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Meet an Innovation Center Board Member: Roger Curry
Submitted by Ana on Wed, 06/09/2010 - 16:12.
Innovation Center Board of Directors Member and Treasurer, Roger Curry, is, in a word, humble. Of course there’s much more to Roger than a single word – as the board’s oldest member and a true captain of industry, he comes to the work with a lifetime of experiences. Nevertheless, during a recent conversation, his sincere humility resonated soundly in his every story and comment. He is a man who puts others first.
Roger Curry came the way of the IC by, as he sometimes says, “internet dating.” As he tells it: “I was prowling around on the Internet one day and saw there was an opportunity [with the Board of Directors], so Wendy [Wheeler, President and CEO of the IC] and I met at a coffee shop in downtown Saratoga, California. The chemistry was right.” It’s been a perfect match.
In this interview, Roger shares more on how and why he became involved with the IC, his role as Board Treasurer and resident elder, and his reflections on the Board’s recent trip to and meeting at TOCA (Tohono O’odham Community Action) in Sells, Arizona.
You weren’t always a part of the non-profit sector; your professional background is solidly business. What kind of work experiences have you had, and how do you use them in your work with the board?
I was in the freight business. It’s a low-margin business, but one that’s essential in life. Once the smart people in Silicon Valley invented something, we had to ship it from the manufacturer to the seller. So we just moved goods around the world. I spent more time away from my family than probably most people. We had 420 offices in North America, and 500 total across the globe.
We have a variety of skills on the board, and I think Wendy has done a good job matching skill sets to contributions – everyone does their share based on their skills. And we have some very fine and very dedicated people on the board. My modest contribution to the board, as my fellow board members will tell you, is the business contribution. I’m not a finance person per se, but I’m the closest thing we have. Wendy and I go through the financial records to make sure everything’s in order; I meet with the audit organizations – and I add my own two cents worth of business advice.
After a lifetime of work in the shipping industry, you retire and find yourself on the board of a community development nonprofit. What motivated you to get – and stay – involved with community work?
I’m old. I’m the oldest member of the board, by far. But I suppose when you get to be old you become reflective, so I’m pretty grateful for the things that have happened to me in my life. I have a great family, I have my health, and I’ve had moderate success. That I was fortunate in my life really pushed me to get involved with community work. I suppose it’s kind of hackneyed to say, but I’m trying to give something back. I feel I should try to do something to enable others to benefit in the same way I have. I’m not an entitlement person, but I do think that a lot of people deserve a lot of opportunities – and I think guys like me can help provide those opportunities. I feel the IC does good work coordinating the youth in communities and the adults. Thinking about how to do good in a community has been enlightening for me.
So in looking to give back, you stumbled upon the Innovation Center, and Wendy… online?
Haha, yes. Wendy and I met online first. I’d seen information about an opportunity with the Board and we’d been in touch. Wendy and I met in person at a coffee shop in downtown Saratoga, California. Wendy, in addition to giving back, is a fine business woman; we get along well. It’s been four years now.
The Board’s most recent meeting, in early May of this year, was in Sells, Arizona and included a tour of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), one of the partners in the IC’s Collective Leadership Works initiative, and the Tohono O’odham Reservation. Did the trip give you a new or different understanding of the IC’s work and why it’s important?
TOCA gave me an appreciation for the contributions made by the IC and the benefits derived from them by the TOCA community. I had the opportunity to see that this [the IC’s mission] was real – that all that Wendy describes in meetings actually happens, and that people are grateful. I got to see real people rather than reading about them. These were real people who had experiences and relationships with the IC; and the IC is positively contributing to solving the dilemmas that the people at TOCA have.
Were there any particular highlights for you from the TOCA trip?
The most compelling thing to me was that TOCA is trying to change the food community members eat in service to their health. That’s a huge motive for a nonprofit – and a for-profit – organization. It’s like they’re saying, “For our culture to be sustainable, we need to keep everyone on deck so there will be future generations.”
We also went into TOCA’s farms and saw how community members are preparing for the next crop. It was altogether a very complete day: the A to Z of the typical day and operations at TOCA. I learned that it’s easy to sit in a board room and be theoretical, but it’s more important to have the boots on the ground to see what’s happening.