Updated: Saturday, January 27, 2018, 9:27 PM
Milton L. Rock, 96, who built a small Philadelphia consulting firm into a global powerhouse and lent his leadership skills and financial support to local educational and cultural institutions, died at home in Center City on Saturday, Jan. 27, of natural causes.
Mr. Rock was the largest shareholder of Hay Associates, a leading compensation and human resources consulting firm that was sold in 1985. In addition, he owned several business publications, a chain of 15 newspapers in the Philadelphia suburbs, and Philadelphia City Paper. The newspaper chain was sold in 2001. City Paper was sold four years ago.
Among the nonprofits Mr. Rock supported as a benefactor and board member were the Curtis Institute, the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Rock School for Dance Education, Temple University, and Temple’s health system.
“Philadelphia is much the better for his being part of the community,” said Roberto Díaz, president and chief executive of Curtis, whose orchestra in Mr. Rock’s honor added Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” to the program for Sunday’s concert at Verizon Hall.
Born in Philadelphia’s Logan neighborhood, Mr. Rock joined Hay Associates in 1949. The company’s founder had developed a numerical system for benchmarking compensation for executives and other employees based on the nature and demands of specific jobs.
“He took that system and sold it to Corporate America and built a worldwide consulting company out of it,” said Jim Kristie, a former editor of Directors & Boards, a quarterly journal that the Rock family still publishes. “I don’t think it would have been nearly as impactful without Milt’s genius in marketing and business development. He had a way with CEOs.”
A 2013 academic article that summarized the history of compensation benchmarking described Mr. Rock’s influence: “All paths eventually led to Milton L. Rock, the former managing partner of the Hay Group consulting firm — one of the original compensation consultancies.”
By the time Mr. Rock, who was Hay’s largest shareholder with 30 percent of the stock, agreed to sell the company, it served 5,000 clients from 94 offices in 27 countries.
Mr. Rock spent most of his life in Philadelphia, attending school in North Philadelphia and then graduating from Temple. After serving in the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945, he earned a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Rochester.
His ties to Temple were strong. He joined the Temple University Health System board in 1974 and was its chairman from 1985 until 1992. In 1979, he joined the Temple University board, where he remained an honorary life trustee. A gift he made in 1986 helped establish Rock Hall at Temple’s Boyer College of Music.
“He was one of the natural leaders that everyone looked to on all the big issues. He was remarkably involved,” said Joseph W. “Chip” Marshall III, a former chairman and chief executive of Temple University Health System.
A longtime trustee of the Pennsylvania Ballet, Mr. Rock helped the organization out of a difficult financial position by providing $1.5 million in 1999. With that money, the Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet purchased the ballet’s building at Broad and Washington Streets. The school is now known as the Rock School for Dance Education.
At Curtis, Mr. Rock was “a transformational leader,” Díaz said. “Certainly so many wonderful things happened at school as a result of his leadership and his care for the students and his care for the faculty and the institution.”
As examples, Díaz named the school’s library, the Rock Resource Center, the Rock Family Chair in Composition held by Jennifer Higdon, and an annual collaboration between Curtis and the Rock School that allows a Curtis student to compose a piece of music that is choreographed by students at the Rock School.
Mr. Rock’s first wife, Shirley, died in 1988.
He is survived by his wife, Connie Benoliel-Rock, son Robert, daughter Susan, three grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be at the Temple Performing Arts Center (1837 N. Broad St.) on Saturday, Feb. 10, at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Rock School for Dance Education, Temple University, or the Curtis Institute of Music.
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