As Board Chairman Richard B. Worley Prepares to Step Down, We Look Back at His 10-Year Tenure
Richard B. Worley is certainly well known in the world of finance, and in boardrooms of Philadelphia and beyond. His financial prowess and philanthropic generosity are legendary in the donor community. But concertgoers may not be aware of the extraordinary contributions he’s made to their beloved Philadelphia Orchestra over the past decade, during his term as chairman of the Board of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association.
An unsung hero, perhaps?
Orchestra President and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky has no doubt. “He is a hero that should definitely be sung. He is a passionate advocate and tireless fundraiser and has done more to support the Orchestra, together with his wife, Leslie Anne Miller, than almost anyone else.”
Now, as Worley prepares to step down after 10 years at the helm, friends, family, and colleagues are looking back over his remarkable tenure, and, yes, singing his praises unreservedly.
“Rich’s guidance and stewardship of The Philadelphia Orchestra have been very inspiring,” says Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. “He played an important role in my decision to come to Philadelphia. Rich truly loves the Orchestra. This is evident in everything he does and in the way he speaks about the musicians and what music means to him. I’m always thrilled to see him and Leslie at so many of our concerts—in Philadelphia, across the country, and around the world.”
What was Worley’s path to the leadership of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association? Neither he nor his wife is a native Philadelphian. But soon after they both arrived in the city in the late ’70s, they began going to summer Orchestra concerts at the Mann Center, taking advantage of half-price coupons to enjoy the music from the lawn. Miller fondly remembers, “That’s where he and I jointly learned to love the Orchestra.”
Following his appointment as the next music director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin was introduced to Philadelphia with a day-long series of events in June 2010. Here he signs his contract with Worley and then-President and CEO Allison Vulgamore. Photo by Chris Lee
They were married in 1987. As both their careers prospered into rosters of stellar accomplishments (She: first woman to be state president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association; first woman to be Pennsylvania’s general counsel; chair of the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He: Goldman Sachs economist; chairman of Miller Anderson and Sherrerd Investment Management; president and CEO of Morgan Stanley Investment Management), their enjoyment of the Orchestra only deepened. Richard joined the Orchestra’s Board in 1997 and became chairman in 2009.
Perhaps surprisingly for a man with such a successful career, he was initially reluctant to step into the leadership role. What convinced him to take on the challenge?
Miller laughs. “His wife!” Seriously, she adds, “I knew that further involvement in the board of the Orchestra would be good for Richard; I knew that it would be something that he would enjoy, and I also knew that it would be good for the Orchestra. It took some convincing. This wasn’t something that he sought. But I knew it was a perfect time in his life. I kept saying, ‘Richard, you’re going to love this; they need you!’”
Worley and his wife, Leslie Anne Miller, with Yannick and special guest artist Helen Mirren following the Academy of Music 162nd Anniversary Concert in January 2019. Photo by Jessica Griffin
Indeed they did. Less than two years after taking office, Worley had to lead the organization through bankruptcy. Looking back on that now, Miller believes her husband’s greatest satisfaction has been putting the Orchestra on a much firmer financial footing.
“I cannot overstate the role that his good judgment has played. It also took real courage for him to take over the reins of the Board and almost immediately lead them into Chapter 11. There were many sleepless nights. But it was the right thing to do.”
Tarnopolsky also hails Worley’s steady hand on the tiller.
“Rich led The Philadelphia Orchestra through the most turbulent time in its history, and from that has left it in an incredibly strong position. This is no accident; this is the result of dedication, incredible generosity, some exquisite thinking, and the ability to galvanize and inspire a community.”
In a remarkably short time span, Worley led a special fundraising campaign that generated $75 million from many of the Delaware Valley’s leading philanthropists, as well as the Orchestra’s Board members (and himself). Ongoing fundraising has boosted the Orchestra’s endowment to almost $200 million. He’s presided over the successful implementation of two strategic plans. And the Orchestra has enjoyed 10 straight seasons of balanced budgets, an enviable accomplishment in the world of classical music.
Worley, Yannick, and newly announced President and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky in April 2018. Photo by Jessica Griffin
Just last June, the Orchestra announced receipt of a $55-million anonymous gift, the largest in its history, from a California foundation. According to Tarnopolsky, “Rich did more than anyone else to garner this incredible gift for The Philadelphia Orchestra. It’s an act of support that recognizes our readiness to write the Orchestra’s next chapter, and sets us on a path to achieve artistic goals, create an expansive future for classical music, and further the place of the arts in an open and democratic society.”
Sometimes Worley’s generosity has a particular family touch. Miller’s maternal grandfather having been a clarinetist (good enough for an invitation to play with John Philip Sousa), they decided to endow the principal clarinet chair. Its original (and current) occupant, Ricardo Morales, says, “It’s such a great honor, but it also gives me a little extra pressure, knowing you have an endowed chair from the boss!” He laughs. “He’s been a very gentle giant; he’s worked very hard; he’s been very generous with the Orchestra, not only financially but with his time. His patronage hasn’t been patronizing!”
Although he’s a familiar figure backstage at concerts, Worley wasn’t always as knowledgeable about classical music as he is now.
“As chairman, he really fell in love with the Orchestra,” says Miller. “He immersed himself in learning about classical music, as he does whenever he becomes interested in something (for example, collecting antiques and learning about and enjoying wine). He totally immerses himself in his passions, as I’ve observed for almost 40 years.”
When he’s not exercising leadership in the boardroom or taking in a concert in Verizon Hall, Worley can be found pursuing another of his great passions: fly-fishing.
On the Orchestra’s 2019 Tour to China, Worley joined violinist Philip Kates on a visit to the children’s ward of a local hospital in Beijing. Photo by Chris Lee
“He’s a fishing artiste,” says Miller. “I married Richard knowing that fishing was his first love and I was his second. He has focus, tenacity, patience, and ambition when he finds something that he loves. I am not a fisher person, but I will tell you I love to watch Richard cast. It’s truly wonderful to watch!”
Soon, Richard Worley will have a bit more time for fly-fishing, and of course, enjoying concerts and continuing to support The Philadelphia Orchestra as only he can.
Miller sums up her husband’s career with the Orchestra: “He’s worked very hard to imbue everyone in the organization with a sense of responsibility for the ongoing well-being of this jewel in Philadelphia’s cultural crown.”
And as Yannick says, “While he will be missed terribly as chairman, his steadfast leadership will live on in so many ways.”
Steve Holt, managing partner at re:Write, is a veteran journalist and musician.