By Abra Bennett
Writer in Residence, Walla Walla Community College
There’s serious business and there’s monkey business. Sometimes the two overlap and intertwine. In 1978 Walla Walla Community College got serious about business, opening its Center for Management Development, then launching the Small Business Management Program in 1979.
Although he was a WWCC student during that time Walter Froese, who now manages Whitman College’s $80 million budget and a staff of eight, was more of a monkey business guy. In addition to his general academic studies, he spent his free time in the school’s sports dome and on the ski slopes. He didn’t take any business classes.
He wasn’t all play and no work, though. In fact, he could be the poster child for hard work, Eastern Washington-style. He’s done construction and painting, picked cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes. He’s rogued wheat fields, worked the pea and wheat harvests, driven forklift and put together cardboard boxes. Mostly, he admits, to support his ski habit.
He graduated from Wa-Hi in 1975, from WWCC in 1979, and from Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University) in 1988. Those years in between? You guessed it: he was a happy ski bum.
Tim Burgoyne started his quirky first business in sixth grade, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His business: buying kids’ outgrown tennis shoes, wearing them to school himself, and selling them straight off his own feet. He estimates that over three years he sold 800-900 pairs of shoes. His version of monkey business? He wanted to be a rock star. He’s been in 17 rock bands over the years, often keeping the bills paid with his electric bass.
Today he’s a Business Instructor at WWCC and is working on his doctoral dissertation about child labor in today’s America.
Laura Rose-Grabinski got her start in business working in her father’s Walla Walla coffee shop, Dolce Rosa. In fourth grade she began making beaded Italian flag earrings to sell in the shop. With no time for monkey business, today she makes candles and wind chimes from wine bottles, works in the Forgeron Cellars tasting room, is nearly finished with a WWCC degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, and is raising two small children.
In addition to their WWCC ties, these three share the ability to get down to business in spite of life’s competing priorities and distractions.
Froese explains that WWCC helped ease him into a broader world after his strict and ultra-conservative upbringing.
“Part of what made it difficult for me to hit the ground running after high school was my need to re-build myself from the ground up,” he says. “So I give myself a bit of absolution for the years I spent dithering. One of the things WWCC demonstrated to me was that I could do academic work, and even find it enjoyable.”
After transferring to Walla Walla College and graduating with an accounting degree, he worked at Niemi, Holland and Scott for eight years. There he did tax accounting and auditing, starting as a junior accountant and leaving as a manager. “I was working incredibly long, hard hours,” he remembers. “As well I should have been, since I’d been kind of goofing off skiing for much of my young life.”
In 1995 he started working at Whitman as the Controller, a job he holds to this day, keeping the highly-regarded college in the black, and hitting the slopes only occasionally.
Tim Burgoyne’s upbringing was different. He remembers that his family’s dinner table talk was always about his parents’ business. “My uncle was my inspiration,” Burgoyne recalls. “He started as a bag boy at Rite-Aid, and worked his way up to being a company vice president.”
After college Burgoyne managed a Staples store, then moved to American Standard. Six years later he was the company’s international cargo expediter, transferring freight in and out of 97 different countries.
But teaching called to him. He remembers that, “My first time teaching was game-changing, I couldn’t sleep afterwards, I was so excited. All I could think about was how to become a full-time university professor.”
“Tim is one of my mentors,” says Rose-Grabinski. “When I started I wasn’t sure that I belonged in marketing. But he showed me that I have a great knack for it, and a lot of business savvy. I appreciate him so much for pushing me. And I’ve discovered that I love everything about the business aspect of wineries,” she adds.
She finds inspiration everywhere. “From watching my Dad I learned to formulate my ideas completely, and to get over my fear of failure. At WWCC, being in classes with bright-eyed 18 year olds, and also with 48 year olds, I have learned that it’s never too early to start bettering yourself, and it’s never too late to learn something new.”
And Froese adds, “It took me a while to find it, but my advice is to find a job with a mission that you can get behind.”
In other words, it’s never too early, or too late, to get down to business.