A Gang of Seven

 Pointing the Way


 Two Movements

 Three Sacraments

 Facets of Vital Engagement

 Vital Engagement:
            Life Blood of Trust

 Steps Towards Trust

 Missed Steps

 Unseen Options  

 Justice in Relationships


Ernest G. Szoke, JD

Biography                   Touchstones               Defining Moments

I live in Doylestown, Pennsylvania with my wife, Cleta, and two terriers, Burberry and Snowden. For the last ten years following my retirement from full time employment I commute daily, about an hour each way, to my office in King of Prussia, PA, where I pursue a variety of business and personal activities

Upon graduation from a small rural town high school in upstate Pennsylvania in 1952 I attended St Bonaventure University. After one year I was fortunate to be accepted into an NROTC program at Columbia University where I received degrees in Liberal Arts and Chemical Engineering and was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy in 1957.

While in the Navy I volunteered for Underwater Demolition Team training and after three month of intensive physical and psychological preparation for special forces operations I joined UDT 21, along with twelve colleagues who graduated from a starting class of sixty seven. Underwater Demolition Teams have since been redisignated as SEAL Teams in recognition of their operations in sea, air and land. That training and subsequent participation in hazardous military exercises transformed me from an unassuming kid who grew up in rural Pennsylvania Dutch country to a responsible adult eager to stand on my own.

On leaving active duty I studied Law at Georgetown University in Washington during the Kennedy years. I stayed in the Naval Reserve for a few more years and worked full time at the Patent Office while in Law School. After receiving my Juris Doctorate and admission to the Bar I joined the Law Department of Hoffman-LaRoche, a Swiss pharmaceutical giant working on the procurement and implementation of industrial property rights concerning sophisticated drug developments. While there I was privileged to know and work with some of the leading chemists, medical doctors, biologists and microbiologists in the field with mentoring by an outstanding group of senior attorneys.

This early experience; not only the academic challenges and multidimensional exposure to accomplished classmates who came to study at two of our leading universities from all over the world, but the intangible advantage of living the experience of New York City and Washington, D.C., along with early on-the-job guidance so graciously extended by the “best in the business” set the stage for my subsequent enjoyment of a fulfilling career in Law.

When it came time to strike out on my own I joined Amchem Products, a modest size chemical company, as the first in-house counsel. After ten years and substantial corporate growth, domestically and internationally, as evidenced by the expansion of the legal function from myself as lone attorney to a department of twelve including four attorneys the company was acquired by a much larger corporation and I decided to accept a partnership in a Philadelphia boutique law firm specializing in antitrust and intellectual property law.

After several years of successfully growing my practice I faced the hard choice of continuing my practice or accept the invitation of a large client to serve as vice president and chief legal officer. I chose the latter. The client was the U. S. subsidiary of Henkel, a multi-billion dollar German industrial and consumer goods manufacturer. This also put me back into the international arena with extensive travel to many parts of the world.

Aside from managing a department of twelve to fifteen attorneys and the attendant staff I personally got to do what I found most exciting; doing large dollar deals. Henkel did a lot of transactions in those days, growing by acquisition and selling off non-core business segments. Though often demanding long hours of dedicated intense preparation and negotiations the adrenaline rush associated with deal making has an addictive quality that draws one back again and again despite the exasperation and exhaustion which is quickly forgotten when the next one appears.

While I sometimes miss the heady excitement of those days I’m blessed to have my days continue to be filled with ongoing relationships that keep me fully engaged and regularly challenged including our Gang of Seven who continue to buoy my spirits.