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To Engineering Firm, Death of Leader Gets Very Personal

April 5, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ John Scoville was a warm figure in an often cold corporate world.

He traveled the globe as head of an engineering firm but never grew so distant that he wouldn’t stop by the offices of his junior engineers or greet employees in the hall.

His firm employed hundreds; Scoville knew almost all of them.

Scoville, 64, died with Commerce Secretary Ron Brown when their plane crashed Wednesday in Croatia. Arrangements were under way to replace him as chairman of Harza Engineering Co., but that clearly won’t fill the loss.

``We’re all going to miss him as a person,″ said James Lindell, who worked with Scoville for more than 20 years.

Harza is based at the Sears Tower and, like that architectural behemoth, nearly everything about the firm is imposing. It employs more than 800 people, tackles large-scale projects such as dams in China and had revenue of $105 million last year.

But Scoville _ who worked for Harza for 39 years _ gave the company a close-knit feel that appealed to both employees and clients.

``His approach to people was very uniform _ he didn’t talk down to them,″ said Lindell, who rose from an engineering position to Harza’s board of directors.

Lindell remembered how in his own first year with the company, he worked on a project headed by Scoville.

``I was pleasantly surprised to find that he treated me as a valued person. He respected my opinion,″ Lindell said. ``He was always giving people the confidence they needed from the way he treated people.″

Joanne Tilden, Scoville’s secretary, said that if her boss passed a mail clerk he didn’t know, he’d get the name from her. The next time, Scoville would greet that clerk by name.

On Valentine’s Day, Scoville would carry a big box of candy to the steno pool. At awards functions, he stood at the door to welcome and thank every employee for their contributions to the company. He didn’t always call people to his office; instead, he often stopped by theirs, walking the halls of other floors to stay in touch with his employees.

Tilden had known and worked with Scoville for more than 25 years, but became his secretary only about six months ago. On his travels abroad, she helped him stay in touch with home and even faxed him Chicago Bulls scores.

``He never did forget to be a gentleman and to care about people. I feel very privileged,″ Tilden said, her voice hoarse from the strain of dealing with many calls of concern. ``He loved what he did and didn’t need a lot of accolades.″

Although work continued at Harza on Friday, Tilden said the atmosphere was one of shock.

``On Monday, I’ll still be expecting to see him walk into the door and tell us all about his trip,″ she said. ``I’m going to miss him terribly.″

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