Richard L. Arnold, a pioneer in the business resilience industry, died Sunday, May 19, 2024, at Hope Hospice Facility in Cape Coral, Fla., after a short bout with pneumonia. He was 78.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sharon Arnold; sons Rick Arnold, Bob Arnold, Michael Arnold; daughter in-law Bridget Arnold; and grandchildren Christopher, JP, Matthew, Cameron, Taylor, and Jake.

Arnold is the founder and former publisher of Disaster Recovery Journal, the industry’s foremost resource featuring a magazine, conferences, webinars, mentoring, online training, and a wide array of educational resources. Arnold also founded DRI International and the Mid-America Contingency Planning Forum in St. Louis.

“If Ed Devlin is the ‘Father of Business Continuity,’ Rich is definitely the ‘Godfather,’” Patti Fitzgerald, former DRJ conference coordinator, once said. “No matter how you look at it, he’s on the ‘Mount Rushmore’ of our industry.”

In 1964, Arnold got an entry-level job with Missouri Pacific Railroad as a messenger before becoming a teletype operator. The next year, Arnold married Sharon and joined the U.S. Army. His work experience at Mo-Pac gave him a wide range of military jobs, from Morse code interceptor to teletype cryptological operator (“crypto man”) during a tour in Viet Nam.

Arnold concluded his four-year military tenure stateside, including roles at a communications center (“antenna farm”) in Virginia and a six-month assignment with the National Security Agency (NSA). His exposure to computer terminals and large mainframes at the NSA sparked a lifelong interest.

MoPac held a job for Arnold until his military service was complete, but it wasn’t the job he wanted. They eventually let him become a computer operator – implementing the railroad’s transportation control system software – but he wanted to become a programmer.

In his spare time, Arnold managed to get an associate’s degree in computer science from St. Louis Community College and a bachelor’s degree in computer technology from Webster University.

Embarking on consulting engagements with P. L. Conrad Company and later John Thompson Consultants, Arnold secured programming projects with major clients such as General Motors and Anheuser-Busch.

Arnold was soon offered a full-time job with Anheuser-Busch in March of 1975. “They liked my products and I liked theirs too,” said Arnold.

He started as a junior programmer with A-B’s computer maintenance department, eventually becoming a senior programmer on such systems as accounts payable, inventory control, sales analysis, and payroll. He was responsible for the entire company’s payroll system.

A catastrophic payroll event in 1977 – with more than 2,000 signed checks lost in the U.S. Postal Service – gave Arnold and his staff a large-scale recovery opportunity. With disaster averted, another seed was planted.

Arnold left Anheuser-Busch in 1981 and joined Cincom Systems, initially working on their TOTAL Information System. He also worked part-time, programming for ALCO Aluminum.

Somehow, despite having two jobs and three sons, Arnold described having “free time to explore new ideas” during this time in his life. One of those ideas was creating a hotsite in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Sungard Availability Services and Comdisco were the only vendors providing hotsite services at the time, but neither company had a site in St. Louis. He saw a need and wanted to develop a profitable business.

He and a few friends started a new company called Midwest Hotsite, Inc. His dream was about to come to fruition. They had 5,000 square feet of office space, five employees, two IBM370-158 computers, two electrical feeds, a sub floor, disk drives, tape drives, a classroom, and Arnold’s programming automating almost everything.

At their zenith, Midwest Hotsite, Inc. had 10 customers. By 1985, they were out of business.

“I’d go try to sell our services to a business and they had no idea what I was talking about,” Arnold often said. “They didn’t understand the need for a hotsite. It was too soon.”

That lack of data protection knowledge sparked another idea.

“I need to teach them,” said Arnold.

Again, he saw a need and wanted to develop a profitable business.

The idea centered around publishing a magazine and organizing an institute to certify practitioners. Despite encouragement from friends and colleagues, this idea didn’t go over real well at home.

“How are you going to publish a magazine when you didn’t do well in English in high school?” said Sharon.

Somehow, Richard talked her into it.

The first issue of Disaster Recovery Journal was published in February of 1988. Start-up costs were completely covered by advertisers he met at conferences or cold called on the phone. With almost 20 years of networking, Arnold reached out to every person he had ever met to write for the magazine or at least subscribe. The first issue was 3,000 copies with 24 pages, eight articles, and seven advertisers. By the fourth issue, they needed 7,800 copies with 52 pages, 10 articles, and 26 advertisers.

With no financial backing or outstanding loans, Arnold finally had a profitable business.

He started the non-profit Disaster Recovery Institute (which later became DRI International) in 1989. A grandfather clause allowed current experienced practitioners to obtain the designation without coursework or a certifying exam. More than 300 people applied for certifications at the first DRJ conference. Arnold is currently, and forever CBCP #1.

That first conference was promoted as “The First Independent International Disaster Recovery Symposium & Exposition,” sponsored by Disaster Recovery Journal. The conference took place Sept. 11-13, 1989, in Atlanta. There were more than 300 attendees, 45 exhibitors, nine keynote speakers, and 29 breakout sessions.

With the new business a roaring success, life took a dramatic turn for the entire Arnold family.

Richard suffered a severe stroke in April of 1990. His right side was completely paralyzed and he could not speak. He was in critical condition for 48 hours. Doctors told him he would never walk again.

In his book, “My Remarkable Journey,” Arnold wrote:

“I laid in my hospital bed thinking about how I was going to live my life. I couldn’t even sit upright in bed. I couldn’t even say one word. As it would turn out, I wouldn’t be able to speak where I was completely understood for two years.

“I was one of the few to ever have a stroke at age 44. The put me in a regular hospital room, not with stroke patients. Those patients were much older and hospital staff thought I might recover faster near people closer to my own age.

“They were right. This was not the beginning of my journey, but rather the event that paved the path I followed.”

Sharon, Jay Bender, Bill Langendorfer, Tom and Mercedes Kniese, Patti Fitzgerald, and Rich’s middle son Bob kept the business going. Bob Arnold, the current president of DRJ, was a freshman business major in college at the time of the stroke.

The business was always a family affair – with magazines and brochures created in the Arnold’s home the first few years – but friends and neighbors were always there to help after the stroke.

After extensive rehab, Richard made it to Atlanta for DRJ’s third conference in September of 1990, just five months after the stroke. The man who would “never walk again,” walked with a quad-cane. The man who couldn’t speak said, “Welcome,” to more than 400 attendees with a new, gravelly voice.

Arnold was resilient. He learned to walk again, almost pounding his right leg like a stiff prosthesis. He learned to talk again, pushing words through a voice box damaged with aphasia. His words were difficult for some to understand the rest of his life, but he always managed to get his point across.

Initially right-handed, Arnold learned to write with his left hand. He learned to tie his shoes and clean his glasses with one hand. He learned to drive – albeit like a racecar driver – with his left foot. He maneuvered a computer with his left hand like a pro.

Inside his mind, however, the battle raged on. His persistent doggedness would be in constant conflict with his body. That Type-A personality, that same man who always had two jobs, who always had new ideas, who always strove for more, was trapped in half a body. He was an overheating muscle car stuck in first gear.

Richard’s anger and frustration with his body would often boil over on those around him. His wife Sharon has been called a “saint” by countless people over the years. Her compassion and kindhearted demeanor softened Richard’s frustrations and kept him in line. She was always jokingly introduced at conferences as “the boss’s boss,” but it was definitely true. None of this is a success story without Sharon Arnold.

She convinced Richard to relinquish control of DRI to others. With Bob in still in college, they were just too short-staffed to keep both organizations afloat.

Bob Arnold officially became president of DRJ in 2008, but he’s been running the day-to-day operations for more than 30 years.

To bide his time, Richard started an educational video company called BCP Media. His videos featured many of DRJ’s favorite speakers, giving seminars on BIAs, crisis communication, and many other industry topics.

He also formed Private and Public Businesses, Inc. (PPBI), to help raise awareness of partnerships between business continuity planners and their city, state, and federal government cohorts in emergency management.

In recent years, many have been seen Richard Arnold as some sort of mascot at DRJ conferences – riding a scooter around the exhibit hall or waving to the crowd – but he felt nothing of the sort. He was always in the game. He was constantly engaged, coming up with new ideas, pushing those around him to do better. His ever-present grit and drive to succeed often came off as cantankerous or pestering, but he was also generous, kind, charismatic, and funny.

Richard Arnold’s legacy embodies resilience, serving as an inspiration to all who knew him.

He often ended a conversation with one simple phrase, “Onward and upward.”

Onward and upward, Rich.

Onward and upward.

Services will be held 4-8 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 29, at Kutis Funeral Home (South County), 5255 Lemay Ferry Road, Mehlville, MO 63129.

Mass will take place 10 a.m. CDT, Thursday, May 30, at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church in Mehlville, MO. Internment will follow, 11:30 a.m. at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in the name of Richard L. Arnold, to:

  • American Stroke Association: https://www.stroke.org/en/help-and-support
  • Vietnam Veterans of America: https://vva.org/donate/

Some of this information was compiled from Richard Arnold’s book, “My Remarkable Journey,” ghost written by the late Bob Stipsits. Thank you to the families of both great men.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jon Seals

Jon Seals is the editor of Disaster Recovery Journal.

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