Bill O'Brien: 1943 - 2008

A tribute to Bill O'Brien

The program began on schedule and the dialogue went as follows: “Good afternoon, my name is Bill O’Brien and I am a bureaucrat.” It immediately became apparent that the standard rules of seminar attendance did not apply. The first order of business was to appoint a time keeper. This person was arbitrarily enlisted from the front of the room to advise The Fed when 15 minutes were remaining and then to provide the cue to finish after the required time had elapsed. Within the first few minutes there was no doubt that audience participation was not only encouraged but expected and averting ones eyes would almost always result in placing the perpetrator direct in the line of fire. At the conclusion, I had learned considerably more than I anticipated and the objectives of the seminar had been accomplished.

I made a point to join the line of participants waiting to thank Bill for his efforts — plus I wanted to get his contact information as it would be valuable in the future.

About a month later a question came up that I thought would warrant a call to Washington. After the obligatory four rings, a voice message came on saying this was in fact the desk of Bill O’Brien and he was not currently available but please leave a message. My expectation of a return call was not extraordinarily high as I still halfway thought of this man as a traditional government employee. To my delight, he did call and once again my question was answered with the same high degree of professionalism.

I had the opportunity to work with O’Brien on numerous occasions over the years and have come to appreciate his wisdom and dedication to our profession. He was a capable wordsmith with a keen ability to see through the fluff and focus on what was truly important.

My only point of contention with O’Brien over the years was his self-proclamation as a bureaucrat. I can honestly say: No, Bill, you never were part of the bureaucracy — in fact, you have always been one of us and your memory will be kept alive through the programs you championed.

Thank you for your vision and insight.

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