Gary Wallpe, a 1966 graduate of Greensburg High School, has retired. Now, he says, “I’m wondering how I had time to work all those years!” Don’t you love it when someone you know is rewarded for something good they’ve done?
When Gary was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by his company Acuity Brands Lighting, Inc., I wanted to share the news. Actually, I didn’t know Gary as he was growing up here, but I knew his parents, Kenneth and Lucille. Wallpe, and I’m friends with his sister, Jean Johannigman.
Back in the early 1990s, I interviewed Kenneth Wallpe and former mayor of Greensburg Jim Ryle about their role in making it possible for Robert F. Kennedy to stop here on May 3, 1968, while he was running for President of the United States. That was just 33 days before Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan as he was leaving the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. There are good memories of Jim Ryle, Kenneth Wallpe and me sitting around our dining table and talking all afternoon about that special day.
Now, 30 years later, I am writing about Kenneth and Lucille’s son, Gary Wallpe, who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by his company. Since Gary doesn’t like to talk about himself if it is in any way near bragging, I did a bit of detective work and got a few things that I am happy to tell everyone about that can make us proud that he got his start right here in Decatur County.
His experience has been in the manufacturing and sourcing areas. In manufacturing, he started up a facility in Mexico that eventually employed 1,400+ employees. He also has worked in a turnaround environment a well as a start-up.
In his sourcing roles, the company conducted many auctions over the years that resulted in savings of 10%. Gary has also been to Asia on many occasions and currently source over $130 million annually from Asian sources.
I was delighted when hearing that Gary had received this award. I also got to listen and see on the Internet the ceremony of Gary’s receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. The man who introduced him at the award ceremony said, “Gary taught me three very important lessons that made all the difference in my working and non-working time. One: He taught me to have patience. Two: He taught me to stay close to the situation and the people involved. Three: Build long lasting friendships.”
And, he said,, “He taught me that how you achieve success and get results is more important than the success or results themselves. Have transparency, be honest and make ethical choices.”
Certainly we, along with his family, his church (St. Mary’s) and his friends can be proud of Gary.
After he graduated Greensburg High School in 1966, Gary went to Purdue where he earned a BS in Industrial Management, graduating in 1971. He earned his MBA from Xavier University in 1974.
He married Theresa Naviaux and they have two children: Jennifer (Mrs. Mark) Lewis and Eric Wallpe. Gary and Theresa live in Canton, Georgia, a small town about 30 miles from Atlanta. They are members of the Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church in nearby Jasper, Georgia, where he is active in his parish.
Gary began his career at Federal Mogul Corporation in Greensburg as the Materials Management and in St. Johns, Michigan, as Materials Management/Production Supervision. He worked in Columbia, South Carolina, as Materials Management and Greenville, South Carolina, as plant manager. From there he went to Scientific Atlanta as plant manager and Lithonia Lighting in Conyers, Georgia, as production manager, plant manager, vice president of manufacturing, vice president of Florescent Division and vice president of procurement. His sister, Jean, said that his company supplied the lighting for our Honda plant.
Gary has never lost interest in his hometown and county and nearly always attends his class reunions.