by Bob Schatz (BioMed Central)
As I write this, I am just days away from receiving the news that Mike Arnold died. I knew Mike had been battling cancer, but the last time we talked, which was not nearly as recent as I would have liked, Mike thought he and his doctors had the upper hand on his disease. Obviously, this did not prove to be the case.
Mike and I worked together for twenty years. He started at Scholarly Book Center at about the same time I started at its sister company, Academic Book Center. When the offices merged, Mike ended up working for me as part of the national sales team. When I say “working for me” I use the term loosely. Mike was part of a sales team that knew its job well and needed very little input from me to do its work effectively. In a group of strong and capable reps, Mike was the most senior in terms of tenure and the leadership role he played. Among booksellers in general, Mike was the dean of the corps, reminding the rest of us how to effectively do our jobs, especially when it came to taking care of customers. There was, and remains, no one better in the business when it came to that aspect of the job. Through Mike’s steady management of any territory assigned to him, his stature and that of the companies he represented always rose. He was the quintessential professional, respected by customers and peers alike.
Mike and I traveled together a great deal. There were several years when we must have taken at least a dozen trips together through Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan chasing approval plan business. The long drives lent themselves to our sharing the kind of information that comes out when Road Warriors travel together: family details, school experiences, how we got into the business, etc. During one of these drives Mike shared with me that he got into sales initially to overcome his shyness. That first job was going through high-rise office towers trying to sell office equipment. There is no tougher type of selling even for the most outgoing person. The fact that Mike took that on to overcome shyness says much about the inner man. He never shied away from a challenge, including the courage he showed when facing his cancer.
All of us will remember Mike for his gentle demeanor, great sense of humor, and true friendship. He was as fine a man as I’ve ever known, the kind of man you hope to have in your life for many years, not one who is struck down before his time due to illness. Whether personally or professionally, all of us who knew Mike are better for the experience.
Remembering Mike Arnold
by Barry Fast <[email protected]>
Mike was a tough guy, but you’d never know it by his manner or his behavior. His strength, his ambition and resiliency, were hidden beneath a quiet reserve. Mike was all about under-stating and over-delivering. In our organization when he offered an opinion or analysis, everyone paid attention. He represented us to our customers, but just as significantly, he represented them to us. We all listened when Mike spoke and I think his customers understood that. He was both our sales rep and their advocate. If, as I believed, the bookseller and librarian were joined at the hip professionally, dependent on each other and benefited by each other’s competence, then Mike Arnold was emblematic of that concept.
Outside of work, during a long drive across the Midwest flatlands or at the hotel bar that evening, Mike and I would talk. Sometimes we got into the deeper stuff, but most of the time it was just relaxing conversation about the day we’d shared in libraries. When we talked about home and family, his love for his wife Eileen was expressed not in what he said, but what he didn’t say. The bonding technique we men tend to use is a superficial device that allows us to display our manhood while we assess the other’s fitness to join our club — or hunting party. It usually begins with a serious analysis of a sports team or attempts at humorous banter about the latest problem our wives are causing us. Mike occasionally indulged in the former because it’s inconceivable that a man who resides within a hundred miles of Chicago wouldn’t have an opinion on the Cubbies or the Sox. But Eileen was never the object of humorous ridicule. I think he loved and revered her too much to use her as a prop. Saying something demeaning about his wife, even in jest, was beneath him.
He was a dignified man, a word we hardly use anymore because there are so few of them around. I don’t mean he was pretentious or decorous — those adjectives describe the opposite of Mike. Because dignity is such a rarity we conjure up all sorts of inadequate synonyms. None work. If you didn’t know him well you’ll just have to take my word on this. He had dignity, and he made all of us feel good when he was in the room. And now, sadly, he’s gone.