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55+ AND ALIVE: Retired volunteers can make a huge difference in the community

55+ AND ALIVE: Retired volunteers can make a huge difference in the community

I enjoy talking with old people. They have gone before us on a road by which we, too, may have to travel, and I think we do well to learn from them what it is like.

—Socrates, in Plato’s “The Republic”

Davis College of Business Dean Dr. Don Capener

Davis College of Business Dean Dr. Don Capener

As dean of the Davis College of Business at Jacksonville University, I get to meet many people who have relocated here to start a business or are looking for ways to advance their careers. But the people I’m most impressed with are those who came here to retire but quickly grew tired of days by the pool or at the beach, and came to me or one of my colleagues willing to help and mentor young people.

I hope this column is read not only by the 55+ audience who regularly read PrimeTime, but also by those of us who might be dreaming of a transition to a time and place we can make a difference on our own terms.

I would like to highlight a few examples of individuals who didn’t just “retire.”

Jack Keigwin of Amelia Island had a long, successful career as an entrepreneur in the health-care industry and in commercial real estate. He came to my predecessor at JU and offered to teach a business course or two because he had taught at Bryant University in Rhode Island. What started with a few adjunct courses became a passion, and Jack changed the lives of literally hundreds of young entrepreneurs.

In the last 10 years, he started one of the most successful clubs at Jacksonville University focused on entrepreneurism, judged our Dolphin Pitch competition and mentored scores of young women and men who went on to complete their MBAs at JU and prestigious Ivy League schools like his alma mater, Harvard University. Jack has made an incredible impact on the Davis College of Business.

Delores Kesler formulated her first business sitting at her kitchen table. From there, Associated Temporary Staffing (ATS) grew into a highly successful staffing company, Adecco, which went public in 1994. Retiring as the CEO and then chairman in 1998, Kesler has not slowed down. She continues to give her time and talent sitting on boards such as JEA, PSS and Adium LLC. Her treasure is shared between groups that mean the most to her, including children and people needing assistance.

In an interview with The Daily Record, she said, “I’m proud that there’s a second and maybe a third generation that are saying, ‘My grandmother and my grandfather made a contribution to the city, and I need to make sure, this is my home, that I make a contribution.’ ” Company executives and the Jacksonville community at large continue to be the recipients of her business wisdom and big heart long after her “retirement.”

Sam Peluso, a retiree, emailed me asking how he could get involved, after he read one of my columns in PrimeTime. I was intrigued to hear his background. He started with little and rose through the ranks of some of the top investment banks on Wall Street as a trader. He retired in Ponte Vedra Beach with his wife of 50 years.

Sam explained that the favorite part of his career was not the money he made, the deals he participated in or even the lifestyle that his success provided his loved ones. What he missed most of all was the opportunity to run a training program for new hires. He loved the interaction and passion of the young people coming into the business for the first time. He felt great satisfaction in helping them transition into the business so they, too, could provide well for their families. Last year, he began teaching some finance courses with Maggie Foley, assistant professor of finance at Jacksonville University.

“He brought so much experience into the classroom and a sense of how it really works on Wall Street,” Foley said. “Our students were captivated with his stories and how he applied what we were learning into ways to benefit the firm and individuals financially.”

Here are some organizations that can always use assistance in helping young people and our community:

■ JAX Bridges mentor contact: Carlton Robinson at Carlton.Robinson@myjaxchamber.com

■ JU Davis College of Business mentor program contact: Barbara Commander at bcomman1@ju.edu

■ Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida: (904) 727-9797

■ YMCA: volunteer@firstcoastymca.org

■ United Way: http://www.unitedwaynefl.org/volunteer

■ The Bridge of Northeast Florida: http://www.bridgejax.com

Those you help may well become leaders of tomorrow, maybe even affect your neighborhood or area. Some will continue into higher education and others will look for employers where they can make an impact.

If we are all committed to providing opportunities for young people to grow into polished individuals, we will make a better Jacksonville together. I encourage you to introduce yourself, serve as a mentor and challenge the rising generation to see what some of the smartest young people in Northeast Florida can do for our community.

 Dr. Don Capener, Dean of the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business, lives in Jacksonville with his wife, Annie, and their two youngest daughters. His 55+ And Alive is an occasional column in The Florida Times-Union’s PrimeTime section. He can be reached at dcapene@ju.edu.