Tim Conway: Self-Deprecation and the Nonlinear Life

Tim Conway, Ernest Borgnine’s nemesis in McHale’s Navy, foil for Harvey Korman’s straight man, and a bumbling charmer never had a hit series. He tried it twice, a decade apart, and was quickly canceled. He once got himself a vanity license plate, “13 WKS,” the length of a series that gets canceled for lack of ratings.

The license plate showed humility and its resulting gift of self-deprecation. He was also a testament to the nonlinear life. There are many who are never headliners, never CEOs, never politically powerful, but yet they make their marks. Bet you can’t name the man who invented Doritos, but where would the world be without him? Mr. Conway spread comedic joy, but he also gave many of us non-headliners a boost. We have learned “in whatever state [we are], therewith to be content.” (paraphrase credit to Paul, Philippians 4:11) Not a star of the shaw, but perhaps a recognized contributor. Mr. Conway was an invaluable one to Carol Burnett’s show.

In these days of parents bribing test administrators and coaches and going to jail to give their children a perfectly linear life through the well trodden path of elite schools, the nonlinear life is discounted, mocked, and even dreaded. Understanding that happy and successful lives come in many different ways and through paths that twist and wind is one of life’s critical lessons Oh, but what the journey brings in character development. Just the ability to make fun of ourselves means that our measures involve something more than top of the heap.

To Mr. Conway: Thanks for the memories and for a life that was an example of success earned by taking the road less traveled. RIP

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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