I have been working at TAI for 18 months as membership director. Prior to this job, I was the executive director of Travelers Aid of Metropolitan Atlanta (now known as HOPE Atlanta) for 25 years. I was lucky to have been able to serve on the TAI Board of Directors for 18 of those years.
One event in particular stands out during my tenure at HOPE Atlanta. It was on September 11, 2001. My deputy director and I decided that it would be prudent for us to go out to our booth in the Atlanta airport to do whatever needed to be done. At 11:30 p.m., an airport policeman informed us that they were closing down the entire airport and the 150 stranded passengers who had planned to sleep in the atrium had to leave at midnight. I was in panic mode and trying to contact the United Way to secure funding to house and feed these folks.
Out of nowhere, the general manager of the nearby Holiday Inn approached me and said she had the vacant rooms, a bus to transport all of the passengers and could arrange to feed them in the hotel’s 24-hour restaurant. Having been assured by United Way that they would cover the cost of taking care of these individuals, I agreed, and all 150 were transported to the hotel before midnight.
Turning back the clock WAY back, I was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois. Enough said. Couldn’t wait to see it in the rear view mirror!
After graduation from high school, I served in the U.S. Army from 1969-1972. During that time, I attended the Defense Language Institute in Washington, D.C., for a year, studying intensive Vietnamese. Realizing that I had a knack for tonal languages, I went on to attend the University of Illinois, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies, learning Mandarin Chinese, Thai and Japanese.
In 1979, my family moved from Portland, Maine, to Bangkok, Thailand, where we worked for the Joint Voluntary Agency (JVA), the U.S. Embassy’s Refugee Resettlement Program, for three years. It was an incredible experience. Because of its location, Thailand received refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam. My wife started a program specifically for the resettlement of unaccompanied minors from the three countries and, because of my language skills, I went to work in the Vietnamese Section.
In 1985, after receiving my MBA at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, Calif., I took a job as the country director of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation’s Program in Thailand. The mission of the program was to assist Thai Amerasian children with their education, and most importantly help them stay healthy. A total of 2,500 children were enrolled in the program.
My wife, our three kids and I were lucky to have good friends who were posted to Nepal with the U.S. government. In 1980, we went on a 16-day trek through the Helambu region, with spectacular views of Mt. Everest and its range. Again as a family, in 1995 we spent three weeks traveling through Laos, the birthplace of our two adopted daughters.