Uncompromising Commitment

Welchhornsby.com

Since 1988, our mission at Welch Hornsby has been unwavering. Provide uncompromising commitment to build and preserve the wealth of individuals, families, and institutions. It’s more than our philosophy. It’s our life. We are bound by the belief that the most significant investment we can make is the investment in a life of uncompromising commitment. Throughout history, many men and women have made that belief their guiding principle. Their mantra. They voiced opposition when the majority was wrong. They stayed later, worked harder, and ran faster. They imposed self-discipline, tapped into deeper energies, and ignored all distractions until they reached their goals. They saw what was right, pointed their feet in that direction, and walked. Some earned universal fame and recognition for their contributions. Some slipped beneath the public’s gaze. All showed what happens when one commits without compromise. Those men and women inspire us. This website chronicles their stories.

Lou Gehrig

The “Iron Horse.” A baseball great. A man of consistency and perseverance. Lou Gehrig and his legacy echo not only in the Hall of Fame but also in the daily strivings of people across the world. Lou Gehrig was as many would say, “durable,” and even after losing his life to a debilitating illness, his reputation has held strong over the years in his absence.

Born in Manhattan in 1903 to German immigrants, Lou was the only one of four children to survive infancy. He knew he had the hopes and dreams of his parents upon him from an early age, and with a mother determined to see her son succeed, Gehrig enjoyed and excelled at all things athletic. From hitting a grand slam home run at Wrigley Field as a teenager in the high school baseball national championships to following the remarkable Babe Ruth to the plate during his time at the Yankees, Lou Gehrig was a standout.

A man as seemingly unbreakable as his record—2,130 consecutive games—Lou Gehrig was a quiet but strong force among baseball fans and around the country. Gehrig won the hearts of fans and teammates as he proved to be an incredible and committed athlete, climbing the charts and setting records. He played hard and well, often shining even within the massive shadow of the behemoth Babe Ruth. He played because playing was what he did; through injuries, illness, and extreme pain, he was consistent. He loved the game. He was a steady constant amongst a gregarious group of players that made up the indomitable New York Yankees. And though we may remember his baseball accomplishments, his wins and hits and games do not truly define the man. After all, baseball has had many world-class hitters and several all-around great players. But it was Lou Gehrig’s durability of mind, body, and spirit that have elevated his name to a place of inspiration. The disease that ultimately took his life and later adopted his name in no way defines the man so devoted and determined to achieve sustained excellence.

In May of 1938, Gehrig’s astonishing consistency led him to hit the 2000-game mark in his career. But not long after attaining this milestone, Gehrig began to notice a difference in his game. His batting average fell, his coordination seemed off, and he felt unlike the hailed “Iron Horse” he had been dubbed. He played through his struggles that season, and ever-devoted, he worked hard to compensate for the changes he experienced. But when he came back for the 1939 season, he soon realized his poor play would hurt his team, and after 2,130 consecutive games, Gehrig, despite pleas from his teammates to play, voluntarily benched himself. Within months, the words “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” or ALS, would pull the breath out of the stands as doctors would find the mysterious disease was the only thing that could physically take the Iron Horse from the field.

Lou Gehrig Farewell Speech

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On July 4, 1939, to a Yankee Stadium filled to the brim, bases to bleachers, with tearful admirers, fans, loved ones, and teammates, Lou Gehrig bid farewell to the game he so consistently pursued.

Though Gehrig would retire from baseball, he would not remain idle. He spent a year of his last two on earth fulfilling his civic duty by working as a parole commissioner for New York City. He worked, even on crutches, until his body would no longer allow it.

Lou Gehrig will always be known for his consistency, his strength, and his hard work that brought him from a childhood of poverty to a lucrative career that provided for his family. But his true legacy lies in his perseverance and dedication in all aspects of life and his courage in the face of a terrible illness. His name and his legacy have continued to stand for enduring strength long after his own strength was taken from him.

His was an investment in a life of uncompromising commitment.

 

Amelia Earhart

“I did not understand it at the time, but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.” Ten-year-old Amelia Earhart watched with wonder as the first plane she’d ever seen soared overhead. Though she may not have fully known then, that plane—its nature-defying heights and captivating power—embodied what Earhart wanted for her life. It just so happened, the plane would also be her vessel, her platform, to throw off the ties of convention and to lead a charge for herself, for women, and for the world.

Never the dainty Victorian doll that her mother had hoped to raise, Earhart hardly blinked at the criticism she received for simply being herself. If the boys could do it, heaven help her, so could she. Her motivation was strong from an early age, and she filled page after page of her scrapbook with clippings of stories of successful women. Their achievements drove her to soar—if women were climbing to succeed in predominantly male-oriented fields, why couldn’t she?

By her 25th birthday, Earhart had saved enough money, earned by driving a gravel truck to and from construction sites (much to her mother’s dismay), to pay for flying lessons and her own plane. She was now a pilot—a feat that itself was to be lauded. Women had won the suffrage fight, and Amelia Earhart was just one of the many brave women determined to redefine limits and expectations of the gender.

In the wake of the famed Lindbergh flight—the groundbreaking event in aviation as the pilot flew solo across the Atlantic for the first time—publisher and promoter, George P. Putnam, went on a search to find a new story, the story of a female flyer, a “Lady Lindy” to replicate the event. And he found that in pilot and future wife, Amelia Earhart.

Though delighted to become the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air, Earhart was careful not to take the worldwide credit for the journey. She noted that she was merely the log keeper, a passenger, as males flew the plane across the waters below. But the world watched in wonder anyway. She was a hero amongst women and men alike, a glimpse of new heights in the lows of the Depression. But Earhart wanted to truly earn that honor. She pushed the limit with confidence, entering air derbies and pioneering new flights.

“I think I’m ready for the transatlantic hop.” She decided to make the journey on her own.

The date of this hallmark flight fell five years after Lindbergh successfully flew over the Atlantic waters. Ten people had died attempting the run since then, and even her mechanic only believed she had a long shot of surviving the trip. But Earhart took that one-in-a-hundred chance, soaring over deadly waters below, and landed safely in the fields of Northern Ireland to the cheers and applause of the nations. She was the first woman, the second person, to pilot a plane solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Though of humble beginnings, upon her landing she was an embodiment of progress to the people—the progress of technology, of worldwide relations, and of the Woman. In her position, she knew her platform to crusade for all women, and her work inspired women to look up at their own possibilities. She flew all over—the Pacific, the Atlantic, cross-country. The world was no less hers than it was anyone else’s, and she saw that because of the perseverance it took to reach that vantage point.

As she neared her 40th birthday, Amelia Earhart prepared to embark on what she decided would be one final “good flight.” She would attempt what most wouldn’t have the courage to consider—she would attempt to fly around the entire globe, navigating along the Equator. The journey was grueling, navigation was difficult, and weather conditions harsh beyond what she and her team had experienced. With less than 7,000 miles to her planned final destination, radios lost communication with Earhart’s plane.

Though the fate of that final flight has yet to be fully evidenced, that 27,000-mile trip still hangs in the atmosphere today. From the time she first climbed into a cockpit as a young woman, she knew that changing the world—her world and the world beyond—had many potential dangers. And the world she left behind still sees the benefits and rewards of her determination, her courage, her vision, and her grit in all endeavors.

Her physical journey had ended, but her legacy is one to be revered for ages. Her passion was pure, her focus was unrelenting, and in a final letter to her husband, she noted quite clearly that the journey that is thought to have taken her life was indeed worth taking.

“Please know that I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.”

Hers was an investment in a life of uncompromising commitment.

Jonas Salk

In 1952, an epidemic was sweeping a post-war nation. 52,000 cases of polio were reported across the United States, leading to more than 3,000 deaths and over 21,000 cases of paralysis, almost all among children. Polio was on the rise, and the summer infectious season of 1952 in particular seemed insurmountable. A plague had covered a nation—a nation that had found a suburban post-war identity with quaint neighborhoods and full of children, and a plague that was not new, but was very misunderstood. Parents feared as these children became hosts and transmitters of a biological phenomenon that waged a new war on the United States.

One of these parents’ peers, the son of a Jewish immigrant, working-class family, rose up to find a cure for the disease, not for the sake of placing himself high on a pedestal, but with hopes to lift all boats with a rising tide. Jonas Salk would become a true, selfless hero in the hearts of the people as he worked to vanquish the formidable enemy that was polio.

Though they had little formal education, Salk’s parents insisted that he receive the best education he was allowed. As a Jew in the 1920s, many educational opportunities excluded him due to racial quotas. But Salk excelled in every opportunity he was given, making the most of his chances and working with dedication to receive a prestigious, highly coveted internship position as a resident physician at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York.

As president of the resident house staff at Mt. Sinai, Salk showed leadership not only through his standards of excellence in physical medicine and surgery, but also his efforts to promote solidarity and best practice amongst his classmates. He wanted his work, on all levels, to benefit humankind.

After residency, Salk was once again faced with opposition, as many research positions were unavailable to him due to unfortunate quotas. But fighting against the odds, Salk sought out and received a laboratory position at the University of Michigan. After working in virology in Michigan, Salk pursued his dream to run and direct his own laboratory, taking a position at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he procured several grants through his hard work and leadership.

But of course, as history shows us, Salk’s journey had only begun. His successes at Pittsburgh only led to greater, groundbreaking endeavors. With each viral study or vaccine clinical trial, his calling became apparent. And when Salk was approached by the Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to work on their Franklin D. Roosevelt-founded polio project, he knew this work to this point—his preparation and persistence—had led him to the most important work of his life.

The threat of polio was described as feeling “like the threat of an atomic bomb.” Its presence was potentially world shattering for many, and parents dreaded the season of infection, keeping their children away from parks, schools, and friends for fear of contracting the illness. Throughout the early 20th century, children thought to be infected were taken into strict quarantine, at times even preventing the families of children who’d lost their battle with the sickness from providing proper funerals for fear of further transmission.

Polio had a face—it showed on the braced and wheel-chaired bodies of thousands of children, and its image weighed heavily in the minds of thousands of parents. Salk—a medical researcher—desiring no attention to himself, would become the new face of polio. A young man who rose from a sea of talented researchers would take the responsibility of finding a cure on his shoulders.

As he worked to develop a safe and effective vaccine, he garnered the trust of the people. His fellow researchers believed in him, and the anxious eyes of the nation were upon him as he worked to also gain their trust. Thousands of donors sent in personal donations, from dollars to dimes, in hopes that their contribution might in some way further the research that Salk persisted in. These people, the ones Salk watched as their lives were being altered, or even taken by the illness, were the impetus which continually that pushed him. He was driven by the humanity he longed to serve. He knew that there had to be a solution, a cure, a method of prevention, and that hope drove him daily in his drudgery. Until finally, the nation collectively held its breath on April 12, 1955, as the results of the vaccine trials were read.

A celebration! Horns honked, strangers hugged each other, carillons sounded, and parents were brought to tears. A war had ended, and an elusive enemy could no longer incite fear in the nation.

With the assurance that this vaccine would change the world, thousands of inoculations were produced to reach far and wide to prevent polio. The potential for this vaccine to be a lucrative one was never in question. But when asked about holding the patent for the vaccine—the one he’d worked toward developing since he was a schoolboy, the one he gave years of his life and full volume of thought to—Salk gave only a simple, brief response:

The vaccine belonged to the people, he said. “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

His was an investment in a life of uncompromising commitment.