March 1st, 2017, 4:00 PM

Four decades ago, I was selected as one of two students from my high school to attend a week-long summer program at Clarion University that I had never even heard of. It turned out that this was the inaugural program of Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week and that day that I was selected marked a pivotal moment that forever changed my life and the subsequent choices I would make along my journey.

That first experience, being a company member during PFEW 1979, planted the seed and taught me the fundamentals about how businesses operate, but more importantly, how business concepts apply to everyday life – something I had never considered. It was those fundamentals and deep roots that stuck with me and later made it possible for me to enter into my own family's business some ten years later.

In spite of the twists and turns of my early career which even found me at one point in New England working on nuclear submarines, I never forgot how that single week at PFEW made such an impact on my young mind. I was determined to go back to "give back" and some years later I was able to rediscover PFEW, having the great honor to return as a Company Advisor with my own team of students, just like I had been so many years earlier. What an exhilarating and exciting experience that was for me!

As a CA for a number of years, my networking opportunities increased and opened new horizons for me as a business man. The speakers and colleagues with whom I served at PFEW changed the course of my career in ways that I could have never envisioned. For example, one of the perennial speakers, Mr. Kevin Davis, with a long and varied career in the banking industry, opened my eyes to a business oriented career that I hadn't previously considered. In a very real way, reconnecting with Kevin at PFEW is why I am where I am today. 

The academic lessons learned through participation at PFEW, both as a student and as an Advisor, have provided me with a competitive advantage when I later embarked upon that new career in the banking industry. In taking the long view, it was PFEW that enabled me to find the path to success that was the right one for me. Making the experience all the more sweet, as I have progressed up the corporate ladder with my bank, that has opened up possibilities for me to encourage student sponsorships that have broadened the horizons for literally hundreds of western Pennsylvania students, just like what was done for me so many years ago.

Back in 1979, my summer experience had a profound influence on my life journey and all of the paths I would ultimately take. I can think of no other program that has the ability to make such a deep and lasting impression, and is capable of changing one's life journey in such a short period of time. PFEW fills the large gap existing in educating the youth of our country, and indeed our state, about the basics of business. The resources and opportunities given to the students that participate are what set PFEW apart from any public school experience.

Forty years later, I am still proud to continue being involved in this vital mission which helps ensure the future of all of our young people, and therefore our country. And to those whom are lucky enough to attend – absorb every moment, soak up every bit of coaching and education you can, so that you, too, will be defining that very special moment in your life's journey.

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