A Very Special Evening

As I mentioned recently, I hesitated to write anything more about my great honor in being named the 2014 recipient of the V. Dale Cozad Entrepreneur Award. Truthfully, it seemed immodest to do so.

But the event itself was so remarkable, reflecting the hard work of so many people, that gratitude compels one more post, if only to recognize some of them.

Greg Cozad, Dale’s son and a fine entrepreneur in his own right, served as master of ceremonies, with just the right mix of humor and illustrations of the entrepreneurial spirit. My children, David and Diana Wise, took the podium to tell the audience about the wonderful decision Valerie and I made to adopt them 11 years ago when they were living in an orphanage in Russia.

The rest of the evening turned into a story-fest in which dear friends took turns talking about my business career and poking fun at my foibles.

Dick O’Neill, president of Prospect Bank, led off with stories about my first car (a Model-A that I was too small to drive) and my obsession with weather (an occupational hazard for those who own farmland!). David Sholem, attorney with the Meyer Capel Law Firm, gigged me for using the same mug shot since the Middle Ages. Just for good measure, he produced a copy of the photo that must have been six feet tall. I’m not exactly sure what to do with it! Ken Nofziger, president of Murray Wise Associates, did a great job of describing essential elements to being a successful entrepreneur – risk-taking, partnering, decision-making and passion – illustrating each with chapters from my own life and career.

Dr. Seamus Reilly, VP of Institutional Advancement, Parkland College, had some generous and kind words to say, and I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Linda Myette, executive director of the Parkland Foundation, for her role in bringing the evening together.

I was also deeply moved by an excellent video on my life, created and expertly edited by Chris Foster, program manager of Parkland College TV. I will always treasure that. I especially appreciated the kind memories shared by my dear friend and business partner, Richard Stark, and by Ron Martin, who has been a loyal friend and confidant going back to my days as a young farmer in Canada.

As I’ve said before, receiving the V. Dale Cozad Entrepreneur Award was my greatest professional honor, and the evening was one I’ll never forget!