I’m lucky. In the last 50 years I’ve had the good fortune of being guided by three role models who have had a profound impact on my life. Any good traits I possess today can be directly attributed to these individuals – Andrew J. Houvouras, William C. Campbell and A. Michael Perry.
Like all role models, my father led by example. A devoted husband and father of seven, he built a successful business, Huntington Plating Inc., from the ground up. When he invested his money he did so locally, helping fund several businesses in the region such as Sterling Supply, C.I. Thornburg and Steel of West Virginia. But even more importantly, he believed in giving back. “To those whom much is given, much is expected,” he often told me. To that end he was a local supporter of the civil rights movement, the War on Poverty, the Peace Corps, St. Joseph Central Catholic High School, Marshall University, the Special Olympics and the Cabell-Huntington Coalition for the Homeless. He instilled in me a love of Huntington and West Virginia that ultimately led to the formation of this magazine.
Bill Campbell was an accomplished businessman and one of the greatest amateur golfers in the history of the game. Much like my father, he possessed a love of Huntington and West Virginia that was readily apparent to all who met him. He helped the community in numerous leadership roles and through several forays into politics. I gleaned so much from him, including what it means to be a gentleman, the importance of sportsmanship and how the game of golf often parallels life. “Golf is a game of misses and how you react to them. We know that bad bounces and bad breaks occur in golf and in life. We don’t always get what we deserve. But we always hold out the hope that from a bad place we might make a great recovery. Mistakes happen, and people are imperfect; but they can always try.”
Perhaps no one did more to aid our region in the last 50 years than Mike Perry. The former lawyer, banker, Marshall University president and co-founder of Heritage Farm Museum and Village was a tireless worker who served on nearly every board or committee that helped improve the quality of life in Huntington. I spent many afternoons on his farm discussing business, politics, history and religion. He taught me so much, including what he termed the five Fs that were at the center of his life – Faith, Family, Friendships, Farm and Fun. He was a man of great faith, beloved husband and father, loyal friend and builder of an innovative museum on his Wayne County farm. But he also knew how to laugh and have fun. I haven’t known a finer man in my life.
The Huntington community has been lucky to have these role models, as well as numerous others, throughout its 144-year history. Going forward, we need to learn from these exceptional individuals and strive to be more like them. My three role models shared numerous ambitions, not the least of which was to leave the world a little better than they found it. If every Huntingtonian did the same, then there would be no limit to what we could accomplish.