James R. “Jim” Fitzhugh: A Tribute
By David C. Norback
Jim Fitzhugh brought a level of integrity to everything he did, and it’s impossible not to admire that, especially these days. I’m proud to have known Jim and to have worked with him for nearly four decades. He has made me a better professional and a better person, and he has made RSP a better company. Let me tell you how.
Jim Fitzhugh joined RSP in December of 1981—Employee Number 19—and retired exactly 38 years later in December of 2019. It was only health issues that kept him from an even 40. But that December-to-December run is a total Jim touch, a tidy bookending to a career I’m sure he thought no one would notice but reflects the type of attention to detail that always seemed to bring him joy. And, more often than not, helped keep us, a growing collective of creatives and architects, right in the middle of the fairway. It’s no wonder clients loved him.
While Jim was known for his strong-willed sense of fiscal restraint, something many of his colleagues knew first-hand, he always managed to keep things in perspective, balancing time in the office with time doing the things he loved. There was always work to be done, of course, but Jim made sure there was also time for golf and fishing and, most importantly, time with Judy for traveling and escapes up to the cabin up north. Dwight Martell told me about his first meeting with Jim on the day he interviewed with RSP. Jim met him at the door early one morning in cut-off shorts and Birkenstocks, attire that wasn’t exactly considered business casual, especially back then, but the message was clear: We do serious work here but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
Over much of his time with us, Jim led our Governmental / Military Sector, building the team and the portfolio brick by brick through an almost obsessive focus on client service, relationships and grit. If you ever wondered where our commitment to clients comes from, you can trace a strand of that DNA back to Jim. He exemplified the expectation that, as an RSP Principal, you must be both an active practitioner as well as a firm leader.
Jim brought a conservative and valuable voice to his involvement on the RSP Board and seemed to have an innate understanding of doing the “right thing,” especially when it came to our financial and legal commitments, but he was also a guiding hand after his retirement. Jim was often the lone beacon of calm when everything around us seemed chaotic and confusing. He was an indispensable voice of reason in the early days of the pandemic, especially when we were unsure of the best course to take.
His advice was simple: Take care of our people. Take care of our clients. The rest will follow.
James R. “Jim” Fitzhugh died peacefully on Saturday, June 5, 2021, from complications of pulmonary disease. Many of his friends, family and colleagues gathered recently in Edina for a Celebration of Life, hosted by Judy, his wife of 34 years. As a tribute to Jim, please consider a donation in his name to Doctors Without Borders.