vive ut vivas – A Tribute to My Friend & Mentor Joe Gilpin

vive ut vivas – A Tribute to My Friend & Mentor Joe Gilpin

Live so that you may live.  The phrase suggests that one should live life to the fullest and without fear of the possible consequences. My teacher, mentor and friend, Joseph Gilpin helped to instill this into my soul.  Joe was an amazing soul, a Bostonian priest who ended up teaching Latin in Bradenton, FL.  Joe passed away unexpectedly in September 2021.  It has taken me a while to process what exactly Joe meant to me.  This is my tribute to my teacher, mentor, and friend. 

Joe Gilpin circa ~1983

I’m not sure how or why I signed up for freshman Latin at Bayshore High School in the Fall of 1980, but nonetheless, I ended up in Joe’s class.  I think I decided that learning the root of all romance languages would be a good base for any other language and for college. The first thing I learned was that Joe was not like any of the other teachers I had ever met. Joe cared first about us.  Each of his students mattered a lot more than the topic he was teaching.  We spent much of our time together in class discussing life, family, politics, and philosophy.  

Smoke in toga at a Latin Club event

Yes, we did learn Latin, and I would end up spending four years in his class, in leadership in the FL Junior Classical League, doing well on the SAT and learning a tremendous amount about the Roman Empire and the root of our language.  It most certainly contributed to me being the only student at Bayshore to be admitted to and attend an Ivy League University (Cornell). That said, I learned a lot about life, philosophy and perspective that simply could not be taught in a book.  I also was a less than stellar student of Kathy Gilpins for Freshman English.  Sorry Kathy (I mean it!)

Joe challenged us to think.  Something I fear has mistakenly been lost in much of our education system today. He would never accept your first answer.  Instead, he challenged his students to think and explain. For this, I put Joe into 5+ most influential people in my life. 

He was a champion and leader in the teaching of the Classics.  He and his wife Kathy and later his son Christopher, would trek all over the country to attend the National Junior Classics League events https://www.njcl.org/Teachers/Latin-Honor-Society  .   I was fortunate to attend the Florida JCL and win an award for the clay model of a Roman leader (LOL).  

The Latin Club (Kathy is far right next to Smoke and Joe is far left)

Student Council leadership….(before)
Story on the incident in Tampa Tribune

Not everything was roses in our relationship.  Joe was the faculty sponsor for the Student Counsel, and we attended the Palm Beach Gardens, FL meeting for all the High School Student counsels together.   Youthful indiscretion led a couple of us “Leaders” to bring some bottles of liquor to the convention.  We actually successfully “partied” during the event without incident, but the next morning Joe stopped by our room, and we had an empty bottle of Jack Daniels sitting by the TV.  He saw it, looked at me and teared up.  He had no choice but to report our indiscretion. This led to an embarrassing and public suspension of the guilty officers (not all) of the Bayshore HS student counsel. One of the other students had a family with money and they ended up suing the school because it wrecked his 4.0 grade point average.  I don’t know what ever happened with that, but I do know I had to explain my suspension on all my college applications.  Despite the situation that we experienced together; Joe wrote me recommendations to all my college choices. This included Cornell, MIT, Princeton, USC among others.    I ended up getting a full ride to USC but chose Cornell.  Princeton didn’t get it.  

A not very happy Joe on the way back from our student council convention!

The Gilpins at our Wedding

I always stayed in touch with Joe, albeit sporadically.  When I remarried I invited Joe and Kathy.  They unexpectedly accepted and joined us for our blessed event in the desert of Las Vegas in the Spring of 2008 along with about 100 of our family and friends. It was an amazing experience for us to reconnect and to share that magical time together.  On the funny side of things, my wife Anitra and I had a limo and everyone else was sent out to the Red Rocks Park on buses. As we were about to leave Vegas in our Limo, Joe and Kathy ended up missing the buses.  Of course, we had them join us for Veuve Clicquot in our wedding limo. Needless to say, certain things were not possible with Joe and Kathy in our limo (LOL) but it was as special moment together.  

We were blessed to have them join our family at this magical event.  I only wish we had another time to hang and reminisce.  I learned of Joe’s untimely passing through his son Christopher on Facebook back in September.  I knew I wanted to write a tribute to him and his influence on me and so many others, but it took me a while to put my thoughts together and express my gratitude.

Joe and Smoke at Red Rock State Park in Nevada

The Roman poet Horace wrote, “Seize the day; put no trust in the morrow.” or as you might recognize Carpe diem, in Latin form. In the spirit of what Joe imparted on me and so many others, vive ut vivas; Live so that you may live.  I don’t think any of us living through the past couple of years during the Pandemic think about life quite like we did before.  Never has it been more important to live your life fully.  I try to do so each and every day and wish that upon each and every one of you.

Joe’s official obituary can be found here.

Giving Thanks To Mentors: My Gratitude To Andy Paine, Jr.

Giving Thanks To Mentors: My Gratitude To Andy Paine, Jr.

As we live our lives, we all lose family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Sometimes, we lose someone who meant something very special at some point along our life’s journey.  For me, that someone was Andrew J Paine, Jr., who passed away this week after a battle with cancer.Andy lived a full life, raised a great family and has many great accomplishments as one of The Business Leaders of the Indianapolis community for decades. The Indianapolis Business Journal did a nice job in their tribute here Banking titan Andy Paine dies at age 80.

Andy was one of the first people I met when I moved to Indianapolis after Cornell University. He was warm and inviting and we immediately connected on some of his work in the community. He was leading an effort with the Japan America Business Council which led us to long discussions on international business and relations.  At that first meeting at my father-in-law, Jim Lacrosse’s house, Andy invited me to join him for lunch at his office. Little did I know that lunch would transform my life.

Andy and Jim were close friends, Indiana National Bank was one of two leading Indiana banks and Andy was, by then, the President (INB is now JP Morgan Chase). But when they met, Andy was the loan officer who ended up pushing through the loan that allowed Jim to buy the $11 million National Liquor Company (Later $1 billion National Wine & Spirits and now part of $8 billion RNDC). Needless to say, they were close, but Andy and I hit it off independently.

When I arrived at the Indiana National Bank tower, I was unaware that we’d be dining in the CEOs private dining room. At 22, I was wet behind the ears in business, but possessed high ambition and the willingness to do whatever it took to make my mark. I think Andy sensed that and somehow felt a connection and the desire to help channel my raw energy.  That’s what mentors do.

At that lunch, Andy said to me,

Smoke, you need to get involved in the community early on.  Don’t wait until later, do it now. I want you to meet David Hicks (then president of JA of Central Indiana). JA is something you can help with now. I also want you to go through the Stanley K Lacy Leadership Series, but you will have to wait until you are at least 27.

He talked about the importance of giving back in the community and getting involved early. That it’s an obligation for each of us who do well and thrive in our communities to give back to those communities and to people who need a leg up.  Andy appealed to the best in each of us and translated that into action for me.

When I applied to business schools, Andy wrote me recommendations. When I led the Distinguished Lecture Series at Vanderbilt Business, Andy helped me recruit speakers (Hank Schacht CEO of Cummins Engine and later Lucent Technologies and James Baker, CEO of Arvin Industries).  When I applied to the SKL Leadership series, Andy was my sponsor.  When I later became Chairman of JA of Central Indiana and won a national bronze leadership award, Andy was there encouraging and supporting me at each step along the way.  Andy supported my selection as Forty Under 40 by the IBJ.   As we grew our business and NWS, I became CFO to restructure our financing amid a torrid pace of acquisitions and growth.  Andy was always around.

I reflect back now on the impact he had on my career and life. The advice he gave me at the first lunch and the later encouragement and support, although infrequent, came at critical moments in time that helped me make better decisions and ultimately become the person I am today.  For all of you who take the time out of your busy schedules to counsel an up and comer from your business or community, I say thank you. Know that a lunch with a bit of coaching and encouragement can make all the difference in someone’s life. Don’t ever think of it as a waste of time or unnecessary. Indeed, it may well be one of the greatest responsibilities we all have as leaders in our respective worlds.

Thank you, Andy. I will never forget you and your legacy continues.

My YPO Graduation Remarks – Giving Thanks

My YPO Graduation Remarks – Giving Thanks

YPO Graduation - J Smoke Wallin

Last week, I chose to graduate a bit early from YPO “Young Presidents Organization” into WPO “World Presidents Organization” its sister organization for the over 49 crowd.  While I will remain active in WPO and the Food & Beverage Network and Deal Network in particular, the past twelve years in YPO have enriched my life greatly and its a good moment to reflect on that. Also I’d like to give special thanks to Todd Maurer for his remarks introducing me.  These are my remarks giving thanks at the graduation ceremony.

Todd Maurer giving remarks on Smoke Wallin at YPO graduation 2015

YPO GRADUATION – J. Smoke Wallin

Thanks Todd, I really appreciate your kind words!  Speaking of giving thanks, today is the anniversary of DDay 1944.

In 2003 when I joined YPO and “Forum Unplugged” my kids were 13, 11, 8 and 3, today they are 26, 24, 21 and 16… wow nothing like kids to express the passing of time.

Since then I’ve been blessed with a lifetimes worth of experiences professionally and personally as a direct result of YPO.   This was not an accident.  It did not just happen to me.  You see, I don’t believe in doing things part way.  Either you commit or you do not.  When I joined YPO I made a commitment to give and get as much as I possibly could.

Henry David Thoreau said “True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.”  This is YPO.

From Australia to India to the UK to cities throughout the US, YPO members have been welcoming and helpful to my family and me.  I know this because I dined at their homes, visited their businesses, attended their events and engaged with them in business.  I know the last 12 years of my life have been greatly enhanced by this commitment.

I will express my gratitude by sharing a couple of stories and mention a few people.

First, I met my wife Anitra on a YPO trip and that changed my life forever.  Thanks Darling.

YPO George HW Bush Event - Smoke & Anitra 2004

YPO George HW Bush Event – Smoke & Anitra 2004

I could stop there, but I won’t.

I joined Forum Unplugged and have had 12 years of deep relationships, friendships and confidences with 22 Forum mates.  They include:

  • Scott Webber
  • Don Palmer
  • Brent Eckhart
  • Mark Jackson
  • Bill McCarthy
  • Allen Furrer
  • Dan Horner
  • Chris Hilger
  • Richard Horn
  • Mike Bosway
  • Matthew Claymon
  • Gregg Schorr
  • Nelson Reyes
  • Jim Rapp
  • Brian Acton
  • Kent Morris
  • Todd Maurer
  • Anthony Brown
  • John Ryan
  • Bryan Brenner
  • Dave Foellinger
  • Dan Filby

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YPO Forum Unplugged

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Aspen_-_YPO

These are some of the finest individuals I’ve ever come to know and I am grateful for all they have done for me in my journey.

Some of our very best friends today are members we met through YPO including Bryan and Lara Sperber in Phoenix and Lesley Berglund in Napa

Through Networks, I’ve expanded my industry network tenfold.  Engagement in networks has been the single most important business and professional development aspect of YPO for me.  Fortunately, I’m excited to be able to continue through WPO as I Chair the 2016 Food & Beverage Roundtable in Napa, CA.

Looking back, I’ve lived so much life over the past 12 years it’s hard to summarize in a couple of minutes.   I’m not alone when I say it has come with great successes and great loss.  I’ve lost partners, friends and employees to both accidents and suicide.  I’ve had incredible business ups and downs and started numerous new ones along the way.  Throughout all of it, I’ve had YPO people to help me be better or simply to be there when I have needed it most.

To all of us, but especially those newer members… I’d like to remind you of some things that did not exist when I joined:

  • starting in my industry – there are 1,000s of new breweries, wineries and spirits brands available today that did not exist
  • There was no iPod or iPhone or iPad
  • There was no Facebook or Twitter
  • No AirBnB or Uber
  • no Freedom Tower
  • no Lucas Oil Stadium

All of these things that are now a part of the world and our every day lives.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

– A. Einstein

Looking forward, what will the next 12 years bring?  I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s next in brands, but I won’t try and answer that question here.  There is one thing that I do know…. I am confident many YPO people will be involved in changing both the world and my life for the better.

Thanks for everything you have given me.

Giving Memorial Day Thanks – “Build Me A Son”

Giving Memorial Day Thanks – “Build Me A Son”

Giving Thanks - Memorial Day 2015

On this Memorial Day weekend I am thinking about all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Freedom. The world we live in is a dangerous one, fraught with men with evil intentions. But for the sacrifice of a brave few, those men would have their way on all. We can see it in places near and far, from the evil men who brutally tortured and killed a YPO family in Washington DC (Savvas Savopoulos) to the evil being inflicted on whole countries in the Middle East. Left unchecked evil prevails. We live in a the greatest country, a place where an individual, no matter if they were born into poverty and extreme disadvantage can do and be anything they set out to achieve. A country where the world’s people, seek out more than any other, to take refuge from evil, to build a better life for their family, to live free. We are all privileged and I give thanks to those who have made it possible.

This poem, by General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific during the great struggle against evil in World War II, has hung on my wall for 26 years. I can think of no better message to all of my children (sons and daughters) than that contained herein.MacArthur on Time

“Build me a son, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee-and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

After all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength. Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”

– General Douglas MacArthur

 

As we all enjoy the holiday weekend, including the many who come to town for the Indy 500 Sunday, let’s all take a moment and reflect on these words. Happy Memorial Day Weekend.

With Gratitude,

Smoke

May 23, 2015

Savvas Savopoulos YPO Member

Savvas Savopoulos YPO Member

On my wall since 1989

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The Wallin Children May 2015

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