When the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) went looking for a new president, shoe size had to figure into the equation. After all, the person replacing Clifford H. (Ted) Rees Jr. has big shoes to fill.

There is no truth to the rumor that former National Basketball Association star Bob Lanier (height: 6-11; shoe size: 22) was the board’s first choice. Instead, it appointed William (Woody) Sutton (height: 6-6; shoe size: 13) to replace Rees, who went off to enjoy his eight grandchildren.

In this case, a Navy man has replaced an Air Force man.

Sutton retired from the U.S. Navy last year with the rank of rear admiral after a diverse and highly successful 30-year career. His background includes six ceo/coo-equivalent assignments and significant experience in inter-agency relations, legislative liaison work, educational administration, marketing, strategic planning, and infrastructure management. He will have his hands full guiding ARI, but he appears up to the task.

“Woody Sutton’s experience in the use of technology and innovative leadership solutions will be of great value in continuing ARI’s well-earned reputation for excellence achieved under the direction of Ted Rees,” said Daniel Holmes Jr., chairman of ARI’s Board of Directors. “ARI welcomes his expertise in cost management, efficiency, service improvements, and strategic reorganization.”


At its 48th annual meeting held late last year, ARI gave a glowing tribute to Rees. In a video presented at the closing dinner dance, top-notch industry executives — including John Norris (Lennox International), James Schultz (who recently retired from Trane), Thomas Bettcher (Copeland), Gary Tapella (Rheem), and Holmes — sang the praises of Rees. The always-affable Robert Ractliffe, chairman and ceo of Nordyne, stole the show, though, complaining that Rees conned him into being his golf chairman at the annual ARI meetings.

“You virtually promised me a championship, but you didn’t deliver,” said Ractliffe. “Not even a Top 10 finish. A long drive. Closest to the pin. Nothing. Thanks, Ted. I feel like a real loser.”

Of course, Ractliffe was quick to thank Rees for giving him the opportunity to strap himself in an M-15. Rees had those connections, after serving 34 years in the Air Force. He retired as a Lieutenant General in 1992 before coming over to ARI.

Bettcher pointed out one of Rees’ best trademarks: humor. Rees always made sure that fun was mixed in with serious business. Bettcher reminded the crowd about the time Jim Schultz, dressed in a tuxedo, tried to do the hoola hoop in front of the ARI assembly, or the year Tapella was surprised with a pie in his face.

Ractliffe and his buddies made sure that ARI had the last laugh by hiding red sponge noses underneath every table’s centerpiece. All were instructed to wear the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rein-deer” nose in honor of Rees.

Of course, that was a picture to behold, too.

The tribute to Rees opened with the poem “High Flight,” composed by pilot officer John Gillespie Magee Jr., an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Magee was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941. In August or September 1941, Magee composed the poem and sent a copy to his parents. On Dec. 11, 1941, his Spitfire collided with another plane over England and Magee, only 19 years old, died in the crash.

The poem expresses what Rees enjoys doing — flying. He certainly took ARI to new heights. The poem concludes:

Up, up, the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446; 248-362-0317 (fax); markskaer@achrnews.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 03/04/2002