Interview with G.T. Bynum

Michael Gerrity: Good morning this is Michael Gerrity, Advancement Director for the Augustinian Province of our Mother of Good Counsel. I have the pleasure today of speaking with G.T. Bynum. G.T. is a dynamic young professional who lives and works in Tulsa. In addition to being a sixth generation Tulsan, he’s a graduate of Cascia Hall our Augustinian High School in Tulsa, and another great Augustine, Augustinian educational institution, Villanova; where by the way, he served as student body President.

G.T. serves on the Tulsa City Council. He is the youngest person in Tulsa history to serve as Chairman of the Tulsa City Council. He is also a managing partner of Capital Ventures; a firm assisting Oklahoma businesses with federal contracting and business development. G.T. and his wife Susan are the proud parent of two children, Robert and Annabelle. I must point out also he’s an Eagle scout, because scouting is dear to me. And he is considered one of the upcoming leaders among young professionals in America today.

Good morning, G.T.

G.T. Bynum: Good morning.

Gerrity: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I can tell just by reading your brief bio that you’re more than a busy man, so thanks again for taking the time with us.

Bynum: Happy to do it.

Gerrity: G.T. I just have a few questions for you that I hope will enlighten the audience as to why you’ve chosen to participate in this campaign for the Augustinians. Let me start off by asking could you share with us how you first came to know the Augustinians.

Bynum: I was very fortunate in growing up, because the Augustinians were really very much part of our family here in Tulsa growing up, by going back to my great-grandfather, Joe LaFortune. We’ve been very close with the Augustinian community in Tulsa and particularly at Cascia Hall. Regularly at family events growing up, particularly at Thanksgiving, it was not unusual to have a number of Augustinian priests there celebrating with us.

They were part of our family growing up and the values of our family that were instilled in me by our granddad and grandmother and parents very much Augustinian values. Service to community, faith and charity, and those sorts of things; it’s been part of my life as long as I can remember.

Gerrity: Thank you for that. It sounds like you've had experience; all of your family has with a lot of the Augustinians. Are there any you’d like to single out who might have had seminal impact or a major impact on your life?

Bynum: Again, I've been so fortunate to encounter so many different Augustinians throughout different phases of my life. It would be hard to name all of them that have made an impact. I've been incredibly blessed in that way and that’s why the Order is so important to me. Two definitely stand out in my mind just in different phases of my life.

The first is Father Ted Tack, who  was one of my grandfather’s best friends throughout his whole life. Growing up they went to high school together here in Tulsa. When Father Tack completed his service as a Prior General he moved back and taught at Cascia Hall. And I was awfully lucky to be able to take an ethics course and a course on St. Augustine from one of the preeminent Augustinian scholars in the whole world right here in Tulsa.

That Father Tack got outside of school was a tremendous influence on me. His humility, his love of St. Augustine and his teachings, and his devotion to service really resonated with me; made a great impression on me. Father Tack was probably the number one reason I ended up going to Villanova, which was one of the great experiences of my life. If Father Tack hadn’t encouraged me as he did, I don’t know that I would have gone there. When my father passed away one of the very first people that I went to and wanted to be there with our family when that happened was Father Tack. He is definitely; he was part of our family.

Another one that really stands out from my time at Villanova is Father Bill McGuire. Father McGuire was a tremendous mentor to me during my time there. Met regularly with me, as soon as I came on campus I think Father Tack had tipped him off to keep an eye on me while I was up there and he did. Meet at least once a week, casually and informally with Father McGuire. When I became student body President, Father McGuire was a great mentor to me in that capacity.

I went on from Villanova and served, worked in the United States Senate helping Senators put bills together. I've since moved home back to Tulsa and as you mentioned as the outset now serve in an elected capacity of my own. Virtually everything I know about the dynamics of groups working with people to get things accomplished, how to handle people in difficult situations, and move them forward in a positive way; those are things that I've learned from Father McGuire at Villanova, things that he taught me that have stayed with me. Those are two, Father Tack and Father McGuire that have had a tremendous impact in my life.

Gerrity: That’s wonderful and it sounds like you've done an incredible job using those gifts that were given to you and taken those opportunities. Once again you underscore the impact of just one person, well focused; they can really move things and look how you’re moving things today. In part from the legacy you received from these good men, so thank you for sharing that.

It is a very secular world and I've worked in Washington; I know you have. Anywhere you go in business we can be a little bit overwhelmed with secularism, or maybe we think too much of it. Some people question the role or the impact of orders like the Augustinians.  What would you say the Augustinians' role is in society today? Do you consider them relevant still today?

Bynum: No question in my mind. I consider the Augustinian Order more relevant today than potentially any time in our history. The reason for that is that message from St. Augustine that has been passed down for 1,500 years now through the Order. That is an emphasis on service to God through community. Today what I encounter is a great, in my role in working in government, in elected public service, is a great cynicism towards politics, towards government, and towards a lot of institutions.

But at the same time, people are very community focused. More people yearn for that sense of community and the work that comes from that that is service to God. I don’t know that people necessarily even think of that as an Augustinian value. There are a lot of people that don’t realize that, but that’s the case. I also look at so many of the great leaders in our world that I know.

These are people that have gone through Augustinian schooling. Whenever I have a chance to speak to the students at Cascia I tell them they are going through a leadership factory there. Augustinian schools have a track record of producing great leaders because they instill that mindset of service to God through community service. It is very much a community minded focus, not so much an individualistic one. Which I think my generation and the ones coming after it are much more focused on, less of an individualistic focus and more on a community minded one.

Gerrity: That’s wonderful; what a testament that is. I hope many people get a chance to hear that and pass it on, because your words are more powerful than anything we could suggest here. This may sound silly now, but given what you've said, could you share with as to why you've helped this [Continuing Our] Journey of Faith [campaign] with your own gift. I know you’re a young man, really starting your career as much as you've done. You've got a young family with all the considerations that takes, and yet you decided to make a gift to the campaign. Can you tell me why you did that?

Bynum: Yeah it wasn't a difficult decision at all. I love the Augustinian Order. I love what it does. I love what it has been doing for centuries. You think about the people that have been influenced by it historically. So many of the people that have made a profound impact on me, whether it was Father Tack and Father McGuire, or my own grandfather who went through Augustinian schooling, who’s the great hero of my life. Or any number of the great professors and teachers that I had at Cascia Hall and Villanova. These are all people that were influenced by that Order, its mission and its members.

If there’s something that I can do to help that, not just to benefit from it, but to be a service to it I want to help. 

Gerrity: Thank you very much. I gather from listening to you, you would encourage others to go the extra mile and make a special gift to this rare capital campaign. Would you like to comment on that as to how and why you would encourage others to participate?

Bynum: I would just encourage others to remember that this is a small way in which we can help those who serve. I think of Father Tack and all he did for me. This seems like the least I can do to help those who continue his work. I had the privilege of interviewing Father Tack just a few months before he passed away. He talked very movingly about growing up as a young man and the Augustinian priests that were like older brothers to him at Cascia Hall and then at Villanova, and what an influence they had on him.

In particular, Father Driscoll, who had been the President of Villanova and came on and founded Cascia; made a huge influence on Father Tack and on my grandfather, Bob LaFortune. That’s a chain of service that goes from the priests that are serving us today, back to the priests that influenced them, and on and on back all the way to St. Augustine. Those of us who’ve had an Augustinian make an impact in our life can know that Augustinian’s mission is still being carried forward and this is a way that we can honor that and be of help in one small way.

Gerrity: That’s very wonderful. It’s great to see that men like you that understand legacy is gone, because men recognize they have a legacy before them and they make a commitment as you have with your family to pass the legacy forward to someone else. If you liked this interview and would like to tell our listeners please go to augustiniancampaign.org, augustiniancampaign, it’s all one word, .org, to hear other interviews like this dynamic one we've heard today from G.T. Bynum and to find ways you can participate in this very rare and unique campaign to help these good men make the world a better place.

Thank you so much G.T. for sharing your precious time and I look forward to seeing you during my future visits to Tulsa.

Bynum: Thank you.

Gerrity: Take care, God Bless.

 
Posted on December 3, 2014 and filed under G.T. Bynum.