Men of faith, strength, dedication and enterprise have surrounded me for as long as I can remember. With loyal hearts, entrepreneurial minds and persevering wills, my family of men showed me how to live, learn and lead others in a life of faith, family and service, and I feel their continued presence and support every day along my journey.
Albert Theetge set the bar high. Patriarch of our family, my grandfather was a persevering entrepreneur with a great sense of humor and a keen eye for business. Owner of a car dealership, radio stations and a gas station, he also was a community philanthropist, served on the board of the town hospital, attended church every Sunday, and was church treasurer. He had a way of gathering the family together, and we spent many summers at his New York lake vacation home. Albert was the first man I saw committed to working hard, playing hard, and serving his family. He also was the first significant person in my life to die. He left a legacy, passed on to me in my work ethic, my commitment to family and church, my obligation to give back to the community, and my faith and spirituality.
The only two times I remember seeing my father cry, during my childhood, were at the death of my mother’s father and the death of JFK. Like his father-in-law, Harold Flood had a high work ethic, was committed to family and community, and was a man of faith, but faith not limited to the confines of religion. Possessing an open-minded spirituality and an open-hearted regard for all faiths, races, genders, sexual orientations, and humanity in general, he taught us to be kind, thoughtful and explorative of differences, rather than having set opinions, and to look at how to help people with struggles and challenges.
I learned about strategic planning and leadership at the dinner table. With encyclopedias open and high-level discussions of business, employment issues, and how to handle concerns fairly and competently, we looked for truth and sought information when we weren’t sure. As HR director of DuPont, my father believed in taking care of all 250,000 employees, and taught me that it was always better to train and retain employees than it was to hire new ones. “How people feel about working at a company can account for a significant part of the company’s business performance.”(1) My father knew that employees took care of the company. No matter how busy he was attending college, church, and working full-time, he was always there for us. He showed me that even when life is hard and difficult or tragic challenges appear, these “lessons” will ultimately lead to greater opportunities. I learned how to smile, stay faithful, and continue to do the next right thing with what was in front of me—and with excellence—no matter what, because “You don’t know what window or door is going to open, what blessing is coming, or what silver cloud may appear.”