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In Memoriam: Arthur Sloane

Photo courtesy of University of Delaware Archives

Community remembers long-time professor who was an expert in labor relations

Editor’s note: Robert L. Paretta, an associate professor of accounting at the University of Delaware’s Lerner College of Business and Economics, wrote an op-ed, reprinted here, that appeared in the Wilmington News Journal in remembrance of his long-time friend Arthur A. Sloane, professor emeritus of industrial relations at UD who died on June 3 — two weeks short of his 88th birthday. Dr. Sloane is survived by his loving wife, Louise, and his daughters, Amy and Laura. A private burial ceremony was held in Boston. A memorial gathering in his honor will be held at a later date. Contributions may be made to The Roxbury Latin School at 101 Saint Theresa Ave., West Roxbury, MA 02132 or the University of Delaware at University of Delaware Development Office: 83 East Main St., 3rd floor, Newark, DE 19716 (memo line: In Memory of Arthur Sloane).


Arthur A. Sloane, professor emeritus of industrial relations, was a serious scholar with a sense of humor who was devoted to his colleagues and students at the University of Delaware’s Lerner College of Business and Economics.

He joined the UD faculty in 1966 and served until his retirement in 2000. He earned numerous awards for his teaching.

Art and his coauthor Fred Whitney wrote the leading textbook in the field of labor relations. Labor Relations by Sloane and Whitney was used at virtually every major college and university in the country during its long run of 13 editions.

Arthur Sloane
Arthur Sloane joined the faculty in the Lerner College of Business and Economics in 1966, retiring in 2000, when he was given the designation professor emeritus in recognition of his distinguished service to the University.

When construction began nearly 50 years ago on Purnell Hall, the first building to house the then-College of Business and Economics, a copy of an early edition of that textbook was placed beneath its cornerstone.

Many years later, Art wrote Hoffa, the definitive book on Jimmy Hoffa’s rise to power in the labor movement. He was interviewed numerous times on national television about Hoffa, especially when rumors of the location of his body appeared in the news.

Every interviewer would inevitably ask Art where he thought Hoffa’s body was buried. He would respond that he did not know, but would discuss a few theories.

When faculty colleagues asked the same question, he would repeat what he told TV interviewers but added the assurance that Jimmy Hoffa was not buried anywhere beneath Purnell Hall.

Art was famous for his sense of humor. He was a great fan of P.G Wodehouse since childhood and adopted that style of subtle humor to enlighten and entertain all he met.

Below are a few examples.

A native of Boston, he earned a BA from Harvard College, MBA from Columbia University and DBA from Harvard Business School. He was an avid fan of Harvard football. His wife, Louise, shared that he proposed to her after a Harvard football victory and speculated that might not have happened had Harvard lost.

If someone asked who he would root for if Harvard ever played a football game against Delaware, he would smile and say, “The team of the school that was paying me.”

Some years ago, a young man joined our faculty fresh from completing his doctorate. He knew building relationships with senior people was important to his career. One of our senior colleagues at that time was a well-respected man, but without knowing him, appeared to be a very standoffish, somber person.

Anxious to succeed and make friends, the young man asked Sloane to provide some insight into the serious senior man before he dared approached him. Art said, “He’s a fine person, excellent in his field, always helpful, but when he laughs dust comes out of his mouth.”

When a faculty colleague announced he would married soon, Art congratulated him and shared a piece of sage advice. He said to always remember the key to a successful marriage was good communication.

When asked how best to put that into practice, Art thought for a moment and said, “If a question begins with 'who, what, why, when, where or how,' the best answer is always, 'I don't know.'"

Dr. Sloane also appreciated the humor of others. It was a rare treat to sit at his table for lunch on campus at the now-closed Blue and Gold Club. While all were welcome, seating was limited so regulars knew to arrive early. What the meals might have lacked in culinary sophistication, they more than made up for in stimulating and entertaining conversation.

Everyone at the table contributed and Art laughed heartily at what others said, filling in the gaps when appropriate.

After retiring from the University, he devoted all his energy to his love of humor and published his 2001 book, Humor in the White House: The Wit of Five American Presidents. It focused on the humor of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

He limited his book to these five because he felt other presidents showed little talent for humor.

Paraphrasing the popular mid-20th century comedian Fred Allen’s observation on sincerity in Hollywood, Sloane stated in the introduction of this book, “You could take all of the genuine humor ever shown by most of the 42 chief executives of our country, put it in a flea’s navel, and still have room left over for six caraway seeds and a media consultant’s heart.”

One of his favorite examples of presidential humor occurred when Dorothy Parker, the famous literary personality, was seated next to President Coolidge at a dinner and said to him, “I made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you.” Coolidge’s quick-witted response was, “You lose.”

But Sloane told us that Parker, quick-witted herself, eventually got her revenge. Upon being told years later that former President Coolidge, popularly know as “Silent Cal,” had passed away, she said, “How could they tell?”

Arthur A. Sloane will primarily be remembered as a loving husband and father, but also as an unfailing friend, valued colleague and gentleman. All at the Lerner College of Business and Economics will miss him.

As Mark Twain said: “The human race has only one effective weapon, and that is laughter.”

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