Interview with Chuck Engvall

Michael Gerrity: Hello, this is Michael Gerrity.  I'm the Chief Advancement Officer for the Midwest Augustinians.  I'm pleased to have with me today, Chuck Engvall.  Chuck is a University of Illinois graduate and a CPA with over fifty years of experience in finance and business including work in public accounting and industry.  Chuck has been involved with the Electronic Connector Corporation for the last 27 years, 25 years as president of the company, and the last two years as the COO to new ownership.

Chuck is a generous and long-standing supporter of the Augustinians.  His contributions of time and talent and financial involvement have benefited Providence Catholic High School and the Midwest Providence of the Augustinians whom he still advises today on matters of finance, accounting and investments.  Chuck and his wife Pat are lifelong residents of Joliet and they have one beautiful daughter and three grandsons all by the way are members of St. Jude Parish in New Lenox.  Good afternoon Chuck how are you today?

Chuck Engvall: Doing good Michael.  Just enjoying an early fall season here in Chicago.

Gerrity: Well thank you so much for sharing the time with us.  I know you're extremely busy and your introduction underscored why.  Well Chuck I'd like to ask you a few questions and you answer as you feel as the spirit in your heart and your experience move you okay?

Engvall: Yeah, that's fine.

Gerrity: Could you please first share with our listeners how you came to know the Augustinians?

Engvall: Well it started in 1987 when my daughter entered Providence Catholic High School and I became acquainted with Father Dick McGrath.  My daughter graduated there in 1991.  Father McGrath has still not given me my graduation certificate.  I've been involved there since '87 helping him and advising on financial issues and things and has been constantly involved there on the advisory board and chairing the finance committee. 

Over that period of time, have also worked with John Merkelis and even Don Lewandowski was on the faculty at that time at Providence.  It's been basically a 27, 28 year relationship at this point.

Gerrity: Well I know the Augustinians are extremely grateful for your involvement.  I think they wish they could clone you, but that wouldn't be right.  You've met enough Augustinians, are there any particular Augustinians that stand out for you that have impacted you in any way?

Engvall: Well basically my involvement has been primarily with the men who have been coming through Providence over the years and at St. Jude and again Father Dick McGrath and I like I say we have kind of been a team since 1987 when he reached out and said, "Hey, I could use a little financial help."  I guess at times when we do something brilliant we sound like Carson and McMahon.  When we fumble something, we seem more like Laurel and Hardy, but we have gotten together well over the years.

Over the years also, getting to know John Merkelis and his caring concern for people and his pastoral roles at Providence and with the Providence, Don Lewandowski and Bill Sullivan over at St. Jude.  Bill especially in his love and care of the children of the parish over there.  They've all had impact on us and getting to know them has been an honor and just admiring the work they do has helped impact us and given us the desire to help them as we can.

Gerrity: Thank you very much for that.  Chuck, what I find very interesting with your devotion and loyalty to these men, because I've seen it, how much work you put into the place, I mean expertise like yours would be extremely expensive to pay for and yet despite the fact that your religious persuasion and where your heart takes you is with the Lutheran Church and not with the Augustinians and in particular the Catholics, I think it's even more laudable what you do and it leads me to my next question.  Knowing religious orders or knowing at least what you do about them now, do you consider the Augustinian Order relevant in today's society?  Does it have a role that's functional or useful today?

Engvall: Yes they do, Michael.  Again in today our society if we look at it in my opinion it's wandering, it is a very self-centered society.  People in many cases are turning if they are looking for religion, then many of them are turning to what I call feel-good-religious-shopping of going to a church and then shifting in a year or two if you don't like what they're saying and these men stay the course.  They have continued to highlight or basically emphasize their roles in education.  I've seen that at Providence as they've lifted the school from I would say I guess an average performing school to an excellent academic school.

That environment has all been nurtured by the Augustinians and what they have done over all the years.  Today, it is as relevant if not more relevant than in the past, like I say in our society today has become more self-centered; their love, devotion, if that can be imparted into today's youth as I see it as I walk around the halls of Providence and I see the children at St. Jude, it is the most important role they have to fulfill today and they are definitely very relevant in our society.

Gerrity: Well that's really good to say because you get around a lot with over fifty years in business and I know you know of what you speak.  Let me ask you another question that kind of relates; this Continuing Our Journey of Faith campaign which it's a rare campaign for us as you know, we don't get a big whack at capital campaigns but every five or six years if that frequently, so your help is very special.  Why are you helping?  I mean, why are you contributing and helping this campaign?  Could you share something with us?

Engvall: I think the biggest thing Michael is an appreciation for what these men have done both in service and sacrifice throughout their lives and today especially there are so many life path choices and they have chosen a very difficult, dedicated path.  Our exposure since '87 with Dick McGrath, like I say with John Merkelis and his pastoral efforts and the others looking at what these men still give and still have to offer, the reason I volunteer my time is I will do whatever I can to help them and maybe ease their life a little bit as they go on.

Again as far as financing and the capital campaign, very important that these men be taken care of for the service they've given and also looking forward to the men coming in to formation, maintaining the future of the Augustinians to be viable as we go forward.  Again, I feel it's the least we can do as an appreciation and thank you for what they've given us.

Gerrity: Thanks a lot for that.  I guess it goes without saying or maybe I should just ask, I take it... why would you encourage others to give or contribute?  It sounds like you would.

Engvall: Again for the same reason I do, everybody is in a different economic situation, some can afford more than others.  We've been able to give time as well as some funding when necessary.  We're able to support a building campaign at Providence and we're very glad to help support this campaign.  Again the biggest thing again for anybody to give to this is if you know these men, if you've been exposed to them, they've in some way touched your life.  In doing that I feel that we owe them a debt to help take care of them again as they reach their later years as we're trying to do through Journey of a Lifetime. 

It's also a statement of faith where people can say that, "I want to help the future."  As more men are heading into formation now after a long dry spell, the Father Ryan Trust is being established to help fund the formation efforts which is the future of the Order, so I guess I'd be asking people to go with me both as a reward and a thank you for those who have served and as a statement of faith to help the Order move forward in the future by educating the young men who are coming in to the Order.

Gerrity: That's excellent.  Is there anything else Chuck in closing or other thoughts or ideas you might like to share beyond these questions?

Engvall: I don't think so Michael, I think we've pretty much covered it.  Like I say we've had this longstanding very good relationship.  I guess the only other thing I'd point out which was pointed out to me when I made the same comment about having a Lutheran watch your money, is I was reminded that Martin Luther was an Augustinian.  In a way, I guess I'm coming full circle on behalf of Martin Luther and the others.

Gerrity: Oh, that's a beautiful way to end it.  I want to encourage everyone to please go to, augustiniancampaign - all one word .org - and pass on Chuck's great interview to others you know or look at the other interviews on there.  There's thirty-five to forty fathers, brothers, lay leaders like Chuck who are sharing their thoughts and their feelings and learn more about the campaign and find out way you may want to participate as well.  Thanks again, Chuck.  We really appreciate you sharing some of your precious time.  Best of luck to you.

Engvall: Okay and God bless you Michael.

Posted on December 1, 2014 and filed under Chuck Engvall.