A Trend Too Far

“When Univest Chief Executive William Aichele wants advice, he doesn't call consultants or read management guru Peter Drucker. Instead, he visits an 18th-century farmhouse in Bedminster, Pa., and chats on a sun porch with his financial-service company's oldest director: 93-year-old Charles Hoeflich.

“In popular culture, we adore elderly mentors. Look at movies such as ‘The Karate Kid’ or almost anything with Morgan Freeman in it. Or consider ‘Tuesdays With Morrie,’ the best-selling book about a sportswriter's reunions with a dying college professor.

“But in boardrooms these days, it is rare -- perhaps too rare -- for old-timers' voices to be heard. Many boards now require directors to retire at age 70 or 72. The Corporate Library, a Portland, Maine, research group, recently calculated that the average American director's age has dropped to 59, down from 61 just four years ago. As modern directors get swept up with late-night conference calls, torrents of email and six-hour audit-committee meetings, it is easy to see why youthful stamina is prized.

“Among the experts who think this antiseniority trend has gone too far is R. Glenn Hubbard, the 49-year-old dean of Columbia Business School in New York. ‘There are so many retired CEOs aged 72 to 80 with all this experience,’ he says. ‘What's more, they've got time available, which active executives don't. It's a shame to lose their expertise’."

(“Business: Recognizing the Value of Older Directors.” George Anders. Wall Street Journal: October 10, 2007. pg. A.2)

TRENDS and trendy: To discern a trend, one needs perspective. To forge a new trend, one may call upon the trendy. The wisdom of the ages; the vigor of youth.

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