Joe Voci Story

Arthur D. Little Management Education Institute

Arthur D. Little, Inc. did many unusual things, including starting a school. Likely that school was the first started and run by a for-profit corporation. ADL had a contract with the Department of State’s Agency for International Development (aka. USAID). The contract was to organize and operate the Nigerian Industrial Development Managerial Training Program. Initially the program was run in Nigeria, but moved to Acorn Park for what appears to be a combination of reasons. One reason was that students were distracted in Nigeria. The other was affected by General Gavin’s concern for the developing world. Thus, during the period of 1963 to 1964, General Gavin with Harland Riker and Joseph Voci started the Management Education Institute (MEI).  Joe’s was only slightly involved in the Nigerian program, but very involved in MEI. The purpose of the MEI was to prepare people from the developing world to run government agencies and private industries. MEI was officially accredited by the New England Association of Schools and College in 1976 and became the Hult International Business School in 2003.

Joseph John Voci (1924 to 2009)  

In May of 1979, Ilse Goesman Voci married the very handsome Joe Voci in Gloucester, MA. They had 30 very happy years together. She met Joe in Dar es Salaam and often traveled with him. Joe died peacefully on February 14th, 2009 in Sarasota, Florida, where Ilse and Joe spent his last years. He is buried at the Sarasota National Cemetery, where Ilse will someday join him. Joe left behind Ilse, as well as 5 children, and 11 grandchildren from a previous marriage. All of his children are doing very well. Ilse has had an interesting and full career of her own. She had worked in the German Foreign Service and at 47 became a freshman at Brandeis to get her masters’ and bachelors’ degrees in German Literature.  Today, one of her favorite pass times in Florida is croquet–but her voice also told a story of how much she misses Joe. To my mind, Ilse’s and Joe’s story is an ADL love story.

In May 2009, Ilse, with help from Vern Hendersen, Nancy Hendrigane, and Martha White, had a “life celebration” at Hult International School. About 60 people (mostly ADLers) attended party. Joe had often talked about such events and Ilse made sure that the celebration happened.Joe Voci joined the Navy right out of high school in 1942. He served in the South Pacific with the Command Service Squadron. He received his BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Northeastern University in 1949. Joe worked at ADL from 1951 to 1983. He was one of MEI’s best teachers and its president for 11 years. Much of his time was spent abroad, including Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. Travel took him away from his family a lot, but travel was a frequent event for all ADLers and something we all hated/loved. Ilse described him as fiercely dedicated to ADL and quite vocal about that dedication. He helped many ADLers and got help from many others. In 1968, Joe established an ADL subsidiary in Brazil:  Arthur D. Little, LDA. Soon after, General Gavin thought that an ADL Business Training Program for African students could become a full management school. Joe was key to the success of that school (MEI); he and his colleagues worked tirelessly for years to achieve accreditation to grant a Master of Science degree in Management from ADL MEI. In 1980, while teaching at MEI and presiding over it, he was asked to help starting a consulting venture in Riyadh with the Saudi government. That trip turned out to be somewhat adventurous (see story below). Ilse noted that the Brazil and Saudi creations were his “crown jewels”, but his love was MEI. During the Summer of 2008, he was at the Hult School with many students sitting around him and listening to Joe tell them about the first years of MEI.  Hult now is quite different from the MEI of the past. Joe flourished in the admiration of a good audience.


One of Joe’s colleagues, Jim Staikos, sent us the following remembrance:


“Joe Voci was a personality — an irrepressible personality who could always be counted on for his sense of garrulous humor, a wisecrack remark or two, and an infectious laugh.


Over the years Joe and I had found ourselves working simultaneously, though not together, on projects in a variety of unlikely places — in Nigeria, in Saudi Arabia, in Brazil, to name just a few.  But the one assignment we worked on together took place in Tripoli, Libya.  We were there for about three weeks.  It was the pre-Gaddafi era, and more specifically we were there during the final year of King Idris’ reign.  Shortly thereafter, in 1969, the king was deposed, and Muammar Gaddafi took over.


After business hours we typically explored the various corners of Tripoli.  One day, walking casually along a busy main street, Joe suddenly turns to me, and with a sense of awe in his voice loudly announces  “Jim, do you realize, with the size of your nose and the size of mine, nobody’s noticing us. They think we’re one of them!”


Our various explorations extended eastward to the ruins of that marvelous old Roman town of Leptis Magna.  Located on the Mediterranean coast about 65 miles from  Tripoli, Leptis Magna was an important commercial center during the latter years of the Roman Empire.  It was focused on the substantial agricultural activity of then fertile North Africa.  Today we can view some of the world’s finest remains of Roman architecture.

Following completion of the assignment in Tripoli and just before our departure, we submitted our project invoice to the Ministry of Finance.  It was graciously received and immediately paid — in Libyan dinars, the only currency available.  But we really didn’t want payment in dinars — not too useful an international currency at the time.  Joe and I conferred, generated a brilliant idea, took the funds being offered and headed for the local TWA office.  This was still the period during which airline customers could readily reschedule their trips with minimum cost or bother.  Joe and I prepared a list of colleagues who, like us, were actively engaged internationally and who traveled abroad frequently.  Using the local cash just earned, we purchased a round-the-world airline ticket for each of our ADL colleagues – about ten or twelve of them, as I recall – to the total sum of our Libyan earnings.  On return to Cambridge we distributed the tickets to the surprised recipients and — and after explanations and some shaking of heads — negotiated a credit arrangement to our project’s financial account.


In more recent years we would meet at annual ADL Florida reunions.  It was always reassuring to hear Joe’s irresistible laughter in the room, and to trade war stories and adventures.  His intelligence, quick wit and larger than life character made Joe one of the brightest sparks to light up the years at ADL.  “


Yet another of Joe’s colleagues, Kamal Saad, writes:

“Joe was so special in so many ways!  Where to start? I first met Joe in Tripoli, Libya in 1966. It was my first week with Arthur D. Little and I had been asked to join him and Jim Staikos on a business development visit to the then Kingdom. I remember saying to myself that I was indeed lucky to join a firm with such extraordinarily positive personalities.

A few years later I met him for the second time by chance, in the corridor at Acorn Park, Cambridge where Harland Riker and I were discussing how I was to cope with a major problem on our Saudi project. When Joe discovered I was in trouble, he immediately offered to help and proceeded to spend three days and three nights helping me — literally out of the goodness of his heart. The result was an outstandingly positive project outcome.

I have two pictures to offer, both of which reflect his wonderfully outgoing personality and irrepressible smile. Both were taken at the Florida Alumni Reunion in 2008.

Joe Vocia and Kamal Saad


Florida Reunion, 2008

Ilse sent us a story written by Joe for Ivars Avots’ book “The Legacy of a Sow’s Ear, The Rise and Fall of Arthur D. Little, Inc.”, 2004. Joseph’s story exemplifies an ADLer’s traveling woes and wins.


One Never Knows! How it Ends…..A story from Joseph J. Voci (1925 to 2009)


A popular ADL executive and I met by chance at Logan Airport heading for London on the same flight. He was off to our London office while I was reconnecting the next morning to Riyadh on Saudia Airways. I suspect that the airline was amply alerted of the executive’s travel plans, because at the check-in counter he was identified and instantly moved up to the top deck of our 747. When he pointed out that he was with a member of his staff traveling in economy class and would like to use the airtime for business talks with him; I was directed straight up to the pleasures of upper class travel.


At some two hours out on our flight, we got word from the captain that a mechanical problem had developed which required our return to Logan. The crew passed the word that we had to be especially prepared  for a rough landing: no drinks, pens out of pockets, heads to the knees, life preservers at the ready, straps secured, etc.. This scene caused a great deal of fright and confusion to the person seated next to our executive. She happened to be a Saudi woman anxious to return to her family in Jeddah. Our ADL executive calmed her fears and helped her through the landing ordeal, which, luckily ended without mishap. She was now stressed out over the train of difficulties she might have to face alone in the event that her travel schedule was interrupted: lodgings, baggage, communicating  with her husband, plane reservations and such, all of which had to be attended to. Our kindly executive pledged his full assistance and that of his associate (that was me, seated several rows to the rear). I was also on her Saudia flight to Ryadh. By the time we  took off from Logan again, we were running very late. We were certain we would miss the Saudia flight, which piled up a whole new set of worries for our Saudi traveler to cope with.


This also meant that the courteous offer of guardianship by our executive would now fall smack onto the lap of  a moi! At Heathrow our executive wished us Au Revoir, with fair well wishes for our Saudi lady’s comfort and her safe return home.  Now, me –alone –with a Saudi woman –stranded in London, I conjured up fearful thoughts of my own fate, not the least the image of “Chopping Block Square”.


My first act was to get a booking on the next earliest carrier to anywhere in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The only flight available the next day was with Mideast Airways, a direct flight to Beirut with a connection to Jeddah and Riyadh. Our baggage was checked from Boston through to our final destinations and, hopefully, we would find them waiting for us at Saudia’s terminal. We had only carry-ons to deal with for the rest of the journey. Mideast Air booked rooms for us at a large airport hotel where I prepared a fax for her Saudi husband giving the new arrival schedule and the cause for the long delay. At our dinner in the hotel we reviewed the routine for the next day, especially getting our flight on time.  Mideast Air left punctually

for Beirut the next morning.


Over Beirut, however, the plane circled – at it seemed -forever until we got the word that all planes were being diverted to other airports because of stubborn weather conditions. Cairo was chosen as our alternative landing stop. The captain turned South-West, and prayed that there was still enough fuel for the ride. It now was late at night and somewhere over the Mediterranean. It was then that we got word that-for a third time during our journey – we had a delay problem of some sort. The Cairo landing was out of the question due to violent sand storms.


About that time I could have used some help from our executive friend as

my Saudi charge was again off the roof. After much commotion we learned that there was enough thrust left in the engine to make Abu Dhabi, and we were assured that all was well for landing. We were finally on the ground at Abu Dhabi at 2 am on the second day of our venture. The airport services were down at that early morning hour and we were unable to book passages to Saudi ports until later that day. There was little space at the airport to accommodate the gang off the Mideast flight. So, our lady rested on a bench and I on the floor until we were able to book our flights with Saudia and send a fax to her Saudi husband with the arrival time.


About noon I boarded the Saudia flight with a woman in full Saudi dress and who now was showing a very happy face. I parted the flight in Riyadh with many blessings and much gratitude for my assistance to her and with best wishes to our executive.


The next episode, a few months later, takes place at a leading Ministry where we find a team of ADLers busy with a proposal of considerable scope and duration. On the Minister’s side was a visitor, a Prince of the Royal family. During the session the prince asked some ADLers if they knew (he named) me and our executive (always a risky question at this crucial stage of the negotiation!). They courteously admitted knowing the characters. The prince went on to tell of his wife’s recent travel experience and of our escorting her safely home from Boston. He remarked that he was pleased to have our company’s assistance at the Ministry. There was little else needed by the Governor to strengthen our relation with the Ministry and pave the way for a prosperous business relationship.



Joseph Voci with Saudi clients.