FSG Blog
February 11, 2024

Remembering Ted Gordon, 1930-2024

Futures Strategy Group

Ted Gordon, our friend, colleague and founder of our predecessor organization, The Futures Group (TFG), passed away on February 1. 

Ted had a “a vital, accomplished life,” in the words of Cathy Johnson, one of Ted’s earliest TFG employees. Indeed, prior to founding TFG in 1971, Ted had distinguished himself at the bleeding edge of aerospace engineering. He was, quite literally, a rocket scientist – the manager for the third stage of the Saturn rocket of the Apollo space mission that put the first humans on the Moon. 

After his highly distinguished career at Douglas Aircraft, Ted applied his brilliance and implacable curiosity to the fledgling field of futures studies. Jerome Glenn, Co-Founder, with Ted, and now Executive Director of the Millennium Project, notes that Ted contributed more to futures research methodology than any other individual. 

Charles (Tom) Thomas recalls: 

“Futures Studies in the 1960s-1970s was not a discipline, but clever people speculating. Ted turned it into a discipline – a rigorous and systematic approach to thinking about the future. Most of all, he made it practical – he showed us how to turn exploring the future into a useful tool for thinking and planning.” 

TFG’s corporate and government clients were beneficiaries of some of Ted’s analytical innovations – Trend Impact Analysis, Technology Sequence Analysis, Cross-Impact Analysis, among many others. He developed the Real-Time Delphi method, a more efficient method of conducting Delphi research studies.

Ted had, in Patrick Marren’s words, “an endlessly inventive and creative mind.” And when, in front of a demanding client wrestling with a daunting analytical problem, he had an almost supernatural ability to invent an intricate solution on the spot. Clients were awed and delighted. TFG consultants, on the other hand, were horror-struck, wondering how we mere mortals would actually be able to deliver on Ted’s brilliant frameworks. 

Somehow it all worked out. Ted’s cleverness, rigor, and client-centeredness engendered longstanding business and professional relationships. In fact, just recently a researcher from Washington University’s business school contacted Ted about updating a research paper he wrote in 1982 for the Small Business Administration (“Characterization of Innovations Introduced in the U.S. Market, 1982-84”, in case you were wondering). 

Ted was equally comfortable in corporate board rooms, government think-tanks and academic lecture halls. Most impressively, he was comfortable in his own skin. There was no pretense, airs or arrogance about him. Peter Kennedy reflects on how as a young TFG consultant he benefited not only from Ted’s mentoring but also from the reassuring encouragement he provided in high-pressure assignments.

And Ted was great company. Robert Avila recalls how in Argentina in the early 1990s Ted came face-to-face with the harsh realities of international economics when at the hotel bar he ordered what turned out to be a very expensive Johnny Walker on the rocks. When the bill arrived, Ted was shocked. “Fifty dollars! I’ve never paid that much for a drink in my life!” Too late, we suggested ordering a domestic whiskey the next time around. We all laughed before returning to the problem our client was having building cars in a bankrupt country. 

After TFG, Ted co-founded in 1996 the Millennium Project, a global think tank under the American Council for the United Nations University, to advance thinking and preparation for weighty challenges facing the world, like poverty, conflict and climate change. Today there are 71 Millennium Project nodes around the world. Our colleague Charles Perrottet, who has worked closely with Ted since the earliest days of the Millennium Project, has often noted Ted’s passion and dedication to the mission of Millennium.  

These memories merely scratch the surface of Ted Gordon’s rich and productive life. When he wasn’t busy running a consulting company, Ted sailed, flew light planes and was a competitive glider pilot, among numerous other hobbies and interests.

And there was family. Ted and his wife Ann (Jason), who predeceased him in 2020, were married for more than 65 years. They raised four children and also leave behind eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Readers interested in learning more about Ted’s life work should read Jerome Glenn’s thoughtful tribute, as well as the obituary composed by the Gordon family and published in the Hartford Courant.

No one who knew Ted will be at all surprised by Jerome’s report that Ted stayed busy to the very end of his earthly life – working on Artificial General Intelligence Real-Time Delphi.

Rest in peace now, Ted. You’ve done enough. More than enough. 

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2 thoughts on “Remembering Ted Gordon, 1930-2024”

  1. A man who clearly loved life. The key for him seemed to be a never-ending curiosity, and the pleasure he took in its pursuit.

    Ted was a brilliant guy, and the way he went about living his life may have been the most brilliant thing about him.

    And now a well-earned rest.

    • Well said, Kevin. And Ted had an optimistic, can-do spirit that he took to whatever challenge he was dealing with. In a sense it was classic mid-20th century US optimism and faith in the future. He never lost it. We could use a strong measure of that now.


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