There’s a Greek Proverb that goes like this: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
Rex Kaup was a tree planter. Fred Imler and Bill Thompson were too. Within the last two years, we lost all three of them.
Although it has never been officially established as a group or club or association, the eighteen recipients of the Chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Business Excellence have a connection that goes well beyond simply sharing a special night and a glass obelisk.
Rex Kaup’s recent passing only brought it to the forefront one more time. As a grieving business community spoke with near reverence for the kindheartedness and civic altruism that made Rex special, it had quite a familiar ring to it. I’m sure I heard those same sentiments, or something very close, about Fred Imler. About Bill Thompson and Tim Sissler and Don Devorris. About Ernie Wissinger, the award’s first recipient.
Pity that it takes death to remind people how important someone was in life.
There is little doubt that the term Business Excellence carries a high degree of subjectivity. Most people will tell you that they know it when they see it but too often the eye-test only lends itself to controversy. The “tree planters” in the Greek Proverb have possibly unearthed the closest thing to a common denominator. Validation should take no more than a glance at a person’s legacy.
When I think of the eighteen award recipients I come to two conclusions. Every one of them fits the tree planter definition and Ann Benzel would not be enamored with being described as one of the Proverb’s “old men.”
In October, Mark Barnhart, Owner and Chairman of the Board of NPC, will be the 19th recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Business Excellence. Mark has the distinction of being the only honoree to be selected one year and honored the next. Covid-19 changed a lot of plans.
Consider this: Last September, Mark and his company donated 140 laptop computers to the Claysburg-Kimmel School District to help students impacted by the pandemic to be able to learn virtually. That act of generosity is consistent with the dozens of similar things that NPC does without regard to short-term recognition.
Do you think Mark Barnhart understands the importance of planting trees?
(Joe Hurd is President/CEO of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce)