Los Angeles, CA and Cashiers, NC—In the space of a week, the jewelry industry lost two legends: retailer Frank Bromberg, left, who died June 4 at age 87, and former GIA president Glenn Nord, who died June 9 at age 90. (Image: AL.com)
Frank Hardy Bromberg Jr. was a fifth-generation retail jeweler who joined his family business, Bromberg & Co. of Birmingham, AL, following college, graduate school, and military service.
After serving as a captain in the U.S. Air Force—in retailing, no less, as a base exchange officer at Dreux Air Force Base in France—Bromberg returned home to take up the reins of his family business which, founded in 1836, predated the Civil War.
Bromberg rose to become president and chairman of the business, but he believed in giving back and putting others first. Well-liked and respected in the industry, he held many leadership roles, most notably in both Jewelers of America and the American Gem Society, where he—and later his son—would be awarded AGS’s Robert M. Shipley Award for service. Locally, Bromberg served as a trustee and in other roles for the University of Alabama (his alma mater), and held leadership positions in the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, the Crippled Children’s Foundation, and his church, Cathedral Church of the Advent.
When Bromberg’s good friend Herb Underwood—another prestigious industry leader of JA, AGS, JVC and other industry organizations—was ready to sell his multi-store business in Florida, he turned to his close friend and peer. Bromberg acquired Underwood’s in 1974, but asked his friend to stay on, which he did until 1980, after which he continued to mentor C. Clayton Bromberg, who became president of Underwood’s in 1988. Another son, Frederick “Ricky” Bromberg, is president of Bromberg’s. Today the family has three Underwood’s stores in the greater Jacksonville, FL area, and two Bromberg’s stores in the Birmingham, AL area. The Bromberg family were honored by AGS at its 2013 Circle of Distinction dinner.
Bromberg is survived by Lella, his high-school sweetheart and wife of almost 65 years; four children, Frank Hardy Bromberg III; C. Clayton Bromberg (Christy); Frederick “Ricky” Wilkinson Bromberg (Nancy); Lella Bromberg Wilbanks (Bruce); and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and by three grandchildren.
Glenn Nord, meanwhile, served as president of GIA for only three years—1983 to 1986—but is credited with bringing the organization back to financial health after the investment crash of the early 1980s and laying the groundwork for it to become the global powerhouse it is today.
Glenn Nord, former president of GIA from 1983-1986. Image: GIA
Nord’s association with GIA spanned more than 60 years. Following military service in the 1950s, he attended GIA, earning a Graduate Gemologist diploma in 1959. While there, the young former soldier made quite an impression on legendary GIA president Richard T. Liddicoat, who hired him to work at the Institute two years later. In time, he rose to become Liddicoat’s second-in-command, but serious health problems drove him to leave for a position at a leading diamond company where he could secure a better financial position for his family in the event of death. He retired from active work in 1981, but two years later came back to GIA, sitting on its board of governors rather than as a day-to-day employee.
Now it was Liddicoat—Nord’s former mentor—whose health was endangered. The stress of the early 1980s [diamond] investment boom and bust took its toll on the charismatic GIA leader, who suffered a heart attack in 1983. A GIA without Richard Liddicoat at the helm seemed inconceivable, but the board of governors saw its savior in Nord, who knew the Institute well and had been Liddicoat’s protégé.
The only problem? He didn’t want the job. Although his own health had held stable for years, the deeper issue—a brain aneurysm—that initially drove his exit in the early 1970s hadn’t been fully resolved. After a great deal of prodding, he agreed to step in as GIA’s acting president for six months.
Temporary or not, the role required some tough choices, something Nord recounted to the late William George Shuster, author of Legacy of Leadership, an extensive history of the GIA. Realizing the fragile state of GIA’s finances, Nord made a series of deep and painful cuts, including reducing staff by almost half. He didn’t approach this lightly, he would later recount to Shuster, and having to let good people go caused him much stress and lost sleep. But it had to be done if GIA were to survive, so if nothing else, Nord vowed to be transparent and upfront about the challenges and loss of jobs, and to genuinely listen to staff input.
Nord’s strategy paid off, putting the Institute back on firmer footing and positioning it for long-term growth. Many GIA programs the industry now takes for granted—GemFest, scholarships, and international expansion—originated with Nord, who accepted the presidency on a permanent basis after the initial six months.
Unfortunately, Nord’s own health issues were still a concern and after just three years it became apparent the stress would be detrimental. He tapped Bill Boyajian to succeed him as president, a role Boyajian held for 20 years while Nord returned to a less-stressful role on the board of governors. He was awarded the Institute’s highest honor, its Richard T. Liddicoat Award, in 2001, and elected “governor for life” in 2003. Luckily, he also got the brain aneurysm that impacted his career safely removed in the early 1990s.
“Glenn Nord was a committed advocate for GIA’s mission, and for our students and the GIA staff, particularly those in our gemological laboratories,” said GIA president and CEO Susan Jacques. “His business acumen and wisdom, shared over decades with GIA management and the Board of Governors, provided strategic guidance that built GIA’s success.”
GIA plans to establish a scholarship in Nord’s name in the future. He is survived by his wife, Hannah, two daughters and a son, and multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held June 22 in Pasadena, CA.