Letter from the Editor
Yvonne E. Schroeder
Photographed by Carla Satchwell
With any project the size of Discover, you expect to learn some things. Sometimes you just fail to predict exactly what those things will be.
In this look at some extraordinarily successful TSU entrepreneurs, I expected to meet some interesting individuals. In 20 years of professional writing, I’ve written feature stories about more intriguing, successful, unusual people than you can shake a stick at, and probably a few about the stick, too. You can exhaust subject matter sometimes.
So I expected to hear tales of clever inventions and incredible business intuition, leading inevitably to fame, fortune, and power outside the grasp of the average Joe. While uncommon, it is a formula—the stuff of which success stories are made.
What I failed to predict was the unflinching big-heartedness of these individuals, who have given back so richly to the world that nourished their dreams.
I met an orphan who grew up to be a billionaire. Along the way, Ralph Ketner, co-founder of Food Lion, gave away half of his fortune, to relatives, friends, colleges for black and white students alike, 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and a children’s home, among many other charitable concerns.
I met an international executive who moved on to immense business success. As part of his journey, TSU Trustee Mitch Rhoads galvanized the economy of a Central American region, then added a school for the local children to the mix.
Still another transformed his family’s plant into an international business. In appreciation of TSU, Ralph Trine and his wife, Sheri, became its single largest benefactors this year. Last year, they gifted the world with the 203-acre Oakhill Conference and Retreat Center as an enhancement to Pokagon State Park.
The stories spin on and on, from inventors who make life easier, to local clock shop owner Zach Butz, who donates time to the Steuben County Historical Society. They spin outward into an ever-widening circle of philanthropy, forming a world embrace from a core of individuals determined to pass on that world’s blessings.