At the conclusion of the memorial service for Bob Miner, Jenny Overstreet, Ellison's administrative assistant, invited everyone to a reception on the theater's second floor. A sea of humanity flowed toward one person, Mary Miner, Bob's widow. Then everyone sipped punch or coffee and mingled, as if at an intermission. And for many, it was exactly that — a moment between acts.
This was the first and maybe only time so many Oracle people had convened under circumstances that were not mandatory. In a sense, the memorial service was more of a reunion, a celebration of self-worth. They were some of the smartest, shrewdest, ablest people ever assembled in any business anywhere. They had come through the wars together. They embraced — even those who'd waged bitter internal battles — and congratulated each other. They had done what it takes to succeed.
There was no escaping the poignancy either. This was only a brief intermission. The first act of their lives centered on the birth and emergence of an enormously powerful company. Many had taken their leaves, some gloriously. They had known success that they could not begin to describe to their parents, that would test how they raised their children. Bob Miner's death offered a moment of clarity for these people — who live in a world where work is personal, where what they did and what they achieved by doing it was who they were. The second act, they knew, would center on a simpler, and more confounding, plot line: Now what?
A version of this article appeared in the June/July 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.