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Giorgio: Arthur Chase: My Friend and My Kind of Republican

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

 

This week the Massachusetts Republican Party lost two of its old war horses, former United Sates Senator Edward Brooke and former Worcester State Senator Arthur Chase. Both epitomized the Republican Party of yesterday. Both men were fiscally conservative and socially liberal. They both left behind admirers in both parties. Much will be written about US Senator Edward Brooke who was the last Massachusetts Attorney General to be elected to higher office and the first African American since re construction to hold a seat in the United States Senate.

Arthur Chase was a man from a different time. He was an up from the bootstrap businessman who started a multi-million dollar business in the family’s spare bedroom while still in high school. Chase Paper had its humble beginnings in a Vernon Hill three decker. Eventually the company employed hundreds of people. Later, Arthur started a second company Checkerboard Ltd, a leader and innovator in its field. Arthur’s son Micah is carrying on his father’s legacy at the company, which he now heads.

I Learned About Business

Besides being one of the best businessmen I knew, Arthur Chase was the consummate politician. He was always the gentleman in both business and politics and he taught me much about both .He taught me that if you give your word in business-keep it-even if it means you miscalculated and lost money, because by doing that you will earn a customer and keep him for life.

He also taught me that you can disagree about an issue but not be disagreeable. This is one lesson I still struggle with.

I met Arthur Chase in 1977, when he first ran for School Committee. I read about his positions in the paper. Here was a West side Jewish businessman who was running for the Worcester School Committee because the kids in Great Brook Valley weren’t getting the education they deserved. Arthur finished 7th in the primary, but he listened to me, a 26 year old kid from the East side of Worcester. He finished first in the General Election that November.

Arthur later went on to serve 3 terms on the City Council as a Councilor- at -large. While some disagreed with him, they all listened to him. He came to every Council meeting prepared-he did his homework.

After serving on the Council, Arthur Chase ran for the State Senate as a Republican. He held the seat for three terms. Winning a seat that was held by the Democrats since 1962 and has been held by a variety of Democrats since he left.

Billy Bulger Never Warmed Up to Him

Chase never quite hit it off with Senate President Bill Bulger, to no one’s surprise. The autocratic Bulger had little use for the independent minded Chase. In fact, Arthur Chase often found himself at odds with members of his own party.

Although a fiscally conservative Republican businessman, Chase was a liberal on social issues and was an early supporter of Women’s Rights and Civil Rights for all. Arthur Chase was a strong believer in education, whether it was on the School Committee or the City Council and he took that passion to Beacon Hill.

Founder of the Massachusetts Math & Science Academy

His crowning achievement was the creation of the Massachusetts Math & Science Academy at WPI. This publicly funded high school at WPI takes the best and the brightest students. Long before there was talk about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math); Arthur Chase put together a school to do just that. It has been operating for 23 years and up until his death, Arthur Chase was still involved with it.

In fact the last time I saw Arthur Chase was at The Math & Science Academy, where they were dedicating a portion of the school in his honor. I was shocked to see how frail he had become. He was in a wheelchair, but when he spoke, the Arthur Chase I knew was speaking. His voice was strong and steady. It was strong because he was talking about the thing he loved most after his family-he was talking about opportunity and education and how they are linked.

Arthur Chase was a real Mensch and he will be missed.

 

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