Maria Schnabel

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The Surprising Second Acts of the Former BSI Team

“There are no second acts in American lives,” F. Scott Fitzgerald said. But that was in 1941, long before BellSouth International (BSI) closed and its team members went on to prove him wrong. Since then I’ve been hearing about former colleagues doing amazing things in business, philanthropy, education, sports, on the global scene, in their communities back home. Then a few weeks ago I saw a photo on social media of Brian Hailes in a courtier costume about to perform in the cast of Rigoletto. This is too good to be true, I thought. These stories needed to come out and be shared among the team. I started digging and came up with a collection of second acts that I think you’ll enjoy. Here they are, in no particular order except for Brian’s, who as the inspiration needed to be first, and yours truly who, as the editor, must come last. If there are others that need to be shared, let me know.

THE MUSIC LOVER – Self-taught musician Brian Hailes moved to Lenox, MA, five years ago, an area famous for its music, including the Tanglewood Music Festival, and the well-known musicians who live there. Brian is entering the final year of a BA program in music at Westfield State University (a long stretch from the BS in electronic engineering he received years ago). He recently made his on-stage debut as a bass-baritone in the role of a courtier in a production of Rigoletto at the Berkshire Opera Festival (he’s the one on the far right). He was the only member of the opera cast without a music degree. He got in on audition. Bravo!

THE ROCKSTAR CEO – Steve Logue has been with Virgin Mobile Latin America for eight years launching startups in Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico: five years as VP of sales and marketing, and the last three as CEO in Peru and then Mexico. (Photo is from the Dia de los Muertos, Mexico’s Day of the Dead.) Update: since this post was published Steve has moved to Adfinitely, a provider or marketing solutions, as president. Not clear about his plans for this year’s Day of the Dead.

THE DIPLOMAT – Carol Hanlon had an adventurous second career as a diplomat serving the U.S. Foreign Service in Pakistan, Australia, Afghanistan, Iraq (where she was embedded with an Army unit and where the photo was taken), and Thailand (where she met Duncan, a Scot and long-time Bangkok resident). They married and now lead far less-stressful lives in Gainesville, GA.

THE FRENCHMAN – After BSI, Michel Perussault moved to Leesburg, VA, near Washington DC, where he was CIO for NII Holdings Inc. He also took his motorcycle road-racing hobby to the next level by starting his own “Team Coyote” endurance racing team. He logged numerous six-hour races with WERA and CCS on more than 15 tracks all over the US. He is now retired and lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, where he enjoys safer hobbies like offshore fishing and competitive pistol shooting.

THE REFEREE – Bill Powell is a lacrosse referee. He’s the one on the left in a photo taken
at the 2018 Georgia State Championship game. He is a certified US Lacrosse Trainer and Observer, so he gets to work in officials’ development with referees from across the Southeast. He also referees NCAA lacrosse and Georgia High School football. “There is nothing like a Friday night football in Georgia,” he says. In his spare time he conducts sales and marketing training for Sales Concepts, a small company in Roswell, GA.

THE HUMANITARIAN – Trish Marcucci (still an attorney at AT&T) co-founded Mike’s Angels, Inc. with her sister Patricia to continue the legacy of their late brother, Mike, in their native Guatemala. The foundation helps underprivileged children in that country, many of them living in orphanages. They also work to foster a global humanitarian mindset among young people in the U.S. by taking a group of volunteers on a mission trip to Guatemala each year to help the children and to learn from this cultural experience. Trish would love to get more BSI alumni involved. To learn more/donate/get involved visit www.mikesangels.org.

IT’S DR. DROLL TO YOU – Steven Droll went back to school and earned a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Georgia State University. Teaching experiences include the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University and Bethel University. One of the courses requires international travel. This year it he took his students to the U.A.E. Next year’s class is going to Hong Kong.

THE FARMER – Larry Smith and his wife Georgia retired seven years ago to the Eastern Plains of Colombia, about 90 miles southeast of Bogotá. They live on a farm where their livestock produces fertilizer for use on their farms and for sale. They also have a cacao farm in the mountains nearby with 9,000 cacao trees. They harvest, ferment, and dry the cacao beans, which they sell in Colombia and have exported to Europe. On the photo with Larry is Prissy, one of their 75 laying hens. “Our first time ever as farmers!” he says. “We’re very happy with the change of life.”

THE DIGITAL-NEWS QUEEN – Have the CNN app on your smartphone?
Cathy (O’Dell) Rohrl is the leader behind it. She is the senior director of product at CNN Digital. Her team manages all of the “delivery” aspects of CNN content, making sure that the content that writers, videographers and broadcasters create and produce are delivered and available to power all of the CNN digital platforms – web, mobile, OTT, and off-platform services (like IOT). She lives in the Atlanta area.

THE PILOT – Roberto Peon got his pilot license and his first plane while still at BSI. He has been flying ever since, even during the six-years he served as CEO of Trinidad’s TSTT. Now fully retired, he takes his twin-engine PA 32, which has a cruise speed of 220 mph and a ceiling 25,000 feet, on domestic and international trips. He balances that with serious bicycling. Last year he biked about 4,600 miles from Key West to the border with Canada.

THE STRATEGIST –Kathy Chiang has been involved in a number of consulting projects for multinational companies, including working with Roberto Peon in Trinidad and Tobago at TSTT. She then co-wrote the book Monetizing Your Data – A Guide to Turning Data into Profit-Driving Strategies and Solutions. She recently launched a startup operation to bring business intelligence and analytics to small and medium-sized companies.

THE ANIMAL ADVOCATE – Former BSI attorney Gali Hagel established her own corporate practice in 1998 before becoming general counsel of the Hoover Group in 2002. In the meantime she became an animal advocate. She was an early strategist for the Great Ape World Heritage Species Project, representing pioneers in interspecies communication, and co-drafting Georgia’s first felony animal cruelty law. In 2009 she stopped practicing law and moved to the Bay Area, where she has been involved with animal, medical research, and documentary film nonprofits. Gali is also in her seventh year of writing a memoir she’s determined to finish. She misses Atlanta and often thinks of moving back to the South.

THE IRONMAN – As if running a successful career weren’t enough, for the past 10 years Jose Espinel (who is now an AVP of Marketing for DIRECTV Latin America) has completed close to 70 endurance races. These include triathlons, cycling rides, and running events anywhere from 5Ks to marathons, of which he has finished six, including the prestigious Boston Marathon earlier this year (see photo). He also finished two Ironman distance triathlons. He explains: “An Ironman is a brutal event, best characterized by its colloquial definition: swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles, running 26.2 miles (for a total of 140.6 miles), and earning the right to brag about it for the rest of your life!”

THE 3-WORLDS CONSULTANT – In 2002 Meade Lowance moved to Bonaire, where she met her now-husband Franc, a Dutchman. They have been living on the island since 2004 but in 2016 they bought a farm in Holland with the intention of renovating it. At the moment they are there, with Meade consulting through her new company 3werlden. It means “3 worlds” in Dutch, which is appropriate since she always seems to be between the US, Bonaire, and the Netherlands. She is also doing more painting, writing and lots more biking. She biked for three hours in the rain to get see a field of tulips at their peak where the photo was taken.

TÍO CHUCK – That’s how the Chile implementation team affectionally called Chuck Zetterstrom, he of the broad smile and endearing sense of humor. After BSI, Chuck did several contracting jobs, spent two and half yeas in China, worked on a Dynegy fiber-optic network build-out in Denver, and did consulting work in the Bahamas, South Africa, Egypt and Los Angeles. He’s really retired now and lives in Soleil Laurel Canyon, a 55+ community in Canton, GA, with wife Janet.

I.T. FOR GLOBAL GOOD – For her second act, Carol Recca took her corporate IT skills to the non-profit world, to Habitat for Humanity International, to be precise. As director of CRM and Fundraising IT services, she is focused on technology and information to enhance engagement with donors, volunteers, and advocates to help people build better lives and have a decent place to live in the US and abroad. She also gets to participate in the mission hands on, as was the case in Fiji in 2017.

GOOGLE HIM! – Fabio Coelho has been the president of Google Brazil since 2011. He lives in Sao Paulo. In 2015 he made the cover of Forbes Brazil as one of that country’s best CEOs. Google “Fabio Coelho” to learn more about his successes.

THE CAREER COUNSELOR – With broad HR experience gained at BellSouth Colombia, BSI in Atlanta and Telefonica’s Movistar in Chile, Anna Karina Marin created People Experience in 2015. Her firm, based in her native Colombia, provides advice to professionals in the areas of career development, communication, strategy and teamwork.

THE STARTUP MAN – Phil Wallace came out of retirement to start Virgin Mobile Latin America, where he still serves as founder and chairman. Virgin has 3.2 million subscribers in Chile, Colombia, and Mexico and licenses to begin service in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador.

PAPA BREED – “Life is good,” Jerry Breed reports from a beach vacation spot. He and wife Claudia recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Not surprisingly, their six grandchildren (Papa and Babbie to them) are at the center of their lives. “Best wishes to all,” Papa Breed says.

THE GARDNER – Marilyn Foshee always said that she’s never been bored a single day of her life, and that seems to more so now than ever. After BSI she spent 10 years with Centennial in Puerto Rico. Now that work is behind her, she is busier than ever with a number of activities, particularly taking care of her large garden, which produces enough vegetables to feed family, neighbors and friends.

THE BALLROOM DANCER – Since retirement Mario Lizaso has been active in the Roswell and Cobb communities (North Fulton Community Charities, Good Samaritan Clinic of Cobb County, and various committees of St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Alpharetta). Recently, however, Mario and wife Linda have been pursuing a new interest: ballroom dancing. They joined Arthur Murray Studio in Kennesaw and have been dancing at several events in the Southeast. Mario prefers ChaCha and Linda prefers Waltz.

THE GAMER – Stacy (Callahan) Hankinson is chief marketing officer at Phoenix Amusements, a 59-year old family business that offers a wide array of arcade video and interactive game rentals to events nationwide: racing games, karaoke and dancing machines (DDRs), sports games, simulators, casino party rentals, outdoor games and women’s all-time favorite (according to Stacy), the Whac-a-Mole.

THE NATURALIST – Larry Stevens, former PR-man and creator of Gallimaufry is now a Master Naturalist and a Master Birder. Catch him at the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Atlanta.

THE GLOBAL LEADER -Diego Molano is the former Colombia Telecoms Minister and current chair of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)

THE REALTOR TO FOREIGN BUYERS – Erika Hamilton’s real estate business has expanded over the past 15 years and today mainly caters to investors from different countries, especially China, both in person and via the internet.

OUR MAN IN ASIA – For 23 years Terry Clontz worked and lived in Singapore and New York, leading top Asian firms StarHub, ST Telemedia, and IPC. He retired in 2009 and is now a corporate advisor to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, serving on seven of its boards in Asia and the U.S. He is also involved in private investments in four small, exciting companies. He lives in Marco Island, FL.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER – Tom Meiss’ photography has been featured in, among others: the 2004 Atlanta Celebrates Photography Guide (cover); the inaugural show of Atlanta Photography Group’s Infocus Gallery; MOCA GA’s 2017 “Edge to Edge” survey of Georgia photography; the book “Inspired Georgia.” His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.


THE ENTREPRENEUR – Ralph de la Vega, former vice chairman of AT&T and author of Obstacles Welcome, is now chairman of the investment, consulting and philanthropy firm The De La Vega Group. Serves on the boards of American Express, New York Life, Amdocs, and is vice chairman of the board of Ubicquia. He still manages to find time for fishing (above with son Mark).

THE MAD MAN – Isaac Mizrahi is now co-president and COO of award-winning ALMA, a multicultural marketing agency based in Miami.

THE PROFESSOR – Marianne Fortuna received her Ph.D. in 2012 but was lucky enough to be hired in 2011 by the University of Georgia in 2011 when she was ABD (all but defended). She now teaches many different courses, but the core ones are finance, accounting and statistics. The picture above was taken by one of her students while teaching.

THE FAST TRACKER – Jeff McElfresh continues to blaze up the fast track at AT&T. Most recently he was CEO of Vrio, a holding company for AT&T’s DIRECTV Latin America and SKY Brasil. He is now president of AT&T’s Technology and Operations, responsible for the company’s transition to a software-defined and future 5G network. After living in Mexico City for a number of years, Jeff is now living in Dallas with wife Nena, also a former BSI-er, and kids Jose Antonio and Isabella Nicole (in photo from 2017 vacation).

THE RACE MAN – Paulino R. Barros has been with Equifax since 2010 serving in several senior executive positions. Currently, he is the president of the company’s United States Information Solutions (USIS) business unit. An avid fan of tennis and car racing for years, lately he has been doing some racing of his own at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, SC.

THE DOCENT – These days Stephanie Saunders calls Zoo Atlanta her happy place. She has been volunteering there as a docent since 2003 sharing her knowledge with visitors and doing presentations off-campus. Her favorite animal, she says, is the one in front of her at the moment, though she confesses pandas are real faves.

THE SKIPPER – After BSI J. Alberto Gonzalez-Pita (“Al”) had a number of senior executive and general counsel roles (Tyson Foods, Las Vegas Sands, and HCP). He retired in 2011 and bought a boat after significant negotiations with his wife Sue (a.k.a “the Admiral”). For four years they cruised from Miami to the Chesapeake and back until finally continuing up the Hudson River to the Great Lakes then down from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico. Despite this adventure, Sue and Al remain married and now split their time between Atlanta and Miami.

THE COASTAL GAL – Susan Yawn moved to the Isle of Wight (near Savanna, GA) in 2004. She and husband Greg easily fell in step with the area’s golf-cart pace and the coastal lifestyle of Greg’s childhood. In 2014 Greg was elected Grand Marshall of the Isle of Wight’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, when the photo was taken. Greg passed away last year but left Susan in the loving company of friends in a place that is now home.

THE PANAMANIAN – After leading Digicel in Central America, Luis La Rocca remains active in technology and serves on several insurance and banking regulatory institutions in Panama. When not in a board room, he can be found flying or fishing.

THE PARALEGAL – These days Kate Henry is loving retired life in her recently rediscovered hometown of Asheville, NC. She spends many days hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway, kayaking the French Broad, and enjoying local craft brew. A few years ago she traveled back to Argentina and met up with Sergio Quattrini (on photo with Kate), Javier Zapiola, and Rufino Arce of the former Buenos Aires’ local legal team.

THE BARMAN – A San Diegan since 2006, George Lamb is now with Nextivity, a company that makes ‘smart’ cellular signal boosters. He and wife Bonnie run the Facebook-famous Deck Bar in their backyard, which is open on weekends and frequented by some 70 regulars, including Pam Kinney (Green). BSI visitors have included, Vanessa Bowers, Keric Shannahan, and Art Shand, who visits every year for their summer music day, “Lamb Jam”.

THE CYCLIST – Carol Smith developed a passion for bike riding at age 52 while helping raise research funds for Type-1 Diabetes, which afflicts her oldest son. She found a new community and great friends and, in the process, learned about hopes to cure T1D and about pushing past one’s own limits. The photo above is from the 100-mile, 2017 Race the Lake (Winnebago), in which she (third from right) and her friends placed second among women’s teams.

THE HURRICANE MAN – Juan Saca, president and CEO of Puerto Rico’s PR Wireless, faced the challenge of a lifetime last year when Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Under his leadership, Open Mobile (as the company was called prior to signing a joint venture with Sprint Wireless in November of 2017) was able to not only survive but also to contribute to the restoration of the island and people’s lives.

THE REALTOR – Since leaving BSI Karen (Habra) Smyth has run a top-producing real-estate team at Keller Williams. In 2017, she merged with the #3 national team in the US as the Team Leader for the Atlanta Division. Find her at www.karen.bktgeorgia.com

THE RUNNER: Ana Calderon has created a harmonious and passionate relationship with running. She gets tremendous joy and satisfaction from being able to run with her daughter and granddaughter and from training and mentoring beginner runners. Ana has run many 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons but the one that remains very close to her heart is the famous Peachtree Road Race. This year, Ana proudly wore a shirt that read “Peachtreeing since 1999.”

COMING HOME – After spending 20 years in Hong Kong (BSI, Nextel, Motorola, earning a Stanford MBA), in 2013 John Jones and Brenda Sue Green (also former BSI) moved back to Venice, FL, to help elderly parents. John jokingly calls their Tibet/Mt. Everest trip in 2013 his “highest accomplishment!”

THE SCHOOL MASTER – In 2008 Jim Towey and wife Francie bought the Primrose School of Sprayberry and the Primrose School at Macland, both in the metro-Atlanta area. Since then, he says, “What started out as a business opportunity has developed into a passion to turn and maintain our schools (370 combined enrollment and 66 staff) as the preeminent preschools in our communities.” In fact, they are now building an addition to one school and about to start a major remodel of the other. Check them out on Facebook.

THE WOOD CARVER – Fulfilling a lifelong dream of living on the water has turned out even better than expected for Jeannie Brownsberger. After building a new house on Lake Hartwell, she’s found a great community that welcomed her easily. She has become involved in many new things and one of them is wood carving. “It has become a passion and nirvana to me to sit on my back screened porch looking at the lake while I work on my latest wood carving project,” she says.

THE STORYTELLER – After BSI and while consulting I got a second masters’ degree, this one in new media journalism. Those new skills, the freedom of retirement, the ability to travel and the wonders of wi-fi allow me to write and publish stories from anywhere in the world.


GONE TOO SOON

Bill Roberts (2000)

Richard Rose

Pat Hammerstrom (2010)

Rachel Holcomb

Pam Harris

Eric Hertz (2013)

Philippe Perussault (2013)

Jeff Morrow (2017)

Melody Withrow (2018)

Tom Crawford (2018)

21 Comments

  • Carol Hanlon

    Thanks Maria! What a treat to see that the spirit of BSI adventure still thrives. We created some mighty fine companies with BSI and our journey of growth and learning carries on and on. I look forward to hearing from others!

    • Maria

      Thanks, Carol. Indeed, it was a special group of people and we were lucky to be a part of it.

  • Kelly Myrick

    Great work to document the fantastic lives of these amazing people. Thank you for pulling this together.

    • Maria Schnabel

      Thanks, Kelly. Loved researching this. What are you up to?

  • Gerald Breed

    Thanks so much for compiling and editing these great stories. It was so much fun to read each one and reminisce about our time together at BSI and to learn about all of these “Surprising Second Acts”.

    • Maria

      Thanks, Jerry. It was a special group, indeed.

  • Kate Roberts Henry

    Bravo Maria. What a fun blog. I hope you will continue to add to it. So interesting to see all the different paths people have taken.

  • maria

    And I just heard of one more! Will be updating soon. Thanks for the kind comment, Kate.

  • Jennifer Fox

    I absolutely LOVED reading the Second Acts of colleagues (and their families)! Thank you & KUDOS, Maria, for reaching out and helping us to stay in touch!
    Jennifer

  • Amit Kesarwani

    Maria, thanks for your efforts. It is great to know what BSI friends are doing.

    • Maria Schnabel

      Thanks, Amit. How about you? What are you doing and where?

  • Fabio Coelho

    Bravo! Maria, you brought up many great memories. Super thanks for putting this together

    • Maria Schnabel

      Thanks, Fabio. What a nice group, eh? And we knew you back when!

  • Jamie Leyerle

    As someone slightly peripheral to the core BSI organization (was with BSIWS in Tampa and Atlanta from ’97-’00) it’s nice to see the updates on some of the familiar names. I have some updates (including personal information) on people–would be glad to share.

  • Bill Powell

    Good stuff, Maria! Thanks put putting all of this together.

    • Maria

      It was a blast!

  • Michael Roubicek

    Wonderful!

    Best Regards!

  • Maria

    Where are you? I’m working on a second post with more stories. Send me yours at Maria.schnabel@gmail.com

  • Gali Hagel

    Thanks so much for pulling all this together, Maria! Fascinating to see what everyone is doing. It took an explorer’s spirit to be part of BSI, and obviously people are continuing to embody that spirit. Looking forward to more stories in your next post. Best to all.

  • Maria

    Glad you enjoyed it, Gali. I had a great time compiling the stories. Indeed, more are surfacing. Working on the new post. Take care and stay in touch.

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