Lunch with an Idol and Mentor

“Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.”
– Dennis Prager

All of us through our life experiences come across people that we admire, look for guidance and try to emulate in living our lives. I have been molded by many fine mentors.

There are four that have had a big impact on forming my core values. I admired each for their strong character and the core values they lived their lives by, faith, family, charity and work ethic.

My Dad

My dad has been my role model from day one, and shaped who I am today. I grew up watching his commitment to our family and the strong work ethic he had each day. I admired his servant heart and strong faith more than words can say.

Robert E. Miller

I’ve also always looked up to Robert E. Miller. He founded the Miller Group in 1961 and my Dad was one of his first customers. Bob Miller is what they call ”Real People”, dedicating the last 16 years of his life to charity, says it all. He truly gave sacrificially without regret.

Byron Thompson

Another leader I had deep respect for was Byron Thompson, chairman of Country Club Bank in Kansas City. This successful man left a legacy in our community, not only for his business acumen but also for his humility and personable approach to everything. His legacy continues with his families’ many charitable works.

Bill Dunn Sr.

Ernie and Bill: LunchBill Dunn Sr. is the fourth person on my list of mentors. Former CEO and Chairman Emeritus of the well-known company, JE Dunn Construction. Mr. Dunn Sr. helped shaped this successful business that today is known around the country. His pursuit of integrity and excellence is reflected in how JE Dunn Construction operates.

Each of those men, in their own way, has deeply impacted the Kansas City area by living out their core beliefs. I think the greatest step towards wisdom is to place yourself close to people such as these. I’d take any opportunity I could to visit and glean words of wisdom from them when I’d cross paths at work events or charity dinners.

Those conversations and encounters are not as common these days. When my Dad passed in December, Bill Dunn became the only remaining man in that core group of mentors.

So at a recent charity event earlier this year, as always, I made it a point to see Bill and Jean Dunn.  Always so open and inviting, conversation with Mr. Dunn was positive and informative. At the end of our conversation, he invited me to his office for lunch.

Beyond excited, I made a call to his assistant the very next day to get it scheduled. And we set the date for March 14th.

Being a third generation construction family, I’ve had several opportunities to interact with Mr. Dunn, but I’d never had the chance to sit down and have such an in-depth conversation with this giant in the construction industry.

We met in a conference room for over an hour. The time went ever so quickly as Mr. Dunn went from one story to another without missing a fact. I was fascinated to hear the firsthand account of part of his life.

Ernie and Bill: LunchHe spoke about growing up in Kansas City, and the many great teams he played on in high school and college. Turns out he was quite the star on both the baseball and football field!  I learned so many things I didn’t know about his life and was amazed by his keen intellect, retention of names, facts and dates of the events in the 1940’s through current events.

He also shared about his start in the family business. He was especially proud of the work they did during World War II and how JE Dunn (his dad) would not make a profit on the government work during the war. I could see how his determination, hard work and success he had as an athlete, continued into his career and into the successful business JE Dunn Construction is today.

I came away even more impressed and thankful for the opportunity I have had to watch, admire and be influenced by such a gracious leader.  Thank you Bill Dunn Sr. for your leadership and great legacy.  I am looking forward to our next lunch!

1 reply
  1. Bob Alley
    Bob Alley says:

    You have had some of the very best to guide you. Equally, I am betting that you are returning the care and thoughtfulness to many more.


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