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What's In a Name?

When Andrew Carnegie was a child, he enjoyed raising rabbits. His father built a shelter for the animals and the Carnegie homestead became a popular gathering place for young Andrew and his friends. Andrew was in charge of feeding the prolific brood and he quickly realized the enormity of his task. Without any money to hire help, he struck a unique deal with his companions. In exchange for spending their summers gathering dandelions and clover as food for his pets, Andrew promised to name newborn rabbits after them. This hard bargain was, noted Carnegie in his autobiography, "the poorest return ever made to labor."

Later in life, as a philanthropist, Carnegie again bestowed naming rights as a reward for hard work. Charlie Taylor was the original president of the Hero Fund, a pension fund that Carnegie established for families of fallen heroes. When Taylor refused to take a salary for the job, Carnegie set about finding another way to compensate him. A graduate of Lehigh University, Taylor had been urging Carnegie to contribute money to the school for construction of a new building. So Carnegie secretly contacted Lehigh's president and offered to pay for the building on the condition they name it "Taylor Hall." When Taylor uncovered the plot, he objected and insisted that he was unworthy of that kind of recognition. Carnegie took great delight in watching his friend's protest and jokingly insisted that he would reconsider his contribution to Lehigh if Taylor withheld the use of his name. Carnegie later wrote, "Visitors who may look upon that structure in after days and wonder who Taylor was may rest assured that he was a loyal son of Lehigh, a working, not merely a preaching, apostle of the gospel of service to his fellow-men, and one of the best men that ever lived."

Carnegie was not without his faults when it came to dealing with his employees. After all, he made his fortune at a time in American business history when immoral labor practices prevailed. But when money was not a viable reward, he found a priceless way of inspiring people. He simply used their names.

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