Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA) -- A celebration of life was held in honor of former Hoover Institution director John Raisian, who passed away in April at the age of 73 after battling a long illness.
The ceremonies, presided over by Hoover’s chief external relations officer, Chris Dauer, took place in Hauck Auditorium and included remembrances from colleagues who testified to Raisian’s exemplary leadership and stewardship during his twenty-five years as director of the Hoover Institution. Family and friends, including Raisian’s wife, Claudia Morgan, shared stories about his warmth and generous spirit.
The ceremonies concluded with a performance by Raisian’s son-in-law Carlton Moe of Elton John’s “Your Song,” one of Raisian’s favorite songs.
In her remarks, current Hoover Institution director Condoleezza Rice described how Raisian always prioritized the Hoover Institution over personal interest or prestige. She called him an “institutional player” who used his academic standing and position to attract some of the nation’s leading scholars.
“John loved the Hoover Institution, but more importantly, he loved America,” Rice said. “He wanted Hoover to contribute to America at its best. He knew that America was the most extraordinary experiment in self-governance in human history, but that one could not take its survival or well-being as inevitable.”
Senior Fellow John F. Cogan reflected on his five decades of friendship with Raisian, dating back to their years as economics graduate students at UCLA. The two worked together at the RAND Corporation and in the Reagan administration’s Department of Labor before reuniting at Hoover in the mid-1980s.
Cogan highlighted Raisian’s empathy, noting that he continually went out of his way to support and understand the needs and motivations of his colleagues.
“He derived great pleasure from our successes. And it’s these attributes that made John so beloved by me and by all of you,” Cogan maintained. “John devoted his heart and soul to making Hoover a great research and public policy institution. And he made it a great place to work. What he built here is both remarkable and rare.”
Former Hoover deputy director Richard Sousa recounted joining the Institution at the persistent request of Raisian. He emphasized that thanks to Raisian’s leadership and willingness to take risks, Hoover achieved notable feats that set the Institution apart in the policy research community.
“To his task, he was a very intelligent guy, and he was innovative and creative,” said Sousa.
Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson recalled his experience fundraising across the nation with Raisian, speaking admirably about Raisian’s uncanny ability to connect with donors.
According to Hanson, Raisian would always insist on listening to donors about their interests over his own agenda. Raisian was also committed to honoring the principle of “donor intent,” believing that there was a moral obligation to ensure that donor funds were exclusively allocated in a manner that donors expected.
“John, I think, taught a lot of us about life itself in the gentlest and kindest way I can think of,” Hanson expressed. “I owe any good thing that happened in my life to John Raisian.”
In a video recording from New York, Senior Fellow H.R. McMaster reflected on his two-decade friendship with Raisian, emphasizing the latter’s reputation as a person of immense generosity. McMaster remembered when he arrived at Hoover in 2002 as a National Security Affairs fellow, how warmly he and his family were welcomed by Raisian.
“We hope you know how much we loved John, how much we will miss him, [and] how much we will rededicate ourselves to preserving his legacy, certainly as a scholar, as a director of Hoover, but [also] his legacy as a person, to try to show others the same sort of generous spirit that he showed us,” McMaster told Raisian’s family in his remarks.
Tunku Varadarajan, a former op-ed editor at the Wall Street Journal, discussed Raisian’s determination for the Hoover Institution to have a significant impact on national policy discussions. Varadarajan explained that Raisian encouraged his Hoover colleagues to “climb down from the ivory tower and go out into the public square” to maximize the Institution’s reach.
In pursuit of broadening the Institution’s influence, Raisian established a robust working relationship with Varadarajan. This collaboration ensured that Hoover’s distinguished scholars would be readily available to contribute analysis and commentary on pertinent policy issues facing America in the opinion pages of the Journal.
Varadarajan said that Raisian’s generosity extended to all corners of life. When Raisian ordered his preferred wine at a restaurant, he always would offer a glass to servers to enjoy afterward, Varadarajan recalled.
“John was pragmatic, humane, and approachable,” said Varadarajan. “There isn’t a person in this room who doesn’t have warm and loving memories of John.”
Two Hoover supporters, both of whom have served on the Board of Overseers, also provided remarks. Distinguished Overseer Shirley Cox Matteson said Raisian was a gifted leader and expressed admiration for his aptitude for persuasion. She remembered when Raisian convinced her and her family to endow the economist Edward Lazear with a fellowship named in honor of her father Morris Arnold Cox (a fellowship that later included her mother’s name as well).
Raisian had told Matteson and her family that Lazear would have an award-winning future.
“Eddie was awarded the senior fellowship, which he held until his passing, and did indeed have a stellar career,” Matteson said. “Amy Zegart now holds the fellowship of my parents, demonstrating the ripple effect of John’s leadership.”
Tom Tierney, the former chair of the Board of Overseers, described Raisian as what leadership expert Jim Collins would call, on a scale of one to five, a level-five leader. Level-five leaders are rare, Tierney explained, and are characterized by their humility and fierce resolve.
In describing Raisian’s humility, Tierney echoed Rice by saying that the late director’s commitment to building a high-caliber policy research center was not about his own personal aggrandizement but about generating ideas to advance freedom for America.
Reflecting on Raisian’s fierce resolve, Tierney explained that Raisian was a steady hand who led Hoover for over two decades, enabling the Institution to continually achieve its mission and be built up to what it is today.
“He was going to do the right thing, keep a steady hand, no matter how hard it was,” said Tierney. “He’s a big man, big brain, a bigger heart, and an even bigger spirit.”
The ceremonies closed with remarks from Raisian’s own family, including wife Claudia Morgan, who provided an anecdote about sitting at the breakfast table with Raisian at their home in March 2014. At that moment, she reflected on her husband’s thoughts about the challenges the world was then experiencing.
Despite these challenges, Morgan said, Raisian remained an optimist. America was still strong, he believed. It still had an entrepreneurial spirit and remained the world’s leader in science and technology and a provider of energy solutions with beneficial environmental and geopolitical implications. That morning, Raisian told Morgan that Americans needed to be patient, work hard, and “be supportive of each other so that we can pull our weight and ultimately get to where we want to be.”
“John was deeply intelligent, a visionary and empowering leader,” Morgan concluded. “Unfailingly kind and delightfully silly.”