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A Financial Planning Pioneer Passes Away

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The financial planning pioneer Harold W. Gourgues Jr. died of pancreatic cancer on August 18 at the age of 67; his funeral Mass was celebratde on August 27 in Atlanta. The heartfelt obituary that follows was written by his friend, the journalist Sydney LeBlanc.

The financial services industry said goodbye to one of its founders and pioneers, Harold W. Gourgues, Jr., on August 18 after a very brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was well known and respected by a multitude of industry professionals.

An industry legend, Mr. Gourgues not only laid the foundation for consultative selling at Atlanta-based Robinson-Humphrey in the early ’70s, but is considered by his peers to be the bridge between financial planning and modern consulting. Before it became popular, Mr. Gourgues was teaching brokers, advisors, and planners to put their clients’ needs first and to use a disciplined process to add value. Dick Saunders, a first VP at Raymond James, says of his friend and colleague that “”Harold’s pioneering work with financial planning at Robinson-Humphrey, his active service on the Board of the International Association for Financial Planning, and his many writings and speeches to industry professionals have left a lasting imprint upon our profession. He was a creative and innovative force who profoundly touched the lives of untold numbers of financial planners and those who will follow them. Our profession and the clients it serves have been greatly enriched because of Harold Gourgues. His passing is a great loss, but his legacy to our profession will endure.”

In his last known industry interview in late 2004 with industry veteran journalist Sydney LeBlanc, Mr. Gourgues said “As I began reaching my own goals of financial success, I realized that I wasn’t any happier. As a matter of fact I was less happy because I was more worried about losing everything I had gained. I knew there was something far greater I was put on this earth to do.”

So, in the mid-80s, he began teaching and mentoring other planners, and writing his popular “Gourgues Report” in addition to numerous industry articles and books that continue to circulate to this day. Revolution in Financial Services, Financial Planning Handbook, and Total Financial Planning, are still among the textbooks and white papers included in university financial planning curricula. An honor was bestowed on Mr. Gourgues when the Journal of Financial Planning included one of his articles that he wrote in collaboration with Jeffrey Lauterbach, now chairman and CEO of Capital Trust Company of Delaware, as part of the Journal’s 25th anniversary celebration issue that highlighted the magazine’s most significant content over those 25 years.

About 10 years later, Mr. Gourgues decided to devote the majority of his time doing charitable and church work. So, armed with a master’s degree in theological studies, in 1990 he was ordained as a Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church and spent untold hours time giving spiritual direction and pastoral counseling. Colleagues close to him said it was a very easy transition for him from financial services to his spiritual path. After more than 20 years of splitting his time between financial planning and charitable work, he said he was “glad his two lives had blended into one authentic self.”

With more than 35 years of dedicated service to an industry that holds him in high esteem, Mr. Gourgues offered these words of wisdom in his 2004 interview with Miss LeBlanc: “those who are being affected by the recent wrongdoings, scandals, and other challenges of the profession, remember, this, too, shall pass. Remain ethical in the face of indecision; help others to find their way as we are our brother’s keeper. We have our valleys and we have our peaks. We learn while in the valley how to climb the next mountain.”

Mr. Gourgues quietly passed away at home surrounded by his family. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and respected him, and by those who will continue to learn from his accomplishments and contributions to the industry he loved. God bless you, and rest in peace Harold. Thank you for your unwavering service and selfless contributions to our industry.