Earlier this week Sir Cyril Taylor, the founder of ACIS’ parent company, the American Institute For Foreign Study, passed away peacefully at his home in London.
I first met Sir Cyril Taylor in 1986 when AIFS first showed interest in purchasing ACIS. I was warned he took no prisoners and had a way of interrupting you in mid-sentence. All of that and more was true! He took over the room but we got on quite well. He adjusted to my working-class background and my passion for Manchester United more or less!
By the time AIFS and ACIS started working together, Cyril had already made quite a reputation for himself in the political arena. The first time I stepped foot in his office, I was struck by the photographs on the wall of all of the famous people that he knew including the Queen, the Queen Mother, British Prime Ministers, and American Presidents. There he was – popping up in all of the photographs, shaking hands and leading the way. He was the only Sir I ever knew. Twice knighted and proud of it!
Over the years, Cyril softened a little but his wit was always razor sharp and his financial acumen better than most. He had that magic combination. He knew how to make money but most importantly, he invested it in things he cared passionately about. He also knew how to get money from people who had loads of it and put it to good use. He single-handedly resurrected a British education system that was failing.
I will remember meetings in his office, cups of coffee with biscuits, “fireside chats” if you like about politics, personnel, and strategic musings. He was an eccentric guy and he cared deeply and passionately about education and his AIFS family. Cyril would regale us with stories of the early days at AIFS. When he would come to Boston, he would always insist on staying at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge because it was next door to his beloved Harvard University where he had studied for his MBA.
He did not suffer fools. He spoke up in crowded auditoriums if he had a point, and he always had a point! I sat through many lectures with Cyril over at Harvard. He was always looking for new ideas, new ways, and new opportunities. He never stopped learning and he never stopped teaching. We all benefitted from his wise and wacky ways. He liked getting things done, cutting to the chase, and changing direction!
His passing was sudden and unexpected. It will be strange to not hear his voice on my voicemail, to not bump into him in his favorite haunt, his office at 37 Queen’s Gate in London, and not talk to him about gardening and his football team, Arsenal. Rest assured that he was smart enough to build a legacy that will last forever.