Obituary for Ramon Humke
Ray Humke, Community Leader and Former IPL President,
Ramon (Ray) L. Humke, 80, highly-respected community leader and former president and chief executive officer of Indiana Bell Telephone Co. and later president and chief operating officer of Indianapolis Power and Light Co. (IPL), passed away Tuesday, Dec. 18, after a brief illness.
Mr. Humke was chairman of the board of directors of Meridian Mutual Insurance Group, Inc. and Meridian Mutual Insurance Company. He was chairman of Monument Advisors, Inc., an Indianapolis-based venture capital firm, and a director of the Bank One Advisory Board, LDI Management, Inc. and State Auto Financial Group, along with the boards of IPALCO Enterprises, Inc. and IPL.
A celebration of life service will be held at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 27. There will be no visitation. Arrangements are being handled by Indiana Funeral Care and Crematory in Indianapolis. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, 32 E. Washington Street, Suite 600, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
During his business career, Mr. Humke championed the responsible growth and development of the city and state. He was the chairman of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and commissioner of the Chamber’s 180-member Infrastructure Commission that studied the city’s plan to meet the needs of future growth.
He was involved with many civic, charitable and cultural organizations. He was chairman of the Economic Club of Indianapolis, the Corporate Community Council, the United Way of Central Indiana, the Indianapolis Symphony Society, the 500 Festival Associates and the Economic Club. He was a director of Indianapolis Downtown Inc., the Indianapolis Project, Inc., the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association and the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, among many others.
He brought to his non-profit roles a much-needed sense of fiscal responsibility and business acumen. Additionally, he and his wife, Carolyn, were generous contributors of their time and financial resources to worthy causes.
“Ray was a gift to Indianapolis - a classic leader who understood that his role was as much about helping the community as it was about being a successful businessman,” said John Myrland, pastor of the McCordsville United Methodist Church and former president of the Indianapolis Chamber. “Over the years, his name became synonymous with community service.”
Mr. Humke arrived in Indianapolis in 1983 to assume the leadership of Indiana Bell during the last year the company was part of an
ATandT-controlled local telecommunications system. In 1984, Indiana Bell became part of Ameritech Corp. with Mr. Humke remaining as president until 1989 when he was named president and chief executive officer of Ameritech Services and moved to Chicago.
During his time in Indianapolis, Mr. Humke had grown to love the city and its people. After leaving, he realized how much he missed the community and the friends he and his wife had made. Shortly after arriving in Chicago, he received a phone call from John Hodowal, who had just assumed leadership of Indianapolis Power and Light Co. The two men met in a northside Indianapolis restaurant to finalize an arrangement that would bring Mr. Humke back to the city as IPL president and vice chairman of IPALCO Enterprises.
In a memo on his pending retirement from the communications industry, Mr. Humke commented on his departure from Ameritech: “The decision to leave a company with which I have been so proudly associated for 38 years was difficult. My deep roots into the Indianapolis community were obviously key to my decision.”
Mr. Hodowal said Chicago’s loss was Indianapolis’ gain. Reflecting on his 11-year partnership with Mr. Humke, he said: “If someone was to ask me what the most important business decision I ever made, I would say it was the hiring of Ray Humke. He never disappointed me. He was always at the top of the game, which made the company perform at the top of its game.”
The Humke/Hodowal years at IPALCO were highly successful on several fronts. The company had a strong community presence, employed a workforce in excess of 2,000 and took good care of its more than 400,000 customers. Through their careful management, electric rates in Indianapolis remained among the lowest in the country, even as IPL’s power reliability was high.
While Mr. Hodowal was the visionary, Mr. Humke was the no-nonsense operational leader who kept a close eye on costs and pressed workers to “spend the company’s money like it was their own.”
IPALCO shareholders also benefited from the two men’s approach to a management style that served all stakeholders. For the five years ending Dec. 31, 1998, IPALCO was the number one company among all investor-owned electric utility companies in the United States for creating wealth for shareholders.
Shortly after Indianapolis Power and Light was sold to the AES Corporation in 2001, Mr. Humke retired. But several months later, he reached out to the incoming CEO Ann Murtlow to help smooth her introduction to the city and her new position. It was not unusual of him to give generously of his time and talent to those who requested it.
“Ray was such a great man - smart, dedicated, caring and of the highest integrity,” said Ms. Murtlow, who retired as IPL head in 2011. “I have counted him as a mentor, advisor and friend during my 10 years in Indianapolis. He will be sorely missed but very fondly remembered.”
While the years he spent in Indianapolis were important to him, Mr. Humke was equally proud of two other aspects of his career life.
The first was the period from 1953 to 1956 when he was a 1st Lieutenant in the U. S. Army, stationed primarily in Germany. He credited his three years in the military with teaching him the basics of leadership and instilling in him a sense of discipline. He had great respect for the men and women who serve in the armed forces, and enjoyed sharing his military experiences with other veterans.
He was also deeply moved by IPL’s involvement in the construction of the Medal of Honor Memorial in downtown Indianapolis. The company invited Medal of Honor recipients to participate in the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade in 1999 and to be celebrated at a memorial built in White River State Park to commemorate their heroic deeds. Mr. Humke played an important role in planning the Medal of Honor activities and spoke at the dedication of the national memorial.
The second aspect - and perhaps the most important - was the nearly 40 years he spent in the communications business.
He was just 19 years old when he saw an ad in the Quincy, Illinois, newspaper for a job at Illinois Bell Telephone Co. He accepted the position of commercial representative, which included the task of collecting money from pay telephones. He would rise from these humble beginnings to become a senior leader within the powerful telecommunications company. He held many positions in Illinois and at ATandT in New York City. Upon the breakup of ATandT in the mid 1980s, Mr. Humke became one of the founding officers of Ameritech.
In 1985, he was named international president of the Telephone Pioneers of America, a service organization made up of current and retired telecommunications employees across the U. S. and Canada. He considered it a great honor and was pleased to share his message about the importance of community service with his fellow telecommunications workers.
Mr. Humke was born On November 19, 1932 in Quincy, Illinois. His parents, Elmer and Flossie Humke, were primarily farmers and their son enjoyed working with the farm animals and helping his father in the fields.
As a boy, he accompanied the little neighbor girl, Carolyn Jacobs, to class on her first day of school. The two were to be reintroduced many years later, and on November 20, 1954 were married in Quincy. Their partnership was an extraordinary one, lasting for nearly 60 years.
Mr. Humke once credited his wife with making it much easier for him to have a successful career. “She moved willingly through many job transfers. She was supportive and helpful and a great mother to our son. She was a rock who was always there for me,” he said fondly.
The Humkes’ son, Steven, is an attorney with Ice Miller in Indianapolis. He and his wife, Lisa, live in Zionsville, Indiana. Their granddaughter, Rachael, is a student at Duke University.
During his lifetime, Mr. Humke received numerous recognitions. He was a recipient of the U. S. Treasury Medal of Merit and the recipient of a Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Indianapolis. He was named Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Frank O’Bannon in 2000, Governor Evan Bayh in 1989 and Governor Robert Orr in 1987.
Mr. Humke was inducted into the Indiana Academy in 1996. In 1993, he received the Good Scout Award from the Crossroads of America Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He received the Americanism Award from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in 1991. He was awarded the Benjamin Harrison Medallion for public service in 1990 and in 1989 received the Charles Whistler Award for community service.
He was a member of the Lighthouse Methodist Church in Boca Grande, Florida, where he and his wife lived during the winter months. He was also a member and former director of the Crooked Stick Golf Club. He enjoyed wilderness hiking and playing golf. One of his favorite souvenirs was an autographed photograph of himself and golfer Arnold Palmer after the two played in a pro-am tournament together.
Mr. Humke had a wonderful sense of humor and was much loved by his family and many friends. He was a proud father and loving husband. His contributions were numerous. He was a man of integrity who lived a good life and helped many people along the way. His memory will live on in the hearts of all who knew and treasured him.