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Worthy, James C.


James Carson Worthy, businessman, professor, and public servant, was born January 8, 1910 in Midland, Texas. After growing up in the southern Chicago suburb of Glenwood, Illinois, Worthy entered Northwestern University's College of Liberal Arts in 1929 as an Austin Scholar. Worthy was a member of the first class to receive this prestigious four-year scholarship, awarded to students exhibiting excellence in “scholarship, leadership, character, and health.” In 1931, Worthy was admitted to Northwestern's School of Commerce, Class of 1933.

Reflecting his belief that businessmen should assume active roles in civic affairs as well as in the corporate world, Worthy's professional life after college alternated between the public and private spheres. He was recruited from Northwestern to work as Assistant Deputy Administrator for the National Recovery Administration, a position he held from 1933 until 1936. He spent the next several years working in private industry, most notably for Sears, Roebuck & Co, where he was actively involved in optimizing worker conditions and employee morale. Beginning in the Personnel department, Worthy stayed at Sears from 1938 to 1953 before being called back to public service as President Eisenhower's Assistant Secretary of Commerce from 1953 until 1955. A return to Sears followed when Worthy was offered a position as Vice President, a job he filled, along with the presidency of the Sears Roebuck Foundation, until 1961. His experience and knowledge of the business world led him to become a managing partner and Chicago branch director of Cresap, McCormick & Paget, an international management consulting firm. One of his clients at Cresap was Control Data Corporation. After leaving Cresap, Worthy began a teaching career as Professor of Management, first at newly formed Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois at Springfield) from 1972 to 1978 and then at Northwestern's Kellogg Graduate School of Management from 1978 to 1998. At Northwestern he revisited his association with the Austin Scholars by serving as the program's Senior Fellow.

Worthy wrote several books, including "Big Business and Free Men (1959); Shaping an American Institution: Robert E. Wood and Sears, Roebuck" (1984), a history of the company and its innovative president; William C. Norris: Portrait of a Maverick (1987), a study of Control Data Corporation's founder; "Lean But Not Mean: Studies In Organization Structure" (1994), and "The Austin Scholarships, A History" (1979, rev. 1994). Worthy also gave innumerable speeches and authored a multitude of reports about management. His memoirs, "Recollections of a Many-Favored Life", were self-published in 1998.

Aside from his professional achievements, Worthy was involved in many political and educational organizations. An active member of the Republican Party, he served as Co-Chair of the United Republican Fund of Illinois and Citizens for Eisenhower-Nixon and represented Illinois as a Delegate to the 1960 Republican National Convention. He was also appointed by President Kennedy to a bipartisan committee to study campaign finance reform and by Mayor Richard J Daley to a bipartisan committee to bring one or both of the national conventions to Chicago-attempts that resulted in Chicago's hosting the 1960 Republican National Convention and the 1968 Democratic National Convention. A steadfast supporter of academics, Worthy also served as Dean of Fellows to the Academy of Management and as a member of the Illinois State Board of Higher Education.

Worthy married Mildred Louise Leritz (Northwestern University Class of 1934) in 1934. The couple had one child, Joan, in 1939; a graduate of Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Class of 1966, Joan Worthy Barr was mayor of Evanston from 1985 to 1993.

James Worthy passed away on November 4, 1998 in Evanston.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Austin Scholarship Program Records

Identifier: 12/3/4
Abstract F.C. Austin Scholars are selected from students at Northwestern Unviersity's Kellogg School of Management (including its earlier incarnations) "because they have demonstrated exceptional leadership in academic and professional endeavors, and show promise of future leadership". The Records of the Austin Scholarship Program (for years from 1929 into the 1990s) consist of historical/biographical materials, administrative files, and student-related files.
Dates: 1928-1994