Go, Go, Go! A View into the Busy Life of Roger L. Stevens

The following is a guest post from Archives Processing Technician Mónica Hurd.

Roger Stevens on the telephone

Richard Braaten, photographer. Rodger Stevens, circa 1980. Roger L. Stevens Papers, Music Division.

Do you feel like you have too much on your plate? Are you struggling to keep track of all your assignments? Do you need help organizing your life? Well, fear not fellow scatterbrain, for Roger L. Stevens is here! While his regular uniform of a well-tailored suit admittedly came without a cape, Stevens must have been aided by superhero-like powers to simultaneously juggle his careers as theatrical producer, real-estate executive, and fundraiser. He frequently called on the most important tool in his ‘super’ utility belt, the exceptional staff working at both his Washington, DC, and New York offices who were always there to help him stay on top of his many commitments and responsibilities. As the processing of the Stevens Papers continues in the Music Division, staff are becoming more familiar with this masterful organization, and no documents offer a better glimpse than his schedules and daily diaries kept from 1957 to 1998. Every week, Stevens was provided with a schedule summarizing his appointments, travels, and meetings. Daily desk diaries recording the minutiae of each day accompany these schedules and combined they are a record of his daily business. Their examination provides many examples of how to stay organized and efficient. For example, strategically timing your daily nap is essential for optimum energy, performance, and overall health. However, before proceeding a warning is necessary. The sheer brightness of Stevens’s multitasking ability may blind you. So don your sunglasses, and let’s take a trip back to 1972 and witness the amazing juggling of Roger Stevens.

We would expect to find 62 year-old Stevens lounging on the terrace of his Georgetown estate in the fall of 1972, reveling in the one year anniversary of the Kennedy Center’s opening and scaling back his work load after his first heart attack. But, rather than shoot the breeze and inch toward retirement, Stevens still had more than two decades of a career left in him, and October opens with Stevens traveling from Boston to Washington, DC. Show previews and openings, business meetings, conferences, interviews, errands, receptions, press events, and more take Stevens on a wild ride across the nation. He took at least 22 flights or trains which clocked in more than 10,714 miles of travel during the month of October alone. He was such a reliable traveler, acquaintances had him shuttle coats back and forth from Washington, DC, to New York for cleaning–not once, but twice!

Handwritten and typed schedule for Roger Stevens for the month of October 1972.

Schedule for Roger L. Stevens created by Jean Bankier, 1972. Roger L. Stevens Papers, Music Division.

His entire month went a little something like this:

On October 5th Stevens found himself in Detroit handling a bankruptcy claim submitted to one of his real-estate subsidiaries, R.R. Leaseholds. On the tenth he was in Washington attending a reception for the dedication of the Organ Concert Hall, and by the 12th he was up in Boston to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Council Meeting. On the 18th he was honored at a reception held in the Smithsonian atrium. On the 20th he traveled to Los Angeles to attend a meeting on the financial troubles of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, followed by a trip to San Francisco on the 21st for the International Opera Symposium where he would moderate a panel. On the 24th Stevens was back in Washington hosting a dinner for the Animal Welfare Institute. The next day he was off to Atlanta to give a speech on the Challenges in Art Funding to the National Council on Philanthropy. On the 28th he was up in New York attending a presentation put on by his daughter, Christabel, on Gustav Leonhardt at Alice Tully Hall. He rounded out his month back in Washington by having lunch at the Swedish Embassy with Princess Christine and dinner at the Japanese Embassy with Ambassador Ushiba. Three days later, on November 2, Stevens was off to London to continue negotiations to bring a musical version of Gone with the Wind to the Kennedy Center in 1973.

He was a very busy guy.

Pages of Roger Stevens daily diary for October 10th and 11th.

Diary for Roger L. Stevens created by Jean Bankier, 1972. Roger L. Stevens Papers, Music Division.

Fun fact: Stevens would need to build the Kennedy Center 89,794 times and place each building end-to-end to cover the same distance he traveled during October 1972.

Looking through these daily/weekly records, it’s easy to get to know Stevens through the projects he prioritized and the surprising things he scheduled. Not only was he expected to travel nationwide, attending to a variety of business, but back in Washington, DC, and New York, his offices were being inundated with calls seeking a piece of his valuable time. According to the telephone logs kept by his two secretaries, Stevens received more than 222 messages in October 1972. These messages ranged from the expected business partner looking for his contract to the eager actress hoping for her big break to the neighbor complaining about the fence. Pulled in so many directions and having his attention demanded by so many people, Stevens, with the aid of his staff, managed to keep a clear head. While his magnificent ability to do it all may seem intimidating at first glance, once you focus on the very ordinary entries recording doctor appointments, vacations, and scheduled naps, you’ll feel more motivated that you too can be like Roger L. Stevens, master of multitasking.

Roger and Christine Stevens napping on a boat deck

Unknown photographer. Roger and Christine Stevens on vacation, 1963. Roger L. Stevens Papers, Music Division.

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