Omaha Legends: Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame Inductees Cut Across a Wide Swath of Endeavors
Every city of any size has its movers and shakers and star performers in the world of commerce. One function of a chamber of commerce is to recognize its local impact players. It’s no different in my city, Omaha, or with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, which has a Business Hall of Fame for just this purpose. The following story, to appear in the April issue of Metro Magazine, provides mini-profiles of the latest crop of hall inductees, whose diverse cross-section of endeavors proves there are all manner of ways to make a difference in the commerce of a city. Most of those being honored are not well known outside of Omaha, but both couples being inducted this year are: Paul and Lori Hogan have created a mega national and international business in their heavily franchised Home Instead Senior Care, complete with a line of books and videos, all of which taken together have helped them nearly corner the market on nonmedical home services for seniors; Jun and Ree Kaneko are, outside of Warren Buffett and Alexander Payne, Omaha’s superstar residents for his much-in-demand sculpture and opera design work and for her artist residency administration expertise and, as a couple, for their much admired community art and creativity projects, including the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and the KANEKO Open Space for Your Mind complex.
©by Leo Adam Biga
Soon to be published in Metro Magazine
The latest Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame inductees include a publisher, a PR maven, a businessman-turned-politician, two couples following their passion and “a cotton-picker from Texas” who turned sundries into gold. An April 24 Holland Performing Arts Center gala honors these legends.
Bob Hoig was bumming around New York City when he wound up in the Daily News building. He had no intention of being a journalist, but he needed a job, so he applied. The next thing he knew he was a copy boy. Thus began a 56-year and counting journalism career that’s wend its way from New York to Miami to Nebraska, where the Kansas-Colorado native had roots.
After reporting stints with United Press International and the Omaha World-Herald and editing the Douglas County Gazette, he formed the Midlands Business Journal in 1975 with Rapid Printing owner Zane Randall.
“I felt this market needed a niche paper that looked into small business success stories. That’s something nobody was doing at the time. All this came in the face of many prophecies of doom,” says Hoig, who went solo when Randall bowed out.
Hoig had confidence in his own abilities. “I’ve always been a good salesman and I think I’m a good enough writer and editor that I had the components you need to start a successful paper,” he says. Besides, he knows how to balance a ledger.
The veteran publisher has had hit and miss publications and he’s always learned from his successes and failures.
Satisfaction, he says, comes from “producing a good product that will survive, employ people and not be a burden on anyone,” adding. “I find this work very ennobling because it keeps me alive, involved and thinking.”
When Linda Lovgren left an ad agency to launch her own Lovgren Marketing Group in 1978 she says, “It never occurred to me I could fail. I just kind of looked at it as this is the next step in what I’m going to do, and if it works out that is spectacular, and if it doesn’t there will be another door opening.”
Going in business for herself, she says, was “a defining moment. It takes time to grow a business, to grow relationships, and one connection leads to another connection. It’s this large linkage you begin to build.”
With few women entrepreneurs around, her mentors were all men, among them then-Chamber president Bob Bell. She went on to be the Chamber’s first female president in 2003. She advises aspiring entrepreneurs find the right balance between work and family, just as she did as a new wife and mother.
The Iowa native’s long given back to her adopted Nebraska, volunteering with the State Fair board, Nebraska Kidney Foundation, Mid-America Boy Scouts of America and Habitat for Humanity,
She says she derives satisfaction from meeting the needs of clients, staff and family and “knowing you have accomplished something that has made a difference for all of those people.”
Heeding his older brother’s advice, Mike Fahey made “the most important” decision of his life when he moved here in 1971 to complete his education at Creighton University. It set him on a path to become an entrepreneur and two-term Mayor.
“It taught me you should never stop trying to improve yourself,” he says.
His next turning point was starting his own business, Land Title Company. “That certainly changed my entire life. It put me on the road to success. No longer was I working for a paycheck per se, I was really trying to build a business. There’s a lot of risk in that but I had confidence in my abilities. It taught me right away you’re only as strong as the people you have around you and I was very fortunate to get myself surrounded by some really good people.”
He regards growing his business his biggest success. “It brought me the greatest joy and with that it brought success. Creating jobs for other people was very rewarding as well.”
He says he applied a maxim from business to the mayor’s office: “Surround yourself with smart people, give them all the authority they need to do their jobs, and then hold them accountable for their outcomes. You get better results.”
He’s proud to have moved Omaha forward with signature projects like the CenturyLink Center and Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. Today he chairs the Omaha Community Foundation and sits on several boards. “Community service is a great way to pay back a city that’s been extremely good to me and my family,”
Paul and Lori Hogan
A confluence of events led Paul and Lori Hogan to conceive Home Instead Senior Care. As he learned the franchise model working for Merry Maids he noticed his failing grandmother rebound with the help of family caregivers.
“I saw that you didn’t have to be doctor or a nurse to really have a huge impact on someone’s health, particularly a senior,” says Paul. “That experience helped me see the opportunity that existed. Back when we started there were just two options for seniors needing support, a nursing home or your daughter’s home. Now there’s a whole proliferation of options. We’re one of them. Preparation and opportunity met, and we took the risk.”
Lori says having a passion for what they consider their mission is part of their success. Another is filling “a real need” among seniors. Quality caregivers and franchisees are critical, too.
Paul credits mentors Tom Guy and Dallen Peterson of Merry Maids with helping make Home Instead a reality. But
The company’s success has allowed the Hogans to pay forward their good fortune through the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation, the Center for Successful Aging and various resources for family caregivers. “When you are given much, much is expected,” says Lori, “and we really feel it is important to give back to our community and we’re so grateful we’re able to do that.”
Jun and Ree Kaneko
The former Ree Schonlau was an Old Market pioneer when artist Jun Kaneko came at her invitation. Among the few who saw potential for the old wholesale produce district, she established the Craftsmen Guild and Alternative Worksite, Artist-in-Industry Program. Jun shared her vision and the couple formed the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, whose artist residency program is world-renowned.
More recently they opened KANEKO, a complex of creativity spaces.
Together, they’ve helped grow and put the Omaha arts community on the map. She’s one of America’s leading art residency advocates and experts. He found a nurturing place for his art in Omaha, where he’s developed his studio. Omaha is where he first made his popular dangos and began designing for operas.
They appreciate this community making their endeavors possible. “We’ve had patrons who are very inspiring and supportive, that believe in us and stand behind what we’re trying to do even though they know it’s a tough row and maybe a little avant garde,” she says. “Jun feels extremely fortunate, as I do, to be able to have realized those dreams here.”
She says there’s also pride in being recognized “as catalysts” for attracting commerce and attention to Omaha and for spurring the dynamic cultural renaissance the city’s enjoying. “Any mature city’s going to have the arts involved in it and now we have enough. I’m really pleased to see what’s happening. The cultural in-fill has finally caught up with those of us who were out here hanging on.”
Their multi-phase KANEKO project is a gift. Says Jun, “I always wanted to return something to this country. Lots of people helped me to be what I am now, so I feel I need to contribute something back. The best thing we know is creative activity” and thus their “open space for the mind.” He expects the organization and its mission “will keep progressing.”
The son of a Texas migrant worker, D.J. Witherspoon was a teacher and coach in the Longhorn State before moving to Omaha in the Dust Bowl years and founding Gibson Products Company with his father-in-law. Witherspoon’s purchase of Marks Distributing Company introduced him to his future business partner, Nebraska native Lee Wegener, and together the two men formed Pamida, a chain of discount general merchandise stores serving rural America.
Pamida was a play on his three sons names: Patrick, Michael and David.
The company’s strategic expansion went viral in the 1960s and ’70s. Witherspoon, the cotton-picker from Texas, and Wegener, the corn-picker from Nebraska, followed a proven formula of acquiring existing businesses in underserved locales and converting them into Pamida stores. Known as an inspirational leader, Witherspoon engendered loyalty among his employees, many from rural backgrounds like his own.
Witherspoon, the company’s majority stock holder, sold Pamida to its workers through an employee stock option plan in 1981. He retired as chairman and enjoyed a life of conspicuous consumption and philanthropy.
Reservations for the 6 p.m. gala dinner and 7:30 p.m. induction ceremony are due April 17 by registering online at OmahaChamber.org/HOF.
- Linda Lovgren’s Sterling Career Earns Her Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame Induction (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Entrepreneur Extraordinaire Willy Theisen is Back, Not that He Was Ever Really Gone (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Nick and Brook Hudson, Their YP Match Made in Heaven Yields a Bevy of Creative-Cultural-Style Results – from Omaha Fashion Week to La Fleur Academy to Masstige Beauty and Beyond (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Making the Case for a Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Garry Gernandt’s Unexpected Swing Vote Wins Approval of Equal Employment Protection for LGBTs in Omaha; A Lifetime Serving Diverse Constituents Led Him to ‘We’re All in the Human Race’ Decision (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- The Mastercraft Revival: A Building Dedicated to Craftsmanship Finds New Life as a Creatives Den (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- North Omaha Champion Frank Brown Fights the Good Fight (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Omaha Chamber works to cultivate European ties (mysanantonio.com)
‘Portals’ Opens New Dimensions in Performance Art – Multimedia Concert Comes Home for Midwest Premiere
Back in April I wrote a piece that appeared on this blog about a multimedia concert piece then in-progress called Portals. Omaha’s creative nurturing place, KANEKO, served as producer and its bow truss live event space is where some of the project’s principal filming was done. My story then – “Open Minds, Portals Explore Human Longing in the Digital Age” – quoted creative director and virtuoso violinist Tim Fain and co-lead filmmaker Kate Hackett explaining the concept behind the project. In addition to his playing and her visuals Portals features the poetry of Leonard Cohen, the music of Philip Glass and a bevy of other top composers, and the choreography of Benjamin Millepied. A preview that month gave me and a few hundred others glimpses of the work. It was stunning and definitely whet the appetite for more, certainly for seeing the finished project. The completed Portals had its world premiere in New York City in late September and last night (Oct. 5) the piece made its Midwest premiere in Omaha. The multimedia concert mostly delivered on its promise to explore the open spaces between and betwixt the real and virtual worlds. My two more recent stories below appeared just in advance of the Omaha performance and tried to further frame what Portals intended. Something I meant to include in my print Portals stories were some notes about the violin Fain performs on, but I offer it here now for your information.
“I often find people are very interested in the violin I play,” he says. “After concerts I get a lot of people asking. It’s a beautiful old Italian violin that’s on loan to me right now. It was made in 1717 by Francesco Gobetti, one of the real Italian masters. It’s on loan to me through an organization called the Stradivarius Society of Chicago. My patrons, who live in Buffalo, Clement and Karen Arrisson, are part of this network of people who think it’s cool to loan their zillion dollar instruments to players.
“While I do consider myself the biggest winner, everyboy wins because the instruments, if they’re not played on, they deteriorate a lot quicker. I’ve had the Gobetti for almost four years now. You really get to know the instrument in an entirely different way. It’s almost like I have the feeling I’m communing with another soul. Makers were able to invest a part of themselves in the instruments they made. It’s very mysterious – I don’t claim to understand it really.”
I can attest that Fain is one with his instrument and whatever spirit it possesses.
Portals Opens New Dimensions in Performance Art – Multimedia Concert Comes Home for Midwest Premiere
©by Leo Adam Biga
Published in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
An April program at KANEKO offered a preview of the mixed media work, Portals. Virtuoso violinist Tim Fain and filmmaker Kate Hackett provided tantalizing glimpses of a phantasmagoric experiment in performance and social media. KANEKO director Hal France and the Portals creative team also laid the groundwork for a residency in the collaborative arts.
There’s great anticipation for the finished piece making its Midwest premiere here. The two shows follow on the heels of the work’s September 25th world premiere in New York, where Portals was well-received. It’s hard not being curious about a work that integrates multiple mediums and styles into a seamless experience. There’s music by acclaimed composers Philip Glass, Aaron Jay Kernis, Nico Muhly, Kevin Puts, Lev Zhurbin and William Bolcom. Images are by Hackett and Benjamin Milliepied, whose choreography is also featured. There are the words of Leonard Cohen. And the musicianship of Fain and pianist Nicholas Britell.
So, what is Portals exactly?
Think of it as a performance piece bridging the divide between real and virtual, live and digital, all expressed through a merging of set design, lighting, music, video, dance, literature, spoken word and the Web. It’s about finding new portals of communication and connection between old and new forms. New York Times reviewer Allan Kozinn felt Fain “succeeded admirably” in finding “new ways to frame the music.”
Where does the social media aspect come in?
During the concert Fain will perform live on stage, as will his accompanist, but he will also interact with several performers, even a virtual version of himself, seen via rear-projected videos that give the impression of social networking exchanges. It’s meant to be an immersive, sensory, boundaries-breaking, genre-bending experience.
KANEKO, along with Silicon Prairie News and local universities, is hosting a Live Social Media event that seeks “experimenters” to participate in the Portals experience and offer feedback. To sign-up, visit http://www.siliconprairienews.com.
What about the team residency?
Portals principles will conduct free previews, lectures, master classes and conversations in Omaha and Lincoln. Students from local universities are encouraged to attend. To register, visit thekaneko.org/portals/education.
Last month a New York City audience embraced the world premiere of the multimedia concert piece, Portals, and now the work’s come back to its other home, Omaha’s KANEKO, for performances October 5-6.
As creative director, acclaimed violinist Tim Fain has integrated music by Philip Glass and other noted composers, including Pulitzer Prize winners Aaron Jay Kernis and William Bolcom, with the words of Leonard Cohen, choreography by Benjamin Millepied, visuals by Kate Hackett, and his own virtuosic playing.
KANEKO, whose Open Space for Your Mind mantra invites projects to explore creative boundaries, is a co-producer. The 1111 Jones Street venue’s bow truss space is where Hackett, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker known for multimedia work, did some principal taping-filming. KANEKO is also where Hackett, Fain and pianist Nicholas Britell presented a preview of Portals last April.
“Portals is really a celebration of music that epitomizes what I love and what I think is worth sharing, and the presentation of that music is meant to push what’s possible in a performance and bring it into the digital age in a way that does justice to the music and also to our times,” says Fain.
At its core is a new seven-movement partita Glass composed for Fain.
“This piece has as its inspiration one little moment from Philip’s (song-cycle) Book of Longing, where the whole stage went black except for a spotlight that came down on me as I launched into a two-minute, really intense piece for unaccompanied violin.”
Fain also wanted to “recreate that feeling as a performer where you walk into a hall before the performance and nobody else is around. It’s just you and the stage … The lighting is golden and beautiful. There’s this almost seductive feeling of privacy, intimacy and communing with the music. All leading up to sharing it with the audience …”
Portals is a “fluid collaboration between music and film” Hackett says. “There’s going to be sort of three prongs to this evening, three different feels, all of which come together. All of the pieces are going to be interconnected by spoken-word text. The films accompanying those pieces will have a Webcam feel as they show a day-in-the-life sense of the different collaborators going about their daily business. We’ll get the feeling they’re speaking to each other via Webcam and Skype.”
“The second prong will have a much more produced feel, where Tim will be on stage playing and projected behind him will be films of a violinist and a pianist playing,” she says. “The idea is these players have come together in the Webcam-Skype world and now they’ve created a concert together that only exists in their head space. The third prong is the dance films Benjamin created in New York to accompany the Philip Glass piece. Those films additionally feel like a collaboration that happens through these different portals.”
“The whole idea behind Portals,” says Fain, “is really to … make the multimedia and film element not only something cool and exciting to look at but also a very necessary part of the experience. Musicians and dancers and the audience will all in a sense be signing on to collaborate in an artistic expression through the digital medium.”
At certain intervals, Fain seemingly becomes part of the images projected around him. He hopes this melange creates “something meaningful and beautiful and human.”
This convergence of forms and ideas is what KANEKO seeks, says executive director Hal France. “This as a collaborative project is perfect for us. It’s cross disciplinary. It has a purpose.”
The outside-the-box merging of live and virtual performance creates a new kind of immersion-ensemble experience, he says, sure to provoke dialogue. That’s the point.
For tickets to the 7:30 p.m. shows call 402-341-3800 or visit http://www.thekaneko.org.
- Music Review: ‘Portals,’ From Tim Fain, at Symphony Space (nytimes.com)
- New music for new virtuosos (the-unmutual.blogspot.com)
- From the Archives: Opera Comes Alive Behind the Scenes at Opera Omaha Staging of Donizetti’s ‘Maria Padilla’ Starring Rene Fleming (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- ‘Portals’ Opens New Dimensions in Performance Art – Multimedia Concert Comes Home for Midwest Premiere (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Jeff Slobotski and Silicon Prairie News Create a Niche by Charting Innovation (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
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