The Rotary Club of Carroll Creek

District 7620, Club 29713 • Chartered August 6, 1993

Member of the Month

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Bernard Gouin

Student of the Human Spirit

By Chip Crum

I have been doing these bio pieces again for a few months now. Occasionally you get answers that you just figure you may be better off just printing the victim’s, er, subject’s responses directly. But I am not going to do that – yet. You see, I would not be where I am if I always took what I thought was the reasonable and prudent course. And Bernard Gouin is where he is because he has followed what he thought was the prudent and reasonable course, so let that scary but humorous contrast be a life lesson to you! (In case you could not glean my meaning – follow Bernard’s lead here!)

This time we wanted to bring you a person who has been in the club for over a decade, a person that you may feel you already know the “book” on. Not so, and this also let’s us delve into the topic of volunteerism as Bernard stands out as a great volunteer in a club of volunteers. He organizes many of our hands-on efforts.  He is the volunteer’s volunteer. But that is the part you knew…

Bernard says the favorite part of his current consulting business is the variety of assignments. He enjoys different facets of business from financing, and mergers and acquisitions, to strategic planning. He also sits on several Board of Directors. Bernard also likes to invest in financial markets, mostly options saying he likes to “keep his options open…”. Score one for Bernard on the pun!

Eleven years ago Bernard was the CFO for an international steel joist manufacturer. When he decided to move on to greener pastures the CEO of the same business asked Bernard to look after his own investments. Thus creating a new pasture for Bernard to move on to; the consulting business Bernard still enjoys.

Speaking of investments, Bernard met Denise, his spouse, at a Valentine’s Day dance in college 1972 (40 years ago). She soon became his most loyal fan at the college hockey games.  This subtlety brings up the point that Bernard and Denise are from Canada. More on that later.

Bernard had another job once.  He was the President and Founder of the La Fondation de L’Athlete d’Excellence du Quebec!  By the way, this was a volunteer job (remember that, we will revisit the subject). The mission of La Fondation was to provide financial assistance to college student-athletes by way of scholarships. In 1983, Bernard and friends, former high school teachers, and college folks got together and started raising money for the cause. Bernard says it best, “It struck a chord within the Quebec community and it gained momentum. By the time I left Quebec in 1992, we had accumulated $1.5 million in permanent capital. Today, La Fondation has more than $6 million in permanent capital and grants scholarships totaling well over $100,000 per year.”  Holy cats! Great job!

Now a bit of fun.  To stir the pot I asked Bernard if he favored Quebec separatism. Once again Bernard puts it best. And I love the way he phrased it, “Absolutely not…. I am kind of sick and tired of hearing politicians still kicking that one around…. In a world of globalization which is constantly shrinking, it is a rather “dynosaurus” idea…”

Now, I have asked Catharine Fairly also from Canada) the same question, but she is very evasive. (Of course I am kidding about that last comment.)

Sticking to my pot-stirring Canadian based questions I asked Bernard how he got to Frederick from Quebec. I was wondering if this was a forerunner to invasion?  Nothing so dramatic it turns out, but niftier. It was a job transfer to oversee the American operations in addition to my CFO job (remember the joist making company? Well, the whole world wanted Bernard’s joists!). When the time came a few years later to be transferred back to Quebec his family (wife and 2 daughters) literally blocked the idea (Asylum!). Bernard’s family liked the quality of life and the close social fabric of Frederick so much they did not want to leave! (Frederick 1, Quebec 0).

The Gouin’s adopted Frederick as their new home. Not being one to do anything half way Bernard and his family became American citizens a few years later. Now they enjoy dual citizenship (Canada and USA). Strangely, Catharine Fairly gets nervous when I ask her about possible invasion making me believe she is an advanced agent (Yes, kidding again! Duh!)

Enter Neil Fay! He is responsible for Bernard being in our club. You see, for the first decade Bernard was “stationed” in Frederick he traveled like a mad man, making 30 to 45 business trips per year all over the world. He would just come home to rest on weekends. Bernard’s wife, Denise would direct their social life (I feel compelled to wonder in print why anyone who traveled that much would then WANT a social life?! I would be way too tired!). When Bernard left the joist maker in 2001 he decided to get involved locally and asked a good friend (the previously mentioned Neil Fay) if he had suggestions. Neil suggested the RCCC.  Hooray Neil! (By the way, keeping with the invasion theme that has crept into this article: Neil Fay was once a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. Much of their job was jumping into other (bad) people’s backyards!)

That brings us to the last two points. I will start with ice cream, as the real desert will be saved for last.

As nothing is a better indicator of character issues (bogus, of course), I asked Bernard what his favorite ice cream flavor is.  Turns out that it is an old traditional favorite, both reasonable and prudent.  Bernard states, “If it’s not chocolate, it’s not really dessert!”

Now let’s peg the “Neat Meter”. We have saved the best for last. Bernard embraces volunteer-ism as a basic human tenant. I will now be prudent myself and listen to reason and let Bernard’s own words tell the tale. “I believe that service to others, regardless how small it might appear, is at the very core of our being. It really doesn’t matter what shape or form it takes. It could be words of encouragement, a smile, listening to someone, volunteer hours, etc. Service allows us to connect with our fellow men and women. We then feel our own life-force flowing out to others, we feel vibrant and truly alive, and that is, in my opinion, our best reward.”

Enough said. And said well!