Obituary: Ray H. Siegfried
Published: October 9, 2005 / Author: Mendoza College
Ray H. Siegfried II, died at 62 on October 6, 2005, after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Siegfried, chairman of the privately held NORDAM Group, grew the company from a bankrupt acquisition with eight employees in 1969 into one of the largest independently owned aerospace companies in the world.
Despite his illness, Siegfried remained engaged in the
day-to-day business activities and decisions of NORDAM. He enjoyed sharing his entrepreneurial spirit and vision in his sessions with company management, stakeholders and his many industry friends. He was active each day during his personal struggles, and provided us hope, pride and a humbling example of how to make the most of each day that God gives you. His actions, faith, and desire to succeed propelled him until the very end. Only this summer, he toured company facilities and led all-hands meetings, and was very much an inspiration to his family, friends and NORDAM stakeholders. He lived to watch the company prosper and rebuild itself during the difficult economic times faced in the post-9/11 economic recession.
Siegfried was born in Tulsa and graduated from Cascia Hall Preparatory School in 1961. In 1965 he received his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Notre Dame, where he had received numerous awards on the boxing and wrestling teams.
Upon graduation, Siegfried was commissioned as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He completed Army paratrooper training at Fort Benning, Ga., and was assigned to Camp Kaiser and the 2nd Battalion 17th Mechanized Infantry Brigade on the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea. While on active duty, he was a coach of the Army boxing team. He returned to Tulsa in 1967 and completed his service in the U.S. Army Reserves, while joining the family’s insurance company as a credentialed salesman.
In 1969 his family acquired the bankrupt Northern Oklahoma Research, Development and Manufacturing Company, called NORDAM. Siegfried, then only 26 years old and with no aviation experience, grew the floundering company of eight employees into a $500 million global leader in aerospace manufacturing, repair and overhaul. Following his diagnosis with ALS in October 2001, Siegfried ceded the position of CEO and became chairman. Despite being confined to a wheelchair and later using an Eye Gaze computer when he could no longer speak, Siegfried spent the last years of his life completing the succession planning, leadership and governance structure necessary to achieve his dream of growing NORDAM into a $1 billion company.
Siegfried’s business success allowed him to support the aviation, education, humanitarian and civic initiatives that mattered to him most. His aviation career was distinguished by his chairmanship of the General Aviation Manufacturers’ Association in 2002. In 2003, Siegfried was honored by the National Business Aviation Association with its “First Century of Flight Award,” in recognition of his lifelong contributions to aviation.
Siegfried served his beloved alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, on the Board of Trustees, the Facilities and Campus Planning Committee, and the Academic Affairs Committee. He and his father dedicated Siegfried Hall dormitory in 1988. The Ray and Milann Siegfried family and The NORDAM Group donated the MBA wing of the College of Business Administration in 1995. In 1997 the Ray and Milann Siegfried family funded the Chair for Entrepreneurial Studies.
Siegfried also supported education by serving on the boards of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of Portland and the University of Tulsa. He received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Notre Dame in 1992 and an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Portland in 2002.
Siegfried received the National Conference of Christians and Jews’ “Brotherhood Award” in 1989. In 1991 Siegfried was received as an affiliate of the St. Augustine Order of the Catholic Church, and in 1992 was invested as a Knight in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. In 2000 he received the “Humanitarian Award” from the National Jewish Medical Research Center.
Siegfried also served his community and was honored with numerous civic awards. The Notre Dame Club of Tulsa named him “Man of the Year” in 1980. When Siegfried served as chairman of the Tulsa Area United Way in 1987, the campaign set a new record for contributions. Later that year, he was inducted into the Headliners Club by the Tulsa Press Club. Siegfried received the Gold Knight of Management Award from the National Management Association’s Eastern Oklahoma Council in 1988. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1990. He was president of The Tulsa Club, and served as the treasurer of the city’s St. John Medical Center. He was a director of the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless, chairing their 1991 capital campaign, and was director of the Tulsa Community Foundation. Siegfried was named Tulsa’s “Number One Corporate Citizen” by Oklahoma Magazine in 2002.
Siegfried remained a lifelong sports and adventure enthusiast. He served as director of the U.S. American Boxing Federation, and was a founder and director of Tulsa Charity Fight Night, Inc. Siegfried’s love for diving and underwater exploration led him to participate and invest in the discovery and recovery of several shipwrecks. He was a past chairman of the Institute of Nautical Archeology, director of the Oklahoma Aquarium Foundation, and was a founding director of the Tulsa Aquarium.
Siegfried is survived and will be missed by his loving wife of 36 years, Milann; six children, Ray (Tray) H. III, Hastings, Meredith, Milannie, Terrell and Bailey; and six grandchildren, Hayden, Sydney, Avery, Ray IV, Bob and Josie.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Siegfried’s memory to the St. John Medical Foundation, Cascia Hall Preparatory School, or to the Monte Casino School. Rosary 8 p.m. today, October 9, 2005, in the St. Rita’s Chapel at Cascia Hall. Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. Monday, October 10, 2005, in Holy Family Cathedral. Private burial services Tuesday, October 11, in Indiana, at his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. The Fitzgerald Ivy Chapel (918) 585-1151.