Jack Bogle’s death last week prompted a number of people to share their remembrances of the man who founded Vanguard and revolutionized the investment industry by creating the world’s first index mutual fund.
An especially poignant memory – one that illustrates how down to earth and accessible Bogle was, despite his larger-than-life profile – belongs to Dr. Joseph O’Brien, the Executive Director of the Chester County Intermediate Unit.
Dr. O’Brien recently recalled to VISTA Today one of his favorite Jack Bogle stories. It occurred in the early 1990s, when O’Brien was principal of Springfield High School in Delaware County.
“We had a math teacher named Skip Werley, and he used to lament that we didn’t do enough to teach financial literacy,” said O’Brien. “He’d hear stories of graduates going off to college and signing up for two, three credit cards, stories of kids who couldn’t balance a checkbook.”
Werley, with O’Brien’s approval, then went about gathering materials and putting together a curriculum for a course that would eventually be titled Consumer Math.
“Skip was a big believer in writing letters, and he’d write them to anyone; it didn’t matter how famous they were,” said O’Brien. “And they’d often write back. He’d write to Euclid for geometry samples if he were still alive.
A few weeks pass, and O’Brien’s phone rings one afternoon.
“My secretary said, ‘Jack Bogle from Vanguard is on the phone,’” said O’Brien. “I couldn’t believe it. I take his call, and he said that he applauded what we were doing and wanted to help. You could just hear the passion in his voice.”
When the course debuted, Bogle became a guest lecturer.
“Jack enjoyed that so much that he ended up teaching the course for an entire semester,” said O’Brien. “I think there was literally only one time when his schedule conflicted, and it caused him to miss class. Can you imagine that? Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, coming to Springfield for 15-16 weeks straight.”
Teaching came natural to Bogle, whose influence on the students was evident.
“He made such an impression on the kids,” said O’Brien. “And these weren’t our A.P. (Advanced Placement) students. A lot of them said they hated math. By the end of the course, though, it was their favorite subject.
“Jack was such a fascinating man with an incredible sense of humor. He was so generous with his time, and I’ll always be thankful for that.”