Zane Grey Todd

February 3, 1924November 3, 2013
Obituary of Zane Grey Todd
Zane Grey Todd, 89, retired chairman and chief executive officer of Indianapolis Power & Light Co. and its former holding company, IPALCO Enterprises, died Sunday, November 3, 2013 at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. During the 1980s, Todd played a prominent role in the city’s development, leading the effort to preserve the historic Circle Theatre â€" an undertaking he considered one of his greatest achievements. His leadership tenure at IPL also saw the construction of three major generating stations that continue providing electricity for the city of Indianapolis even today. A distinguished, reserved businessman, few people knew that Todd’s early adult years revolved around the political intrigue and military tension associated with the outset of the cold war in the 1940s. His experiences as a criminal investigator with the Army after the end of World War II served as the model for The Third Man, a 1949 British film starring Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles. The Third Man is widely recognized as one of the top 50 movies of all time. Born on February, 3, 1924, in Hanson, Ky., in the Shake Rag Hills area, Todd’s family lineage can be traced to Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln. Todd’s mother, Kate, was an avid reader and her favorite author was Zane Grey. When her second son was born, she gave him the name of the popular western author. When he was 2 years old, Todd’s family moved to Evansville, Ind., so his father, Marshall, could take a job as an electric lineman for Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Company, today known as Vectren Corporation. As a boy, Todd was an academically gifted student with a remarkable memory. Even in his later years, he said he could remember every day of his life. At the beginning of World War II, Todd graduated from Evansville Central High School and decided to attend George Washington University in Washington, D.C. to pursue a career in law. His objective was to become a lawyer and special agent with the FBI. To earn money to help pay for his education, Todd became a file clerk and then a fingerprint technician with the FBI. He also studied preliminary criminal investigation â€" training that would soon become very useful to him. In 1943, Todd was drafted into the Army, serving with the 9th army, 524th battalion, throughout Europe as a military police officer (MP). After the war ended, he remained in the Army as a sergeant but because of his dual status granted by J. Edgar Hoover he worked as special agent in charge of the criminal investigation division in the American sector of Vienna, Austria. It was in this role that Todd was exposed to the various and often dangerous espionage activities between England, France, Russia and the United States. His most significant investigation involved two American medical officers who were stealing and selling penicillin on the black market. They were aided in their illegal activities by a former Miss Austria, with whom they were living. That case later became the basis for the book and screenplay by Graham Greene, a noted English author and playwright. Greene changed Todd’s â€?"character” from American to British. Although Todd was never credited for the role he played in Greene’s story, the author acknowledged him through Joseph Cotton’s character, who was an American writer of western stories. In the movie, Cotton holds a seminar in Vienna on the books of western author Zane Grey, providing a well-deserved nod to Todd. While in Vienna, Todd worked directly for General William P. Yarborough, later known as the â€?"father of the modern Green Berets.” Todd also worked with General Mark W. Clark, the officer in charge of American occupied Vienna. In 1946, Clark awarded the first Army Commendation Medal to Todd and John S. D. Eisenhower, son of President Dwight Eisenhower. In 1947, Todd resigned from the Army and FBI, and returned to the U.S. to continue his education at Purdue University. After his stint in the military, he decided to change his career path from law to engineering. In 1951, he graduated with â€?"highest distinction,” earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a minor in finance. As Purdue’s top graduate, with a grade average of 5.96 out of 6 points, he had many career doors opened to him. But he applied for a position at only one business â€" Indianapolis Power & Light Company. He was hired in 1951, beginning a career that would span four decades with the electric utility. He was guided in his decision by his father, who had a high regard for the company. At IPL, Todd progressed through several engineering, management and officer positions and in 1975 was named president and chairman of the board. During his tenure, and under Todd’s thoughtful leadership, IPL became known for providing remarkable service at some of the lowest customer prices in the country and for taking a leadership role in the Indianapolis community. Three factors influenced the company’s reputation for excellence. The first was the reliability standards set for customer service. Todd gave much of the credit for the company’s high reliability to his former Purdue classmate and fellow IPL employee, Robert W. Hill, who became president when Todd was named CEO in 1976. Under the leadership of Todd and Hill, the company invested heavily in improving electric reliability, resulting in one of the lowest customer outage records in the country. Another milestone was the early decision by Todd not to invest in the Marble Hill nuclear power plant in Southern Indiana. The plant was first proposed in 1973 by Public Service Indiana (PSI) â€" now a part of Duke Energy â€" and finally abandoned in 1984 when construction costs exceeded original projections by more than $1 billion. Cost overruns were related to construction problems and changing regulatory conditions prompted by the failure of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979. â€?"We were sitting on coal with very little transportation costs. Investing in nuclear power would mean getting involved with technology with which we had little experience. Changes by the nuclear regulatory body were driving up costs. And the public was not supportive of nuclear power at the time â€" linking it with the atom bomb. For those reasons, we decided not to do it,” he once explained. Todd recommended to the IPL board of directors that the company continue to pursue the use of Indiana coal in its generating plants instead of chasing nuclear power. His decision not to invest in Marble Hill prompted Forbes magazine to refer to Todd as the â€?"tortoise of the utility industry.” However, many believe that Todd’s decision helped IPL remain one of the most successful electric utilities in the country, with customer rates that were well below the national average. Under Todd’s leadership, IPL built the E. W. Stout Unit 7 in Indianapolis and Petersburg generating units 3 and 4 in Southern Indiana. The final Petersburg unit went into service in 1986, making it the last base load unit built by the company to date. Today, those three units make up more than half of IPL’s electric generating capacity. The final area in which Todd’s actions had a significant impact on the community was the preservation of the Circle Theatre, today known as the Hilbert Circle Theatre. In 1980, then-commercial real estate broker George Kuhn approached Todd about having IPL buy and renovate the theater for the community. Todd said that since the land ownership dated back to the early 1800s, the seller would need to provide a clear title. When that concern was resolved to Todd’s satisfaction, IPL purchased the building for $800,000. However, it was not Todd’s desire for the electric utility to own the Circle Theatre longterm, but to promote its value for the city and Indianapolis residents. Ultimately, Todd and the board of directors decided that IPL would own the theatre for five years and manage its restoration. Also involved in the historic undertaking were the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO) and its then-president Henry Ryder; Richard DeMars, then-president of Geupel DeMars Inc.; the Historic Preservation Society; and the Commission for Downtown, the predecessor of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. IPL invested nearly $7 million in the theatre’s restoration, and the new home of the ISO opened in October 1984. Five years later, the ISO purchased the Circle Theatre from IPL with funds from the Lilly Endowment, the Krannert Foundation, other founds and donors for $8 million. Without Todd’s vision and the efforts of the community, the Circle Theatre likely would not exist today. On May 1, 1989, Todd retired as chairman and CEO of IPL, remaining on its board of directors until May 1, 1994. Todd’s community activities were significant. He was president of the Indianapolis 500 Festival in 1986; a member of the boards of the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce; the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute; Associated Colleges and Universities of Indiana; Christian Theological Seminary; National City Bank, Indiana; Indiana chairman, U.S. Savings Bonds and the Newcomen Society; and chair of the University of Indianapolis and the St. Vincent Hospital Advisory Board. Nationally, he was a board member of the Conference Board; the National Association of Manufacturers; the Edison Electric Institute; the National Advisory Board of the Salvation Army; American States Insurance Companies; and the General Management Council of the American Management Association. He was the author of several technical papers on electric power system reliability; a fellow of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and national chair of the Technical and Administrative committees of both the IEEE and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; and a Registered Professional Engineer, Indiana. He was listed in Who’s Who in the World. Todd received an honorary doctorate of engineering from Purdue University; an honorary doctorate of human letters from the University of Indianapolis; and was a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, as well as Etta Kappa Nu, the electrical engineering society. He was named a Purdue Distinguished Engineering Alumnus in 1976 and an Outstanding Electrical Engineer in 1992. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Snow, whom he met and married in Evansville in 1950. He is survived by his second wife, Frances A. Todd, who he married on January 4, 1984, and a niece Gayle Inkenhaus, several grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great nieces and nephews.

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