, trying to enlist the support of one of the 100 most influential men of this century for DPC. Sigi simply wrote one of those persuasive letters I spoke of and by the power of his personality and certainty of his vision convinced James Watson to join our board.
After the Camp David Accords were signed by Israel and Egypt in 1981, Sigi decided to write to Mrs. Jihan Sadat to offer the same testing reagents for newborn infants that we had been donating to Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel for several years. These reagents allow for the early detection of a thyroid disorder that is fully treatable in infants if detected early enough and which leads to mental retardation if left undetected. Sigi didn't stop to determine the proper channels for directing this inquiry; he simply wrote a letter directly to President Sadat, which received an almost immediate response through Mrs. Sadat's auspices. A testing regimen was ultimately established at Ain Shams University in Cairo.
After the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident in the Ukraine, Sigi immediately offered to supply necessary diagnostics for the victims of the disaster. He took the initiative to write directly to President Gorbachev. Again, as with the example of the Egyptian experience, he received an immediate positive response from the highest levels of government. Putting aside his strong commitment for the human benefits of the technologies he had in hand, the point I wish to convey is that he believed in the power of a single man's ideas to bring benefit to others. My thinking has been totally altered by this insight and I know many others within the company that have also grasped this conviction.
Finally, I want to tell you one story that exemplifies what many of us who have been associated with Sigi over the years find endearing about his character. While visiting me in upstate New York a few years ago, we were out on a ski boat with my sons taking turns on the water skis behind us. It was a perfect day and it was clear that Sigi wanted to try his turn at skiing. We spent the next 30 minutes intently trying to get him out of the water and up on the skis. Here he was, a man in his sixties, being dragged around on a glacially cold lake and he would not give up. His gritty determination was not enough that day to pull himself out of the water. It was not his stubborn determination that moved me that day as we pulled him back onto the boat. Rather it was a sense of intensity that he seemed to have for doing something he had never experienced as a child. He had a childhood interrupted by the terrible history of the Holocaust. Well into his later years, you would see times where he grasped at these missed experiences. Many of us here shared time with him where his pleasure in a schoolyard prank or a simple childhood game caught his attention and imagination.
He was all of these things to us, each different, many the same. We are all richer for knowing him, we are all braver and more certain of our individual and personal ability to do things of which he would quietly have approved.
Dr. Sigi Ziering, former CEO and Chairman of the Board of DPC, passed away on November 12 at home, surrounded by his family, after a year-long struggle with brain cancer. He bore his illness with courage, grace and serenity, and maintained to the very end his indomitable spirit and will to live, as well as the love and kindness which characterized his entire life.
Born March 20, 1928 in Kassel, Germany, Dr. Ziering survived deportation to a Latvian ghetto and subsequent internment in concentration camps during World War II. Arriving in New York in 1949, he earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics at Syracuse University in 1957. He then started Space Sciences, a research company in Massachusetts, working primarily on government contracts; after a decade, he sold the company.
In 1973, Dr. Ziering
took charge of Diagnostic Products Corporation, a biotech startup founded
two years earlier in Los Angeles. Over the next 25 years, Dr.
In what would turn out to be his farewell address, Dr. Ziering expressed great pride, but also surprise and gratitude, that the company had been able to make such significant contributions to healthcare on an international basis, and that so many families throughout the world derive their livelihood from DPC. Over the years, his philanthropic instincts found many outlets connected with the company: donation of thyroid tests, for example, and generous support for neonatal testing programs, as noted in the accompanying eulogy. In a DPC tradition spanning more than a decade, employee contributions, matched dollar for dollar by the company, have been donated for the relief of victims of international disasters.
Fortune recently (1998) featured Dr. Ziering in a cover story celebrating the entrepreneurial achievements and philanthropy of a few remarkable Holocaust survivors. He is well known as a principal benefactor of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and as a supporter of countless other causesmany of them connected with his experience as a boy. He also gave generously of his time, as a past President of Temple Beth Am and a long-time board member of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. His efforts to come to terms with the Holocaust found expression in a meditative, autobiographical play, The Judgement of Herbert Bierhoff, which was staged last year at the University of Judaism.
Dr. Ziering is survived by his wife, Marilyn, whom he met and married while a student in New York; his childrenMichael, Rosanne, Ira, and Amy; his mother; his brother; and his seven grandchildren. The memorial service was attended by several hundred mourners, among them the heads of many DPC affiliates and distributorships with whom Dr. Ziering had forged not only strong business relationships but also very close, enduring friendships.
A man of quiet greatness, he had already provided for the continuity and future of the company well before he retired in 1999. DPC remains strong on the foundations which he developed. Dr. Ziering's legacy lives on, with his son Michael as DPC's President, a post he has filled for the past six years; with his other son, Ira, serving as Vice President, International; and with his wife, Marilyn, as Vice President, Marketing Communications.
His death has been experienced as a great personal loss to all of us, but we are dedicated to providing the same quality products and service that have made DPC a trusted name the world over; and we remain committed to the same guiding vision that allowed the company to grow and flourish under Dr. Ziering's leadership.
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