Jack Bogle was one of the early adopters of The Blair Leadership Stories Project and sat down with Head of School Chris Fortunato to film his story in 2015.
Inventor of the index mutual fund and founder of The Vanguard Group, Blair Board of Trustees Chairman Emeritus John C. Bogle ’47 was a titan of the financial industry and an extraordinarily dedicated favorite son of Blair Academy. His spirit of innovation, drive to excel and vision for a better future led Vanguard to become the world’s largest mutual fund organization, and he brought those same sterling qualities to 47 years of unparalleled leadership, philanthropy and service to his beloved alma mater.
Mr. Bogle entered Blair as a junior in 1945, together with his twin, David ’47, and following in the footsteps of his older brother, William ’45. A scholarship recipient, Mr. Bogle worked as a headwaiter in the dining hall and distinguished himself as a high honor roll student, editor of The Blair Breeze and ACTA, and class treasurer. He was known for his “ready wit and smile,” and his classmates elected him “best student” and “most likely to succeed” as he graduated cum laude in 1947.
Mr. Bogle credited his Blair teachers with having made a tremendous difference in his life, and his Blair experience propelled him to Princeton University, where he studied economics and wrote his senior thesis, “The Economic Role of the Investment Company.” That pivotal work launched his career in the investment industry, and his ingenuity and dedication to business integrity and hard work brought him to its pinnacle.
Hired at the Wellington Fund upon his magna cum laude graduation from Princeton in 1951, Mr. Bogle rose to become the company’s chairman in 1970. An “extremely unwise” merger—that Mr. Bogle considered his “biggest mistake”—led to his dismissal from Wellington in 1974. However, from there, he founded Vanguard and, in 1975, created the world’s first index mutual fund. His insistence on the superiority of the index fund and his concern for the individual investor were radical departures for the investment industry, but his wisdom has been borne out in Vanguard’s success.
Mr. Bogle served as Vanguard’s chairman and chief executive officer from 1974 to 1996. He retired as chairman in 1999 and then became head of the firm’s affiliate, Bogle Financial Markets Research Center. A prolific writer, he authored 12 books and countless articles, op-eds and features on investing, financial markets and the investment world.
Recognition for his contributions to the financial industry came from many quarters over the past several decades; among the most notable were his designation by Fortune magazine as one of the investment industry’s four “Giants of the 20th Century” in 1999 and his being named one of the world’s 100 most powerful and influential people by Time magazine in 2004. In 2016, the Pennsylvania Society awarded Mr. Bogle its 108th-annual Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement, an award that recognizes leadership, citizenship and contributions to the arts, science, education and industry. Last year, business magnate Warren Buffett described Mr. Bogle, a man who “helped millions of investors realize far better returns on their savings than they otherwise would have earned,” as “a hero to them and to me.”
Even as he invested himself fully in his career and his growing family, Mr. Bogle gave generously of his time, talent and treasure to the institutions he held dear, especially Blair Academy. Inspired by his strongly held values and genuine desire to pay back the gift of his education, he joined Blair’s Board of Trustees in 1972. At that time, Mr. Bogle’s mentor, the late Chairman Emeritus J. Brooks Hoffman ’36, was in the midst of his crucial 16-year Board Chairmanship, a period during which Mr. Hoffman almost single-handedly brought the School from the brink of bankruptcy to firm financial footing. Mr. Bogle deeply admired Dr. Hoffman’s strong, decisive, energetic and good-humored leadership of the Board and his indefatigable quest for financial support. At the conclusion of Dr. Hoffman’s Chairmanship in 1978, the School was poised for the growth that would take place over the next several decades.
Mr. Bogle was elected Board Chair in 1986, a role to which he gave his utmost until 2001; he then served as Chairman Emeritus since 2009. During his Board tenure and especially his Chairmanship, Mr. Bogle built upon the foundation established by Dr. Hoffman and helped to lead an historic School renaissance, characterized by significant campus enhancements, robust admission, a strengthened endowment and expanded programmatic offerings.
Blair’s transcendence to a boarding school of national and international prominence is unequivocally a result of Mr. Bogle’s leadership and the deep loyalty to his alma mater that enabled him to attract great talent to the Board and the School. He was named Blair’s Alumnus of the Year in 1990 and received the School’s inaugural Citation of Merit, its highest honor, that same year. The Citation noted that more than anyone in Blair’s history, Mr. Bogle “embodied the notion that one man can make all the difference.”
Mr. Bogle’s Blair philanthropy encompasses every facet of the School. He is a benefactor of faculty support and teaching excellence through the John C. and Eve S. Bogle Teaching Prize, and his many gifts include those that have generously supported the construction of Bogle Hall, Blair’s science building; Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts; Hardwick Hall, the School’s athletic and activity center; and the Tournament squash court. Especially dedicated to the support of scholarship aid for deserving students, Mr. Bogle established the Bogle Brothers Scholars Program in 1968, which has since provided the gift of a Blair education to nearly 200 students. Mr. Bogle delighted in meeting his scholars at an annual luncheon and kept in touch with many of them long after graduation.
Beyond his involvement at Blair, Mr. Bogle also gave of himself as chairman of the board of the National Constitution Center from 1999 to 2007; as a generous supporter of Princeton University; as a trustee of the American Indian College Fund from 1996 to 2002; and as a leader and member of numerous organizations, including the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received honorary doctorate degrees from more than a dozen colleges and universities.
Mr. Bogle leaves an enduring legacy of care for Blair Academy, one that will live on in his many gifts to the School, his kindness to all he encountered on campus, and his legendary leadership, vision and service as a Trustee. His loving family survives him, including his wife of 62 years, Eve; his brother, William Y. “Bud” Bogle III ’45; six children; 12 grandchildren, including Rebecca Renninger ’04, Molly England ’09 and Christopher St. John ’10; and six great-grandchildren. Mr. Bogle’s twin brother, David C. Bogle ‘47, predeceased him in 1994.