…back to Part 1 – Building the Foundation
Defining Moment: Growing up
As his squad attacked Fort Jeanne D’Arc, a German fort outside the city of Metz, Marvin was shot through both legs from about 40 or 50 feet. Marvin’s injuries were severe—the bullets had passed through both legs and the bone from his right leg was sticking out of his uniform. Though he was in shock at what had happened, Marvin had the presence of mind to sprinkle sulfanilamide powder on his wounds. “I was left out in the field for three or four hours,” he recalls, “and I guess my legs were saved by that sulfa.”
Marvin spent then next 15 months in hospitals, where he endured seven operations, including one to take bone from his hip to replace the three inches of bone that had been shot away from his right leg.
Many people would let the pain of a war injury get the better of them, or simply accept that they’d now have to live with physical limitations. That wasn’t the case for Marvin, he left for the war as an active teenager and he had no intention of slowing down.
So he returned home and went back to Harvard with his leg in a brace, using crutches and without any mobility in his right knee. By then his right leg was an inch and a half shorter than his left and every day for almost a year, Marvin went to the Harvard Department of Physical Therapy and did exercises to get motion back in his leg. “I first had to discard the crutches, then the cane and the brace and then learn how to walk again without a limp with a built-up shoe. Through discipline and with the dedication of the Harvard people, I did it!
“This is one of life’s lessons. It was certainly a seminal moment in my life and I gave a great deal of thought to my life at that point. I think the whole experience helped me grow up.”
Love & Life at Harvard
Marvin’s return to Harvard College was a very busy time. Apart from his daily physical therapy appointments, he was the Business Manager at the Harvard Crimson, where he had a full-time secretary and made the largest profit the newspaper had made up to that point. Marvin did his thesis in the Government Department on non-scheduled commercial air operations, which required him to travel to Washington and visit airports across the country. In spite of the busy schedule, Marvin graduated Magna Cum Laude in two and a half years.
“Yes, I had a very busy schedule but I was blessed with the enormous amount of energy my mother had. And I always like to have more things to do than you could possibly get done in one day. It’s part of what makes me who I am.”
Another important factor in the making of Marvin Traub is a woman named Lee Laufer. Lee and Marvin met through a mutual friend in the fall of 1946, when Lee was a senior at Smith College. Their love grew quickly and about a year later, Marvin proposed. They got married between Marvin’s first and second years at Harvard Business School. As Marvin completed his degree, Lee worked to pay his way through. “She has always been an enormous supporter of my career and a very wonderful partner. We’ve been married for 56 years. She’s an important ingredient in my success and a very important factor in making me, me!”
Marvin graduated with Distinction from Harvard Business School in 1949, part of the now famous 49ers—a graduating class that produced a huge number of future Chairmen and CEO’s, including James E. Burke of Johnson & Johnson, C. Peter McColough of Xerox, Thomas S. Murphy of Capital Cities/ABC, William J. Ruane of the Sequoia Fund, and John Shad of Wall Street and the SEC, Bill Hanley of Elizabeth Arden and Al Kronick of A&S, to name a few.
Continue to Part 3 – A legenday retail career begins