Rick Lester: An Appreciation

Ours is a relatively small and often modest industry. The number of true titans is small, and when we lose one, the loss is profound.

Rick Lester was one of our heroes and one of mine. He had an extraordinary career that began in 1982 at the Cleveland Orchestra, and led to his starting to consult in 1995, forming the the company that today is TRG Arts. He died suddenly last week while on a fundraising bike trip near his home in Colorado, and today he is being laid to rest there.

His loss has left me and many others speechless. Rick was a model of health, optimism and energy. Every time I heard him speak I learned something new. He knew how to turn a phrase in a way that that made you realize what he was saying was at the same time obvious and brilliant.

Rick was a big thinker, but most importantly he loved life and loved the work he was doing in the arts. I’m reminded of a skiing trip we took together when we had hours to talk about our lives and careers, which in many ways mirrored each other. Rick said that he was tickled and grateful that he could earn a living doing what he loved most – helping arts organizations innovate and do better.

Even after a week of living with this news, I can’t fathom our industry and our world without Rick’s insight, optimism and vision. I can’t imagine the loss that the people at TRG are feeling right now. But in typical Rick style, he surrounded himself with equally smart and dedicated colleagues (and family members) who I know will continue his work and honor his legacy.

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