James D. Wolfensohn was the 9th President of the World Bank Group.
I met Mr. Wolfensohn for the first time on my very first day in the United States, 7th of November 2003. What could have been more significant than meeting the President of the World Bank as your first meeting in DC?. Mr. Wolfensohn blew your socks off, he was humble with a wonderful sense of self-deprecating humor and could be incredibly charming and very kind. He put my 23 year old self at ease, offered me whiskey at 11am :-), like one good colonial to another (his words) and the humor helped a very nervous me start a meeting which lasted for over an hour and a half.
Despite his often unpredictable temper, JDW brought vigour and foresight to the World Bank. Whether it was being picky about how business plans for developmental projects were written or surrounding himself with people who were talented and passionate, Jim brought uniqueness to the fight against poverty and corruption that the World Bank lacked and probably no successor has been able to replicate.
I was an incidental fly on the wall for some of his more creative meetings, his meeting with Quincy Jones at the Four Seasons in DC where the doyen of Wall Street and the godfather of music found a common voice for poor children to an informal dinner with very unpredictable dinner mates at the Development Gateway conference at Petersberg, near Bonn in Germany. In every situation he led, with his brand of unique leadership. In every situation he brought people together. Above all, he cared.
While the unauthorized biography, book “The World’s Banker”, irritated him to no degree, I believe he was secretly pleased with the title and at my unsuccessful attempt to try and get him to autograph it.
His passing yesterday, I also found out that his wife of several decades Elaine Wolfensohn, had passed away in August. A wonderful lady and a leader in her own right and definitely the strong woman behind this very successful man.
May they both rest in peace.