Craig Parr reached into an enormous bin, pulled out an oddly shaped piece of dark gray plastic and placed it in my hand. I turned it over and examined it. I looked at it very closely. “It’s a piece of old plastic.” That was my take on it. His was quite different: “I see profit and opportunity,” he told me. And after spending a few hours with this OU alum from the 60s, I began to see it that way, too.
That “piece of old plastic” was actually a very expensive dashboard component from a recent model Cadillac. It, like hundreds of thousands of other automotive castoffs, had found its way to Parr’s warehouse in Flint, Mich. From there, it would make its way to a recycling plant nearby, where he and his partner, Boyt Johnson (affectionately dubbed a ‘garbologist’ by Parr) recycle plastic, paper and just about anything else you can think of. Parr, who after retiring from GM pursued his lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur, has always been able to see opportunity in unlikely places.
He’s not unlike many of the people you’ll find in this issue of the magazine - creative individuals like Greg Grabowski, the new CEO at Leader Dogs for the Blind, who has built a career on uncovering such prospects and making the most of them. Jacquelyn Wagner, CAS ’03, is another classic example: This young soprano, who has conquered the European opera stage, saw all the possibility in the world when she started her voice training at Oakland. She found voice coach Edie Diggory here and never looked back. And finally, we present the stories of seven students who pursued international studies to expand their education, their perspectives on the world and the opportunities that may be open to them when they enter the job market — on whichever continent they choose.
So here’s to knowing when opportunity knocks at the door (even if it’s too softly for others to hear), and having the guts to throw open the latch.