Originally in the Spring 2015 Issue of ACBSP Update.
What is your background?
My background has been fairly consistent in that I have worked in various executive management capacities for voluntary membership associations for the past 25 years. I began my career as a membership assistant for the Detroit Bar Association. In time, this opportunity allowed me to fully immerse myself in all aspects of non-profit administration including the operations of a private law library. From Detroit, I moved to the South Jersey/Philadelphia area when I became executive director of the Camden County Bar Association. This was my first opportunity to serve as the chief staff executive of an organization. Six years later, I was appointed the executive director of the Kansas Bar Association and moved my family halfway across the country to begin a new life in the Sunflower State. I spent nearly eight years at the KBA and during that time, we were able to increase membership from 5,600 to 7,200, build a new law center building, and dramatically increase the endowment. After more than 20 years of working for bar associations, I decided to move my career in a different direction and left the Bar to begin my own consulting business and work for Visit Topeka, Inc. (VTI), which is a destination marketing organization. At VTI, I was able to work with a wide array of organizations including the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA. We hosted citywide events resulting in millions of dollars of revenue for the local economy and it was very gratifying to serve these groups. With no disrespect to the capital city, selling a lower tier city was probably the greatest professional challenge that I have faced and we were successful because we understood our strengths and mitigated any perceived weaknesses. In two years, our team sold more than $60 million in economic impact. I left Topeka to work for the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce where I directed all business development for the Chamber. Wyandotte County boasts one of the most vibrant economies in the United States and is home to the University of Kansas Hospital, Kansas Speedway, Sporting Kansas City, and the General Motors Fairfax plant. It will also be the future home of the Diary Farmers of America as well as the National Training Center for U.S. Men’s and Women’s Soccer.
What are your ambitions for ACBSP?
When I saw the position announcement, I immediately felt this was a great match with my skill set. I see infinite opportunities to respectfully grow ACBSP while increasing our visibility and branding efforts. I also feel we can continue to position our organization as a leader in business accreditation by strengthening our ties with the business community. We need to properly articulate the benefits of accreditation and continue to improve our business model. We should expand the reach of our philanthropic activities and continue to grow our influence throughout the world. As the world of academia continues to evolve, higher education will face pressure on multiple fronts. In spite of these forces, the demand for a business-school educated workforce continues to increase and we must face these challenges with a strategic vision for the future.
What professional achievement are you most proud to have accomplished in your life?
I have worked with many gifted, hardworking, and dedicated co-workers during the course of my career. Regardless of titles and responsibilities, I have learned from them as much as they have learned from me. I have truly enjoyed watching my teammates grow as professionals and as individuals outside of the office. I am proud to say I have kept in close contact with many former co-workers that I am now honored to call friends. On numerous occasions, I have been given the responsibility to serve as a reference and very few things in life can match the feeling I get when I can help “close the deal” on a dream job or promotion. This has happened three times in the last year alone and it is a joy to receive that phone call of exhilaration whenever someone has been offered that next step in their career.
What was your childhood ambition?
My childhood ambition was always to become a pilot. I became fascinated with aviation after attending an air show with the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels Team. Early in high school, I started taking math, physics, and aeronautical science classes. My room was decorated with posters of fighter jets and model airplanes. I dreamed of attending the Air Force Academy. Before long, though, I became charmed with competitive sports and gradually began to have new dreams of becoming a professional athlete. Soon, posters of Michael Jordan and Kirk Gibson adorned my walls. Given my athletic success, I should have stuck with becoming a pilot!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and from whom did you receive it?
My first boss and mentor, Roger Lennert, was a great leader. One of the things that I took out of our relationship was his ability to understand that if you give forth the effort, things usually have a way of working themselves out in the end. As professionals, it is easy to get lost in the chaos of life and it’s tempting to forget about and postpone what is most near and dear to your heart. Like Roger instilled in me, I have found it’s helpful to keep asking myself, “What’s really important?”
What is your favorite quote?
It’s difficult to choose a favorite quote when there are so many inspirational ones to choose from, however, I do like several from Christopher McCandless. Chris was the main character from John Krakauer’s fascinating book, Into the Wild. The story is about a young man from a privileged background, who, after graduating from Emory University, donated his entire net worth of $25,000 to charity, gave away all of his possessions, abandoned his car and hitchhiked to Alaska to start a new life of adventure. In the end, it becomes a sad tale, but his idealism has always struck a chord with me. “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
Who do you most admire as a leader and why?
It would be easy to say my Father and Mother since they were both leaders in their own right and I owe everything to them. I want to introduce everyone, however, to Ann Schmerling Salsberg. I suspect very few people outside of South Jersey have ever heard of Ann, but she was, and still is, a historic figure in women’s rights and a pioneer in the rights of all people. I got to know Ann while working for the Camden County Bar Association and there was surely a lot to know. For starters, Ann was the second woman ever to graduate from Temple Law School (in 1928). Although less than five feet tall, Ann had to literally fight her way to get to class as male classmates bullied her on numerous occasions. Being Jewish, she also faced religious discrimination. Years earlier, she had accomplished the first in a series of achievements when she became the first woman to register to vote in New Jersey after the passage of the 19th Amendment. She was initially prevented from voting, but her persistent ways were the determining factor in reaching numerous milestones. She practiced law for 70 years and along the way, convinced several of her clients to contribute the bulk of their estates to the Bar Association to help establish several scholarship funds that are still in existence today. Ann passed away in 2003 at the age of 103, about a year after I came to Kansas. I miss our conversations and interaction, but will forever admire her spirit and fortitude to stand up for herself and what she felt was right. She is among the numerous heroes of our society who may not have garnered nationwide acclaim, but whose efforts were critical to the rights and freedoms we all share today.
What personal information do you want to share about family, hobbies or interests?
My wife, Brenda, is a hotel executive (and Navy Veteran) and we share a wonderfully blended family of five children. We like spending as much time as we can in the outdoors and I actually proposed to Bren on a hiking trail overlooking the campus of Park University, an ACBSP accredited school in Parkville, MO. Additionally, growing up in Michigan, you spend a lot of time on the water and one of my fondest memories with Bren was when we rented a sailboat in Annapolis and sailed up the Chesapeake Bay. When I am not sinking sailboats, I enjoy weight training with my oldest son, who is a student at nearby Johnson County Community College, another ACBSP accredited school. I am an avid reader and in addition to John Krakauer, I enjoy the works of Michael Crichton, David Baldacci, and Max Lucado.