Community leader, corporate executive, husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and friend to many, Robert Cizik has passed away. Bob Cizik was the second of five sons born between 1927-1941 to Anna and John Cizik.
Bob’s father was a miner in the Scranton, Pennsylvania coal mines, leaving home every day before dawn and returning after dark. His mother took employment in factories when his father was out of work. As first generation Americans of Ukrainian heritage, his parents imparted Old World values to their sons. They learned in a New World environment that every person could realize his dreams if he worked hard enough.
Bob achieved membership in the National Honor Society as a junior in Norwalk High School, Connecticut, a rare honor, while serving on the Society’s nominating and induction committees. Other activities included acting as Manager of Football Ticket Sales, Student Council and Yearbook Staff. To fill his “spare time”, he kept jobs in a local hat factory, and as a newspaper boy, as well as working in the school cafeteria. Bob gave most of his earnings to his parents for family needs. His classmates also voted him “Most Likely to Succeed in the Business World”. Bob’s high school essay about the United States constitution won him $400 which he used for seed money to attend the University of Connecticut. Many people saw promise in Bob and helped him along the way, such as his High School English teacher. She cleaned up his language skills by teaching him that “deese, dems and does” are not acceptable in good society. As always, Bob learned quickly.
Graduating from UConn and the Air Force ROTC with a degree in Accounting and Economics (with high honors) in 1953, Bob then joined Price Waterhouse & Co. as a junior accountant. He and Jane married that same year, as he commuted daily to New York City from Newark, NJ.
The US Air Force summoned him in April of 1954. Two weeks later, Bob found himself in uniform, and in Japan as a Second Lieutenant in the Fifth Air Force accounting office. Near the end of his tour of duty, Bob’s commanding officer encouraged him to further his education via a Master’s Degree at Harvard Business School (HBS, a place he had never heard of). Lt. Cizik took his entrance exams in Tokyo that year, thoroughly intimidated as he was surrounded by young men from Ivy League schools. Six months later back on U.S. soil, Bob learned that he had been accepted into HBS’s Class of 1958. At the time, he and Jane had two young toddlers and another baby on the way.
Jane lovingly recalls the story of how Bob told her as he left for an extended business trip, if she received a “thin” HBS envelope, not to bother calling him, as that would mean his application had been denied. However, should a “fat one” arrive, to track him down immediately, as that one would contain all the needed acceptance information. Upon receiving the hoped-for “fat” envelope, Jane broke down, contacting the Dean of Harvard Business School to explain that there was no feasible way for their young family to afford such an opportunity. Without hesitation, Dean MacArthur graciously replied, “We want you and we’ll take care of you. Please come.” What a contrast to growing up poor, the son of a coal miner.
Bob received his MBA (with High Distinction) in 1958 and was honored for his academic achievements as a Baker Scholar. Upon graduation, he joined Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (Exxon). While there, he learned of an opportunity at Cooper-Bessemer (Cooper Industries) in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. In 1961 Bob accepted the position of Executive Assistant, Corporate Development (a newly created position, since they didn’t know what to call him). Fourteen short years later, Bob reached the top, President and CEO. He served in these positions for the next 20-plus years until his retirement in 1996, adding the title of Chairman along the way. He fondly remembers attending 35 consecutive annual shareholder meetings, then passing on the executive reins and not looking back.
One of his proudest personal accomplishments was spearheading the fundraising and building of the Wortham Theater Center, which opened in 1987 after a 10-year capital campaign; all while he was CEO and Chairman of Cooper Industries. Throughout most of that huge effort, Houston was in a steep economic decline, making raising money even more difficult.
Another proud moment was his support and Chairmanship of the DIFFA gala “Heartstrings” in 1992 (an AIDS fund-raising event). At the time, the AIDS epidemic was not an “accepted” corporate mission. Houston’s corporate community came out in force, donating more than $1,000,000, well above any prior national AIDS benefit, and turning the AIDS issue into an accepted mission for corporate America.
In the same year, Bob also chaired the United Way’s annual Campaign for Houston. The talk of the town was of an incredible, three-story, inflated black gorilla climbing the Transco Tower (Williams Tower) marking, like a thermometer, the weekly increase in donations.
Of everlasting importance to Bob, was education, the arts, medicine and nature. He served as President and Chairman of Houston Grand Opera, and was on the Boards of the Texas Heart Institute and the Hermann Eye Fund. He and Jane established endowed Chairs at the Harvard Business School, UConn and the University of Houston Honors College. Both Bob and Jane provided lead gifts to the Citizens for Animal Protection (Citizens for Animal Protection - Jane Cizik Center), the Hermann Eye Fund (Robert Cizik Eye Clinic), The Women’s Home (Jane Cizik Garden Place) and the University of Texas School of Nursing, (Cizik School of Nursing at UT Health).
Bob passed away peacefully in his home, as he and Jane were about to share a glass of his favorite wine. Yes, Bob also knew his wines. Bob left his full life as he wished, quietly and without fanfare, with Jane at his side. Robert and Jane Morin Cizik shared 65 years of married life. Along with Jane, Bob leaves his brother, Donald; children Robert (Natalie), Jan, Paula (Bill Wade), Greg (Melanie) and Peter (Susan) Cizik; grandchildren, Nico (Celeste), Stephen (Jessi), Adrienne (fiancé Joe Ross), Patrick, Reilly, McKenzie, Nicholas and Cameron Cizik; and great grandchildren, Blake, Clara, Zander (“Z-Man”), Quinn and Finley Cizik.
A celebration of Bob’s life will be held at ten o’clock in the morning on Friday, the 28th of June 2019, in the Cullen Theater of the magnificent arts building he helped build, the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue in Houston. Immediately following, all are invited to continue the celebration of his life in sharing remembrances with the family during a reception in the grand foyer of the Wortham Theater Center. Bring your smiles, your memories and your best Cizik stories.
Kindly note: In an effort to assist guests planning to attend the celebration of life, an RSVP link has been created at http://www.hgo.org/cizik.
Parking is available at the Theater District garage located across the street from the theater. A map of the Theater District parking entrances can be found at www.visithoustontexas.com/theater/parking/. Please note that entrances 7 (Texas at Smith) and 8 (Prairie at Smith) are closest to the theater. Entrance 6 is under construction and is not open. Additional parking can be found at the Lyric building garage (Smith at Prairie). If you have any questions, please email [email protected] or call 713-228-6737.
Prior to the service, the family will have gathered for a private interment at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.
In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions in Bob’s name be directed to Friends for Life Shelter, 107 East 22nd Street, Houston, TX, 77008, honoring his favorite cat, Samantha, who sat in his lap all afternoon on his last day of life; or to the Houston Audubon Society, 440 Wilchester Blvd., Houston, TX, 77079; or to the charity of one’s choice.