It is with heavy hearts that members of the Baldrige community say farewell to Letitia Baldrige, sister of Malcolm Baldrige, who passed away on Monday, October 29, at the age of 86. In announcing her passing, her son Malcolm Hollensteiner told the Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Inc., that “she loved the board and took such pride in what we have done to carry forward Mac’s legacy."
According to Thomas Schamberger, executive director of the foundation, “I know that each of you share with me your thoughts and offer your prayers to Malcolm and the Baldrige family during this sad time. Each of us have our own special remembrance of Tish, but I know I can speak for all of us when I say —we all were blessed to have worked with her and to have known such a dynamic and wonderful person such as Letitia (Tish) Baldrige. Although she mentioned on several occasions to me and others that she wished she could have done more, we all know she did more than she thought in shaping the Board of Directors and in helping the Baldrige Program achieve the success it has experienced.”
The New York Times calls Letitia “an imposing author, etiquette adviser, and business executive who became a household name as Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House chief of staff.” She was the social secretary of the Kennedy White House as “it emerged as a center of culture, art, youthful elegance, and sparkling state dinners.” She also became an authority on contemporary etiquette, and in the late 1970s, Time magazine “hailed her as the nation’s social arbiter.”
Harry Hertz, director of the Baldrige Program, recalls that “there was no bigger fan of the Baldrige Program than Tish. She was our Washington, D.C. resident cheerleader. She saw us through good times and challenging times, always sharing her grace and support. She loved to tell bawdy tales of Mac Baldrige on the ranch and impressed the examiners with how much he was a ‘regular guy’ with some unique talents. The same can be said of Tish. She was a guru on etiquette; a White House advisor; and the most charming, friendly, and down-to-earth person you could ever hope to know and love.”
But to the Baldrige community, Letitia was just one of the family. She was instrumental in helping to create the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program that was named after her brother Malcolm. She attended countless Award ceremonies and foundation meetings, and she never missed an opportunity to thank the volunteer examiners who worked tirelessly to help U.S. organizations improve through the Baldrige Award process. At a 2007 Examiner Recognition Ceremony, Letitia said, “I want you to know [Malcolm Baldrige] loved you all. After 20 years [of the Program], he would be so proud of you. He worked so hard to make this meaningful. I thank you, and he thanks you.” At a 2003 ceremony, she said to examiners “the real heroes in this place are all of you—you are all wearing halos!”
The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and the entire Baldrige community will miss Letitia’s humorous stories filled with family pride and the enormous support that she gave to everyone who helped to make her brother’s legacy, through the Baldrige Program, something for which we can all feel proud. The Foundation and Baldrige Program, and all who knew her in the community, extend sympathy to her family.