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Pizza, power and speed: Speakers share their business stories with Scecina students

    

 From left, President Joe Therber; George Newhart '60, chair, Scecina Board of Directors; Mike Spitzer '60; Business Management teacher Pam Brake.

By Beth Murphy, Director of Marketing Communications

Bob and Laura Stark took a chance on a pizza parlor. Rick Smith ’69 passed up a big promotion to further his education and become president of a large power company. Mike Spitzer ’60 turned his love of racing and tinkering with cars into a booming business in building custom automobiles. 

They all spoke to Scecina’s Business Management class to close out the first year of the business speakers series. 

“Many Scecina alumni have been very successful in business,” said President Joe Therber. “We knew if we had several of them speak to students in our Business Management class, students would learn valuable lessons that go beyond the textbook and could help them in their future business careers and other lifelong pursuits.” 

The Starks are parents of Scecina alumni Patrick ’11 and Lauren ’13. Their first Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza (www.jockamopizza.com) restaurant opened in Irvington in 2007. The Starks and their partners, Mick McGrath and Nancy Duncan, have since opened two more, in Greenwood (2010) and at Fort Benjamin Harrison (2015). 

They shared their experiences of learning how to price pizza competitively and how they survived a recession. 

They also talked about the good times, when business boomed. Their Irvington location got a boost with an unannounced visit for Food Network star Alton Brown, who publicized his Jockamo stop on social media. 

“It was crazy,” said Bob Stark. “We had our business quarter ever.” 

Before Jockamo, Bob Stark worked as a sale engineer in construction and Laura was an executive in the medical imaging industry. Their work now is devoted to Jockamo. 

Smith experienced success through a different business: power. He held various supervisory, managerial and executive management positions in the electric utility industry over a 38-year career. 

After he graduated from Scecina, it took him six years to finish college while also working full time at a Chrysler plant. Despite being asked to take a supervisor position at Chrysler for a much larger paycheck, he decided to stick with college and get his accounting degree. He later also received an MBA from the University of Indianapolis. 

“That was the best decision I ever made, to stay in school,” he said. 

He retired as president of Entergy Corporation in New Orleans in 2013. The utility delivers electricity to customers in in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. He managed the difficulty of restoring power to the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

Smith and his wife, Patty (Nonte) ’71, now own and operate West Chase Golf Club (www.west-chasegolf.com) in Brownsburg, Ind., the site of the Scecina Alumni Golf Classic for the past two years. 

Mike Spitzer’s business career is about to come to an end after 47 years. 

He told the business students that he’s decided to retire from Spitzer Enterprises (www.gospitzer.com), based in Greenfield, Ind. The company produces cars and components. 

“I got really lucky,” he said. “I got to do everything I wanted to do.” 

But it was more than luck; it was hard work. Spitzer inherited his father’s love of working with and racing cars. In 1971, Spitzer built a rear-engine hot rod that his brother Ed drove to a national record. That set off a demand for Spitzer-designed cars. 

Spitzer then spent years as an auto body vocational education teacher by day and race-car builder by night. The demand for his cars became so great, that he decided to devote all his time to the business. 

Spitzer echoed Smith’s emphasis on education. “You’re right where you need to be,” he told the business students. 

The business speakers series will continue in the 2018-19 school year, said Jim McGuinness '68, who organized the speakers series. 

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