January 19, 2015
Back in the so called "olden" days of my youth, I never knew or used the term "entrepreneur." Within the past several years the word is now becoming far more common and it often appears in print. However, entrepreneurs were most prominent in years gone by and served as an essential backbone to our local, national, and world economy. They have contributed substantially to the way of life for people everywhere. There are so many outstanding entrepreneurs one could write about. But for the purpose of this article, we will focus only on several of our locally prominent entrepreneurs past and present.
It was September 1951 and it was the first year of my teaching career. I started as a teacher and later served as a principal in the East Aurora School System. My wife Elaine and her mother Alice Boldt were also teachers in the East Aurora Schools. Elaine and I were on staff in the East Aurora Schools for thirteen years. And what a great and fulfilling experience that was!
It was early in the 1950's when I first met and knew Herm Fisher and Irving Price of East Aurora. In 1930, these two gentlemen along with Helen Schelle were the founders of a company which later was to be known as the Fisher-Price Toy Company. What a treasured impact this Company has made on children in homes, schools, and child learning centers. Indeed, what a gift to children of all ages.
About the same time, it was our good fortune to get to know East Aurora's Moog brothers both William and Arthur. William C. Moog was an inventor, entrepreneur and visionary. In 1951, Bill Moog developed the electro-hydraulic servovalve, a device that translates tiny, electrical impulses into precise and powerful movement. In July of 1951, Bill and Arthur along with Lou Geyer, rented a corner of the abandoned Proner Airport in East Aurora and formed the Moog Valve Company. It was Bill Moog who once said, "We believe in the people who work here.... having trust and confidence in our people." Now THAT is transformational. Today, Moog Co. is known around the world. What a contribution to science.
And then too, it was in 1930, when Robert S. Vidler Sr., opened "The Fair Store" in East Aurora. As time went on, the Vidler family developed the store into what is known today as "Vidler's 5 & 10." The store is extremely well known throughout all of Western New York and well beyond. A third generation now run the store. It is a local landmark and destination point for shoppers from near and far. "Vidler 5 & 10" what a living treasure!
In 1964, I joined the faculty of SUNY Fredonia. During much of my time there, I worked closely with Dr. Dallas K. Beal. Dr. Beal served as Director of Education, Dean for Professional Studies, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and President, all at SUNY Fredonia. He then went on to serve as President of the Connecticut State University System. Without question, Dr. Beal was an early advocate and programmatic leader in the development of the higher educational institution as an all purpose educational institution. Today, much of higher education is the recipient and beneficiary of President Beal's influence, insight, and leadership in higher education. Dr Beal, what a legacy he has left.
In 1975, our family moved to Gowanda. It was our pleasure to get to become familiar with two pillars of the community. Daniel Gernatt and Donald Campbell. Dan Gernatt and his devoted wife Flavia were the founders of what is now called the Gernatt Family of Companies. It is a group of 11 businesses which market products such as sand, gravel, asphalt, and other item along this line. What a monumental success story and what a contribution Dan Gernatt made to broad geographical area in Western New York and far beyond. Dan Gernatt...an extraordinary leader leaving an extraordinary impact.
Mr. Donald A Campbell along with his loving, gentle, and most supportive wife Edna, owned and operated six Super Duper markets. He went on to found Campbell's Angus Farms and helped to found, with others, Gowanda Electronics. He was a community leaders in a whole host and variety of ways. There are so many who have genuinely benefited from the wise, prudent, and compassionate leadership of Gowanda's own Don Campbell including "yours truly." There are many in this community and far beyond who will never forget the warm generosity and superb gentleman type leadership of Don Campbell.
All of the above named individuals were indeed transformational leaders long before that term ever appears in the leadership lexicon. And so, what did all of these folks have in common? To name only several characteristics they had in common... we start with humbleness in character, uncompromising integrity, persevering tenacity, unfaltering competence, drive for excellence, a spirit of generosity, and faith in the free enterprise system and in the American Dream. Undecidedly, each in their own way was a major contributor to our exceptional American way of life. We cannot help but pay genuine tribute to their many contributions, truly endemic of American Exceptionalism at its best!