HOW DID I GET HERE? – Gary Schultz

1952 | BORN IN ANN ARBOR, MI

Pioneer High School, where I went to school, sat kitty-corner from the University of Michigan football stadium; we felt very much a part of what went on at the campus. It was a time of great change for our nation, and the political unrest at my school that mirrored what was happening in downtown Ann Arbor. At the same time, the high school benefited from its proximity to the university; the opportunities we had were unbelievable. We could choose to take classes in eight different foreign languages taught by University of Michigan faculty.

1975 | GRADUATED FROM MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY

I ended up going to Michigan State—surprisingly, a lot of my classmates did the same! I went there, because I decided I wanted to work in the hotel and restaurant industry. Michigan State had, and still has, the second-best hospitality program in the country.

HOW DID I GET HERE? – Tim Lester

1977 | BORN IN WHEATON, IL

I grew up in a very tight-knit, family town. I think it was (a question) on Jeopardy (once) for having more churches per capita than anywhere else in the world.

We also love our football in Wheaton. Harold “Red” Grange was from Wheaton. He was arguably the best college football player of all time—people called him “The Galloping Ghost.” We all tried to live up to his legacy. Starting in 1988 there was a 22-year stretch when we were in eleven state championships; I was proud to be a part of that.

1994 | GRADUATED FROM WHEATON WARRENVILLE SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL

I played high school football from 1991 to 1994. I was so lucky, mostly because I had John Thorne as a coach. He was the best coach I have ever been around, still to this day. He’s in every hall of fame possible, but he never talked about winning because character and integrity were much more important.

Because I was surrounded by terrific teammates and coaches, a lot of opportunities opened up. I used to dream about where I would play after high school. I wanted to go to the University of Florida, UCLA, Nebraska, or any of the other places that were sending me offers. Everything changed my senior year when I blew my knee out during the second-to-last game of the season. I was so frustrated with the timing that I tricked the trainer into letting me play the final game. That lasted four plays before it happened again and I needed surgery.

A few of schools like Penn State and West Virginia stayed with me through the injury. But I needed to re-evaluate my options, especially when all the Mid-American Conference (MAC) schools that initially thought I wouldn’t be interested started calling me. I realized that I had to change my priorities; I decided to base my decision not on prestige, but on people and environment.