A warm and genuine welcome awaits those who meet with the El Pomar Foundation’s “top gun”, Bill Hybl. William J. Hybl is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the El Pomar Foundation, one of the largest foundations in the Rocky Mountain region - founded by Colorado Springs philanthropists Spencer & Julie Penrose in 1937.
The El Pomar (which in Spanish means “The Orchard”) Foundation provides grants for programs in education, health care, the environment, amateur sports, human services, and the arts & humanities, with special emphasis on excellence in non-profits. Mr. Hybl, with his ever comforting presence, is well known as an inspirational leader both at El Pomar and throughout the country. His ethical manner, effectiveness – and fairness to all - are legendary; and he's the embodiment of a gifted leader who guides with wisdom, warmth, and compassion.
Bill Hybl has personally - and with the El Pomar Foundation - made some innovative and enduring contributions to our quality of life by spearheading many dynamic projects and grants that support civic and community based initiatives:
William Hybl helped secure a $10 million grant to the United States Olympic Committee. Hybl earned an international reputation and respect for his leadership as their President for two terms from 1991 through 1992 and from 1997 through 2000. Mr. Hybl gained national prominence as the Olympic President when he led the U.S. delegation in four Olympic games in Albertville, France and Barcelona, Spain in 1992, in Nagano, Japan in 1998, and in Sydney, Australia in 2000.
With Mr. Hybl’s guidance, the Foundation, has given millions of dollars in grants to many worthy non-profit organizations. El Pomar has become one of the leading, formidable philanthropic foundations in the Rocky Mountain West; and the El Pomar Foundation received the "National Foundation of the Year Award" from the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 1998.
Since its inception in 1937, the Foundation has made more than $310 million in grants, and many of the grants have been made to amateur sports organizations in the Pikes Peak region. One of Bill Hybl’s legacies is the Colorado Springs World Arena which opened in January 1998; thanks to the largest grant ever made by the El Pomar Foundation.
Bill Hybl has also been a member of several community and international boards, including being named U.S. Representative to the 56th General Assembly of the United Nations. In recognition of his dedication to the community, *Mr. Hybl has personally received numerous awards and accolades.
In 1981, Bill served as Special Counsel to President Ronald Reagan; having received three consecutive presidential appointments from 1992-1997. Mr. Hybl also served as Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
Hybl’s accomplishments have reached beyond service within the state of Colorado to a significant national and international level. Former U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney put it best: “Bill Hybl is a leader and a patriot who has served Colorado and the nation with honor and distinction. He will long be remembered for his hard work, commitment and diplomacy working with the international community as past President of the United States Olympic Committee and as Public Delegate to the United Nations.”
Bill Hybl is the “gold standard” to look up to, and he uses his influence in all the right ways. He guides with strength and decency and can make an indelible, lasting impression on you. Mr. Hybl did just that during this interview.
What charitable event do you really look forward to attending each year? There are two events: One in Colorado Springs: The “Awards for Excellence Program” that the El Pomar Foundation has each year which gives awards to non-profits throughout the State of Colorado in 11 categories. It’s held here at the Broadmoor, and usually 1100 to 1200 individuals attend who are staff and volunteers for non-profits. It’s a great evening, and it’s great recognition for non-profits throughout the State of Colorado because not only is there a cash stipend that goes with either being the winner or a finalist, and not only the recognition that each of these non-profits receive, it’s being an awardee that really makes a difference for non-profits as they go out and raise funds from other sources. The Awards for Excellence is in its 17th year.
The other event is one that is a sentimental favorite: The “Citizen of the West” dinner held in January in Denver; and it’s special because it’s involved with the heritage of the state. It occurs during the National Western Stock Show, but it has its own identity, and the proceeds from it funds scholarships throughout Colorado and Wyoming - particularly for rural students who are involved in careers and issues associated with ranching in the West.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot? For our family, whether it’s summer or winter, we enjoy going to our townhouse in Vail. We have two sons, and 6 grandchildren (all 8 years old and under), and it certainly is tight when everyone is there, but it’s wonderful for all of the family when we get together. Vail is close, but it’s also far enough away to feel like you are on vacation. I know that’s not really too exotic, but that’s where we like to go, and the townhouse is on Gore Creek. In the summer it’s beautiful, and everyone in the family skis in the winter, except for the 3 year old, and I suppose that will come along soon.
Is there a magazine or publication you can’t live without? The publication on a weekly basis that I read extensively is The Economist. I find it gives a perspective on what we do in America which is pro-business, but in many ways somewhat more balanced and less biased than many of the publications that I see that are domestically published. Same thing goes for newspapers; we also take The Financial Times, and they do a very good job of reporting worldwide news on a daily basis. Of course, you can’t beat your hometown paper for local news, but I think those two publications for international and national news are excellent.
Is there a book you have read that really inspired you that you can recommend to others? It’s hard to pick out any one book, but I would say Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat,” is a candidate; and certainly while I don’t agree with all his conclusions, the underlying facts that he works with are real, and something as a country we must confront. You know, sometimes we forget how strong this economy is. We have gross domestic product of 12.4 trillion dollars. The next closest country is Japan with 4.4 trillion dollars. And as much as we talk about China today, their gross domestic product is about 2.3 billion – which is about the same as Great Britain. While the growth rate in India and China is terrific, the plateau on which they start is entirely different.
You sound very knowledgeable about Economics; do you enjoy following all the statistics? Even though I’m a lawyer, I enjoy Economics. I think that one of the things that we can do as a Foundation in support of other non-profits is make sure they have the ability to understand the economics of the business and the business of the business.
Every non-profit that I can think of have committed people who are involved with an idea that is good, one that is helpful, and they are trying their best - they truly believe in what they are doing. They also have to make it viable in terms of the finances and the way they run their non-profit as a business. This is part of what we do with our training programs here at El Pomar - particularly the fellowship programs - to try to assist non-profits in the business of being a non-profit and also knowing their limitations.
Who is the most interesting person you have ever met? The fellow who brought me in to eventually running El Pomar, in 1973, was Ben Wendelken. He was 72 years old, and at that time, I was a member of the Colorado House of Representatives and practicing law in a four-man law firm here in the Springs. He asked me (I had a lot of respect for him; he was the dean of the bar) if I’d ever had an interest in doing something different. What different meant to him, at that time, was for me to become the Executive Director of the EL Pomar Foundation and V.P. of the Broadmoor. The guidance I received from him, and the mentoring for the next 20 years, was so valuable. He kept practicing until he was 92 years old; and he was the General Counsel for the Broadmoor and for El Pomar until the day he died. He gave me great perspective and knowledge about this institution and about the Broadmoor as an institution. Ben was Mr. & Mrs. Penrose’s attorney until Mr. Penrose died in 1939.
On a couple of instances when I made bad decisions, he bailed me out - not without chastising me – but he did bail me out. What an extraordinary individual he was, with such a keen intellect; and he was still in his mid 80’s then. He would argue cases in court; and his only problem was he had macular degeneration, but he would always be at the top of the list of the best. He also was so good about helping out in the community. He did an enormous amount of pro bono work.
Would you call him your mentor? I’d say I had two mentors; Ben was one of them. The other was Russell Tutt, the President of the Organization who I worked with directly. He was the driving force in my success when I became President of El Pomar in 1980. His son, Thayer Tutt, is now my President and Chief Investment Officer of El Pomar.
What do you consider a priceless gift? Good health and a great family. Other things are transient in nature.
What word best describes your life right now? Fortunate. I have the job that I really like. I look forward to coming into the office; I enjoy the interaction with the other 75 members of our staff. I think we make a difference in the State of Colorado. I believe there is more to do; and even though many at my age consider retirement, unless my trustees decide that’s on the horizon, I’d like to stay involved for a number of more years.
I have a great wife, two good sons who are active in their own right doing many things, and 6 “rug-rats” that are a sense of joy. I look forward to having a growing relationship with my grandchildren in the future.
What is something your parents taught you that you have never forgotten? Saving money – in addition to spending it. It’s good for the capital market, & good for you because then you have a better idea of what your future’s going to look like.
Do you have a quote or saying that has helped guide you through life? “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” I really believe that. That’s absolutely true.
How does the El Pomar Foundation differ from other foundations? The El Pomar Foundation is about 2/3’s grant-making and about 1/3 programs. We have leadership programs starting at the high school level and also at the college level. We have our “Awards for Excellence” which rewards those non-profits who are doing well.
We’ve made a special effort and created 9 regions throughout the state to find out what the million and a half people who do not live in Metropolitan Denver have as their special needs. Because roughly 2/3’s of the people live in the Denver area, we have focused a great deal on the other 1/3 - all the way from Cortez to Sterling to Burlington and Southeast. We do a great deal in these areas, and I think we are making contributions as we are looking at their needs. That’s where our support of the State Methamphetamine Task Force came from, especially on the western slope. We were being made aware of what a serious problem meth use is, and while treatment and law enforcement and certainly education about meth is not going to be our direct responsibility, we certainly can support organizations in areas that can make a different.
Health Care is also an issue. We have addressed that in terms of the grant-making we have done, and there have been discussions about the problems among our regional councils.
What are some of the other issues you are focusing on these days? At El Pomar we are focused on bringing the 9 regional councils into being an integral part of the El Pomar system. All of the councils are up and running now, and they really are making a difference; and they give us a window on knowing what the community really wants and the people really want in the rural areas. Rather than us saying we know what you want, and we will tell you what you want by the grants we make, we are asking them directly. Each council has about 9 people or so, and around the state, that’s about 100 people giving us important information.
What changes do you foresee our government making in the future? The government is going to have to address our Social Security system. With a smaller workforce and a greater retirement force - the numbers vary depending on who you ask - the fact is that the program is in trouble and that has never been in question. We are going to have to address the health care issues also - including Medicare, etc. If you were to ask me to give you a guess as to where it’s going to go, I think we will continue to muddle through.
As far as the conflicts going on in the world, I have no reason to believe that after 6,000 years of recorded history of man that conflicts will all of a sudden stop. We watch the stock market repeat itself; so does man repeat himself.
On our national security, I’m an advocate that we are going to have to come up with a policy that protects America; and I can’t see a policy that doesn’t protect America having much traction, so it has to happen. We have a lot going for us, and we need to protect our way of life.
Even when the Berlin Wall came down, we were pretty much unaffected, from like 1990 till 2001; we had a feeling of security. On September 9, my wife, Kathy, and I moved to New York City. I was the U.S. Representative to the General Assembly at the United Nations. The General Assembly only runs for 3 ½ months, and the Security Council goes year round. Ironically, September 10th was my first day, and then September 11th went down just as I’m walking into the U.S. Embassy. You were just hoping there wasn’t more to come. Those were such difficult times.
What is your greatest strength? From a business point of view, I’ve been very fortunate to surround myself with really good people. They have made it possible for the Foundation, and other non-profits that I’ve been associated with, to do well. When I was President of the United States Olympic Committee, we really had good folks that made it work when times were trying. If you have good people, and they receive the authority and the recognition for what they do, it can make everyone’s job a lot easier; it has for me.
What is your greatest weakness? I have a strong bias to accept what people tell me at face value, and I’ve been burned. I say shame on my profession as a lawyer when they make it possible for people to qualify what they say so they really do tell the truth. I just accept you are telling me the truth. That can be a weakness. I’m now wary– but not too cynical.
What do you still want to learn how to do? Two things: 1) Keep my drives in the fairway. 2) Be able to putt the west course here at the Broadmoor.
How do you stay so motivated and committed to your causes? I think the driving force is the realization that the work is not done, and there is always a way to do it better to serve the needs of the people of Colorado.
What are your favorite leisure time activities or hobbies? Golf, walking on the treadmill or around the Broadmoor Lake, and reading and smoking a cigar is great relaxation for me. The walking early in the morning is great; it’s a way to organize your day, and a way to clear your mind as you prepare to start your day.
What should we all be working on these days to make our country better for future generations? 1) We need to continue to understand other cultures and how we are going to deal with our differences, and not starting from the singular proposition that our way is the right way. We have to understand why others do something differently, and how we are going to be able to create common ground. 2) The country as a whole needs to ensure that we maintain a strong, viable middle-class which has upward economic mobility potential. 3) As I mentioned, it’s important that our society look for new creative ways to be tolerant of others. Too often I see that the media suggests that only one side has to be tolerant, and that can be destructive. Media bias needs to change.
What’s in the future for Bill Hybl? I would hope that my tenure with the El Pomar Foundation will be reflecting a legacy of progress - particularly in continuing to make a difference for those million and a half people who live outside of Metropolitan Denver as we go forward over the next few years.
How would you like to be remembered by future generations? I will leave that up to them…
*Some of Mr. Hybl’s Community Awards & Recognitions: William J. Hybl has received numerous awards and accolades, including induction into the “Colorado College Sports Hall of Fame” in 2002; named “Citizen of the West” in 2003. Inducted into “The Colorado Business Hall of Fame” 2004. Re-appointed to “The Colorado College Board of Trustees” in 2005, and the “Colorado Sports Hall of Fame” in 2006. Mr. Hybl also serves on the Boards of Directors for Kinder Morgan, Inc., Houston Texas; USAA Insurance, San Antonio, Texas; Guest Services, Fairfax Virginia; and FirstBank Holding Company of Colorado, Denver, Colorado.