His strong concern for the outdoors led Arthur E. Pew III to take a deep interest in the environmental work of The Pew Charitable Trusts, which included a trip to the Yukon Territory two decades ago where he hiked the tundra with fellow members of Pew’s board of directors and learned more about the region’s conservation needs. He came upon a small circle stone—a smooth black rock, with a white line running around its circumference. A unique product of nature and—to Mr. Pew—a sign of something more.
He handed the stone to Rebecca W. Rimel, then Pew’s president and CEO, who had been hiking with him. “It will not only bring you good luck but when you need a good wish, you rub it,” he told her.
Small, kind gestures such as that one. Strong values and clear thinking. A devotion to the Trusts’ work to improve the world and a deep affection for his family. These characteristics all defined Arthur Pew, who died on Oct. 2 in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, where he had lived for many years. He was 87.
“He was a gentleman and a gentle man,” recalled Rimel, who said she kept that stone on her desk until retiring from Pew on July 1.
The stone would provide its share of good luck and good wishes during Mr. Pew’s tenure on the board of this eponymous organization, which lasted from 1996 to 2008. He continued to serve as a legacy director until 2016 and then as an emeritus director until this year.
His time on the board came as the organization underwent significant evolution, from a private foundation to a public charity. Pew expanded from its hometown in Philadelphia to open offices in Washington, D.C.; London; and elsewhere; and its environmental work extended internationally and included conservation of the ocean.
“That would not have been possible without his encouragement,” Rimel said. “He never shied away from change or new ideas.”
Susan K. Urahn, Pew’s president and CEO, said that “the organization and the board were blessed to benefit from his insights, inquisitiveness, advice, guidance, support, and good humor over many years. His warmth, wit, and wisdom will be greatly missed.”
In addition to his time on Pew’s board, Mr. Pew had been a member of the board of the Glenmede Trust Co. as well as several civic organizations in Minnesota. He also continued his interest in the environment as a board member of the Corporation of the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, now known as the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.
Mr. Pew grew up on the Main Line outside of Philadelphia, attended The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, and studied mechanical engineering at Princeton University. He served as an artillery officer in the Army, beginning in ROTC while in college.
During college summers he worked on survey crews and as a track laborer for several railroads. After Princeton, he became a systems analyst and purchasing director with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and its successor, Burlington Northern Railroad, before retiring in 1990.
His work stoked his passion for railroads. He often traveled by train and was a benefactor and board member of several transportation and railroad museums, including the Downeast Rail Heritage Preservation Trust in Maine. He owned a vintage train car that he dubbed the “Gritty Palace,” once bringing it to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station as a venue for a reception with his board colleagues.
Mr. Pew’s wife of 60 years, Judy, died in 2015; they had four children. Mr. Pew’s brother, R. Anderson Pew, and half brother, Sandy Ford Pew, currently serve on the organization’s board of directors.
Board Chairman Robert H. Campbell joined Pew’s board during Arthur Pew’s tenure and said Mr. Pew’s spirit enlivened the organization. “Art Pew was a generous man who cared passionately about this institution’s role in making the world a better place,” Campbell said. “All of us at Pew extend our sympathy to his family and promise to live up to the standards he set.”