A tribute to John Ewing

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A tribute to John Ewing

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 9:55am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine John Ewing died last Sunday following a battle with bone marrow cancer. He was 85. The longtime resident of Burlington was a lawyer by training and was general counsel for Bank of Vermont (now KeyBank Vermont) before being named president in 1993. He then was appointed by Governor Dean as chairman of the Environmental Board in 1995 and served until 1998. He founded Smart Growth Vermont before it merged into the Vermont Natural Resources Council. Among many accolades as a lawyer, banker and environmentalist, he's a winner of the Arthur Gibb Award and helped found the ECHO Center in Burlington. Below are tributes from friends and colleagues as requested by VBM. His obit, which first ran in the Burlington Free Press, is at the end.

Scott Carpenter, SVP, Regional Manager, Wealth Management and Private Banking, People’s United Bank

I miss the guy already…he was amazing. John hired me at the Bank of Vermont when I moved back to Vermont in 1991. I learned more from him than anyone I ever worked for. He was an incredible boss, mentor, friend and role model all in one, a rare combination. He was a master at blending work, family and community, and unselfish and humble in everything he did. Every individual or organization that worked with John was better off for it. We need more John Ewings!

Jenny Engle, Senior Director, Public Affairs, Fidelity Investments

Many of us are fortunate to have had people in our lives who have acted as mentors.  I consider myself luckier than most to have had John Ewing as mine.  I met John when I was in my 20’s, a relatively recent UVM graduate – an English major no less – working at Bank of Vermont.  I was in the marketing department and had no idea what I was doing.  For some reason, John took me under his wing and in his quiet and generous way, guided my career over the next several years. 

John’s example is something that continues to influence me.  He was, above all, a consensus-builder.  I watched him forge relationships within the banking community, with federal, state and local officials and with numerous nonprofit organizations.  Those relationships were successful because they were built on trust and mutual respect. 

I see John’s influence and vision in so many of the organizations that make Burlington and Vermont such a special place. I remember driving to a joint press conference with the Burlington Community Land Trust to announce a new affordable housing program while John wrote his remarks on the back of an ATM receipt (they were eloquent and funny). John and Jane were fixtures at the finish line of the Vermont City Marathon, which John had the foresight to fund in its early days. And I still remember one of the first meetings we hosted when the ECHO Leahy Center was being contemplated. 

John genuinely cared about the people he worked with and I cherished my friendship with him.  I’ll remember him most for his kindness to me and to others and I’ll miss him.

Gil Livingston, President, Vermont Land Trust

John was deeply, personally committed to protecting Vermont’s working farms and forests, lands that define the culture of our communities, and wild places across the state. He also believed that growth is compatible with conservation: he was a strong advocate for planned growth in downtowns as an essential compliment to protecting our countrysides.  For me personally, I will forever remember John as a mentor, an advisor, a quiet leader I could try to emulate, and a good friend since my days at UVM.

Rita Markley, Executive Director, Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS)

John Ewing was an extraordinary man.  Although he is widely  known for his leadership on the environment; he also cared deeply about alleviating poverty; creating housing and opportunity for struggling Vermonters too often left behind. 

He was a longtime supporter of COTS and a good friend to me for well over 20 years.  No matter how busy he was, he made time whenever I needed advice or perspective.   He had a gift for asking just the right question to untangle a complicated policy issue or decision.   But, more than that, he had a way of encouraging and guiding with such warmth that it made almost any obstacle seem manageable. This spring, at the ribbon cutting for our new Daystation, I looked out and saw John Ewing there smiling and nodding…and I wondered if there was ever a greater champion for community, for good works, and generosity than that wonderful man.

Photo of John Ewing at the ribbon cutting for the Daystation last April. Courtesy of COTS

Brigitte Ritchie, KeyBank, Corporate Responsibility Officer, New England Region

I have known John Ewing for 26 years, first as a newcomer to the Burlington area seeking a job, and then as a boss, mentor and friend.   He was a beloved President and leader of the business community and the community at large.  His integrity and intelligence inspired many people, not only as an executive but as a colleague, adviser and advocate.  John strove to make the world a better place; he made a difference and had a lasting impact on the lives of so many.  His sense of humor, intelligence and love of the community made him a very special man that we all will miss dearly.

Brian Shupe, FAICP, Executive Director, Vermont Natural Resources Council

John was one of Vermont’s most important environmental champions of the past 40 years.  Perhaps better than anyone,, he was able to articulate that Vermont’s environment and economy are mutually dependent upon one another.  He understood that you can’t protect the natural environment without caring deeply about the built environment, and that how our communities grow and develop is among the most important issue facing the state.  And perhaps most importantly, he was able to act on his commitment to Vermont with openness and respect for others that allowed him to build alliances between diverse interests and get things done. While I will miss John terribly, I will enjoy the legacy he left behind for the rest of my life.  

Brenda Torpy, Chief Executive Officer, Champlain Housing Trust

John was a true-blue advocate for and generous supporter of affordable housing throughout his professional and voluntary careers.  As the force behind Smart Growth Vermont John was a visionary and thought leader on sustainable development which in his view had to include housing affordable and accessible to all citizens. We always looked to John at key points in our development for his wisdom as well as his support.

He has a special place in CHT’s history.  As bank President at Burlington Saving Bank he extended a loan to help us to acquire properties in the Old North End to protect residents from displacement.  This investment matched a city loan and without it we could not have implemented our mission.  This was a risk that he took out of conviction because we were brand new and had no track record.  John also took on a capital campaign for us to create and fund the George and Elaine Little Park in the Old North End.  These are just two examples of how he stepped up on behalf of lower income Vermonters as a banker and as a civic leader and volunteer.   John and Jane have been generous and engaged supporters and members of CHT throughout his life, and he will always have a special place in our story and our hearts.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger last spring recognized the contributions of John Ewing with a proclamation declaring May 31 a day in his honor. Ewing was a Parks Foundation Founding Board Member,  The proclamation noted that John Ewing has been a committed and engaged resident of Burlington and Vermont for 60 years, and has served on countless boards and commissions, volunteering his time and expertise. It celebrated Ewing’s leadership as Commissioner and Chair of the Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Commission and as the Parks Foundation Board member in the effort to transform and improve the Burlington Waterfront, playgrounds, and open space areas.


John Ewing sought common ground


John Ewing, banker, environmentalist, mentor, dies after long illness

Burlington Free Press


John T. Ewing of Burlington passed away on November 26, 2017 after a long illness of cancer of the bone marrow. He came to Vermont to practice law in 1957, a graduate of Yale Law School. He loved Vermont and devoted much of his life to conservation of its countryside and culture. He was a member of many organizations such as the Nature Conservancy. He founded Smart Growth Vermont, feeling that by collaboration with business interests he could find common ground in protecting the values that are so important in making Vermont special. Following a career as President of Bank of Vermont, Governor Howard Dean appointed John as member and chair of the Vermont Housing Conservation Board and as Chair of the Vermont Environmental Board. His success in his goals and in life was due to the constant support and wisdom of his wife, Jane, in a long and fulfilling marriage. Between them, they had eight children and twelve grandchildren, the children being Colleen Montgomery, Jack Ewing, Kate Lucey, Dave Lucey, Andrea Ewing, Allison Ewing, Peter Ewing and Michael Ewing.

There will be no services. The family will gather to share their own memories.

Donations may be made to the Vermont Land Trust, 8 Bailey Ave., Montpelier, VT 05602.

Written by John near the time of his death.

Arrangements by Elmwood-Meunier. www.elmwoodmeunier.net