My Story

I have been blessed with a very loving and hard working family.  I grew up in a Northwest suburb of Chicago. My father is an Electrical Engineer who worked for Northrup Grumman until he retired at the age of 72, and loves to spend time outdoors in the Northwoods while being a Top-Notch Mr. Fix-it in Hayward, Wisconsin.  He was the first male in his family to graduate from high school (and college), and always stressed being patient and doing things right.  My mother is a superb teacher who taught into her late 60’s, various grades and subjects, but the longest was Secondary Special Education.  She also was the first person in her family to graduate from high school (and college).  My mom loves to engage us in deep family discussions where we “solve all the problems of the world.”  She served as an Alderman of our city for eight years.

With my mom, dad and fellow cowboy, Steve (who several years later told our mom
he wished she would have named him Gus).

My grandparents were all first generation Americans, exceptional people, so reflective of their generation.  My dad’s father quit high school early so he could get a job working in tool and die, eventually bought his own machinery, and, with a friend, started his own business.  That business grew, and at its peak, he had 50+  employees.  He “retired” in his mid-80’s, but was a bundle of energy and creativity his whole life, urging us to work hard.  His wife, my Grandma Dujmovic, was an exceptional gardener and cook (Perogi-maker Extraordinaire) and assisted with Grandpa’s business.  She was loving and giving.  She always got tears in her eyes when we hugged her goodbye after a visit, even if we were going to see her again within the week, and I remember the tradition of going around their circle drive three times in the car before departing for home. 

Boompa and Grandma Dujmovic

My grandfather on my mom’s side was a WWII Marine who quit high school early to enlist.  I was fortunate to know him for 10 years, but he passed on prematurely.  He was a great athlete and coach, served on his Park Board, and took me to ballgames at Wrigley Field.  He was a diehard Cubs’ fan, and when the Cubs won the World Series in superb fashion in 2016, a picture of my Grandpa was beside me as I cheered on the game.    

Grandpa Nejedly

A guy who made every day fun


My maternal grandma quit high school early to get a job and support her family.  She worked in the same factory, for the same book-binding company from age 16 to age 65.  She, too, was exceptional: an athlete, an artist, a brilliant card player and so supportive of her family.  Her husband (Grandpa Nejedly) once made the newspaper for bowling a 299... Grandma carried on the family bowling tradition well into her 70’s and also enjoyed golf.

       
          
Grandma Nejedly

Our parents, grandparents, Steve, and I in front of the Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs


My younger brother, Steve, is a USAF Lieutenant Colonel and B-52 Instructor pilot.   He has the most hours in the airframe of anyone currently flying it.  He is also my best friend, though he lives far away in Louisiana.  Growing up, we were both passionate about the original Star Wars' trilogy and the movie Top Gun. We both attended the United States Air Force Academy and served in the Air Force together for several years, though never stationed at the same base.
               

My little brother didn't stay my little brother!

Fun times when the boys were younger-with my parents,
and brother, Steve, at Epcot in Florida


I started working when I was 14, mowing local lawns, and took my first “real job” washing dishes, mopping floors and cutting French fries at 15.  During high school, I also worked sweeping floors and cleaning up at construction sites during the summers and eventually learned framing and construction skills.  My boss from those days, “Mr. Sam,” is in his late 80’s and still a close friend and lifelong mentor who taught me a lot about how to treat employees and subcontractors with respect and love.  I was very involved in high school playing a number of sports and taking on many leadership positions in service-oriented clubs and societies, one of which, entitled S.O.S. (Service Over Self) was started by Sam's daughter, Lori, about 17 years before.
                   
Mr. Sam and his wonderful wife, Esta Lee, when they visited me in Colorado (this was freshman year, and I was required to wear my uniform everywhere I went off Academy grounds).
I smile when I look at this picture because my dad still wears this "antenna jacket" (that he probably bought in the 1970's)- he's been big into Ham Radio for as long as I can remember!

Most importantly in high school, I met the love of my life, Lisa.  We’re one of those lucky couples who experienced love at first sight, just prior to the second Cross-Country race in the fall of ‘88.  I was a Senior, she was a Junior, the new girl from Minnesota.  Lisa was an exceptional runner, having just come from the 1987 Minnesota State Champion Alexandria Cardinals Cross-Country team.  She became the #2 runner in the entire state of Illinois that fall.  I literally never saw her lose a race…  She saw me lose all of mine, but that didn’t scare her away.  She was an elite athlete, I was a glorified jogger, but she gave me the honor of being my date to the JHHS Homecoming Dance that October and we’ve held hands ever since.  


On our way to the Homecoming Dance, October 1988

In the dating years, we loved to run, bike, canoe, and create interesting dishes in each other’s family kitchens together.  While we were separated for my four years of school at the Academy, we would write love letters every week to each other since long distance phone calls were so expensive at the time.  (Some of those letters would unfortunately be coated with the murky waters of the Grand Forks Flood of 1997, but Lisa carefully rinsed each one in a kiddie pool of clean water and then clipped all of them to the backyard clothesline to dry and be preserved.)  We were married shortly after I graduated from the Academy, and our life together has been wonderful.
            
Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder... 
        Celebrating our commission to 2nd Lieutenants-USAFA Graduation 1993
Falcon Stadium 

I studied Electrical Engineering at the Air Force Academy.  It was there I was able to hone my leadership skills, as it was an institution which provided lots of opportunities to lead my peers and practice the art.  It was also there that I took the Air Force Honor Code: "[I] We will not lie, steal, or cheat nor tolerate among us anyone who does."  I live by this code to this day.  I would eventually go on to get a Masters in Engineering Management from the University of Colorado, Boulder while serving in the AF.  Lisa studied Elementary Education, graduating Summa Cum Laude from the Honors College of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where she was on academic as well as athletic scholarship, running Division I cross-country and track until back problems sadly caused her to have to give up her favorite sport.    


My "Sponsor Family" in Colorado Springs while at the Academy.  Barb and Bill gave us cadets a place to be on weekends during school as we were only allowed a few weeks of leave a year to go home. Bill was in one of the first graduating classes at the Academy.  He has since passed away, but Barb, who was always so very kind, is still very special to Lisa and me.


Lisa was a beautiful bride, and I felt like the luckiest man alive as tears rolled down my face the day her dad escorted her down the aisle.  He placed her arm in mine and then (as Pastor of their church), walked up the two steps of the sanctuary platform, turned around, and performed our wedding ceremony.  Lisa comes from a very wonderful, very intellectual family.  As well as being a Reverend's wife, her mom, a gifted cellist, also played in a variety of symphony orchestras, taught cello lessons, and was a French tutor.  

Sharing a laugh as Lisa accidentally and nearly toppled over her maid of honor, Karin, who thought Lisa would stand still for a moment so she could fix her train as we exited the sanctuary- guess we were too excited to begin life together as husband and wife!  On your marks, get set, go!


Lisa's mom and dad at the wedding reception. The two met while doing graduate work in Oberlin, Ohio. Lisa's dad served 38 years in the ministry before his retirement.

After the honeymoon, Lisa and I began our journey of temporary and permanent living situations in seven different states during our Air Force years, moving where the Air Force needed us to be.  My first year out of the Academy was spent serving as an Electrical Engineer  in the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.  I was then selected for Flight Training (attending Navigator School in San Antonio, Texas) and was assigned as a KC-135 Navigator upon graduation.  The airframe was unique as we were responsible for conducting air refueling operations around the globe.  My role was to be at the right place, at the right time with the right amount of fuel and to coordinate so that the receiving aircraft would be fueled up and headed in the right direction after taking on the gas.  Back in the days prior to GPS, we would navigate by Radar or Sextant, using the sun, moon and identifiable stars to locate our position.  

A KC-135 Stratotanker Nav Station

I served as the Squadron Communications Officer, a Training Officer, Scheduler, Standardization/Evaluation Navigator, an Executive Officer, and the Mission Employment Flight Commander.  I was the officer in charge of the Wing's Weapons and Tactics program, Special Operations Missions and Crew Training/Qualification, and Mission Planning for a 4-squadron Wing.  I honed my leadership skills in these roles and served with truly outstanding people, from whom I learned much.  I earned the Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Commendation Medal, and the Meritorious Service Medal among others.  I was named a Distinguished Graduate of the Squadron Officers School.  The KC-135 mission was fun and the people were superb, but I was often deployed for half of the year or more and really missed being with my young family.  When we separated from the Air Force, we decided to settle in Minnesota, and have lived here ever since. 
 

I always felt blessed being welcomed home from deployments 
by these two precious guys and their wonderful mom.  

           
I remember being amazed by how much Little Jakey had grown during this particular trip.

    
            
Pictures taken during our Grand Forks AFB days. I used to always tease David for looking
like a young politician in this photo- guess the joke's on me as now I'm the one
running for a city office!  

We’ve experienced much joy in raising our two sons, David and Jacob.  Lisa and I are proud of our witty, friendly, caring boys, and you can often find some or all of us enjoying fishing, skiing, biking, walking, playing tennis, kayaking, laughing over boardgames, or watching movies together.  Dave is 24, took after his Mom athletically, and was an exceptional cross-country and track athlete in high school, breaking 35-year-old school records in the  4 x 800 relay category.  He was also a great baseball player, before having to give up the sport due to a torn labrum injury, and he still loves playing and watching basketball.  The MN Timberwolves do not have a bigger fan!  Dave graduated from the U of M, Twin Cities in 2018.  He worked in the business world for a couple years and is currently attending graduate school in Health Care Innovation at St. Thomas. 

One of David's favorite TV shows was "Blue's Clues."  One year, he found "Blue" at the finish line of a Scavenger Hunt on his birthday.

Dave (far left) enjoying time with old neighborhood friends
                        
There was no one our dog, Duncan, loved more than his buddy, David.


Our boys have always been good to one another, and, for that, we are thankful

Jake is 22 and just graduated with Cum Laude honors from Hamline University this past spring (though the ceremony date is still TBD) with a double major in Business Analytics and Management.  He's enjoying working for Mercer as a Healthcare Consulting  Analyst.  It’s hard to think of something Lisa and I have treasured more over the past four years than watching Jake pitch and play starting shortstop for the Hamline Pipers (and cherishing having been able to witness each moment of the 14 years he played baseball before that).  He’s also an amazing 3-point shooter on the basketball court.  The past couple summers, he’s been hitting the golf courses hard, trying to get Dad up to speed, though that proves to be a grand challenge!
With baby dragon, Jake, at a squadron Halloween party.  Another one of David's favorite
TV characters was Elmo, so you can probably sense a theme here...

Jake rocked it out as Ringbearer for my Cousin Jen's wedding. This is the only picture
on our fridge, and I think the plan is to leave it there forever.  Good times.  

Jake (in the ball cap) with Hamline housemates (who were also baseball teammates).  We bought a century-old home in St Paul near their campus during freshmen year (and just two months before Lisa was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer). She plowed her way through helping me with renovations despite surgeries, chemo, and radiation in order that the home would be ready for the five boys' last three years at the school (the crown molding did eventually get placed over the shiplap 😀). We enjoyed being landlords to these five fine, young men, three of whom have now moved to other areas of the country upon graduation.

Geese gathering to watch Jake's tee shot

Jake has been dating sweetheart, Reilly, for over three years.  Reilly has a gem of a personality, is sharp as a tack, and was a standout basketball player at Hamline.  Although she was asked to play basketball in Europe, she decided to go onto do graduate work at the University of South Dakota where she will eventually receive her Masters and Doctorate in Occupational Therapy.  Jake and Reilly are now experiencing a little of what Lisa and I had to go through during our long-distance relationship, though cell phones and Internet make it a little bit easier for them than it was for us, we're hoping!

Post-game where Reilly had scored her 1,000th collegiate point!
   
   
These two both did an amazing job of balancing collegiate schooling, athletics, work, and dating!
      
            
A special hug before dinner- Reilly was able to accompany us to the baseball team's annual Spring Training trip in Arizona last year. This year's trip was canceled due to Covid-19 just a few days before everyone was scheduled to fly down.


Lisa chose a career in volunteerism beginning when David was born.  She used her experience in the classroom to aid our children’s elementary teachers and to teach extra-curricular Challenge Reading to gifted readers as well as help middle school students who were struggling in that subject.  She also did some pre-school substitute teaching when the boys were young.  At various churches in various locations, she was a nursery worker, Vacation Bible School leader and then co-director, MOPS teacher, Basketball Camp coach, and Care Ministry Director, where she led a team in visiting church members who were hospitalized, delivering meals and cheer to the homes of those who were hurting, had lost loved ones, or were recovering from an illness, and mailed letters of encouragement.  Her love and care for others touched so many lives and helped them deal with both spoken and unspoken pain.  Lisa is a great listener and empathizer who naturally models both for all who know her.

Moraine Lake- Banff National Park.  


As a civilian who was no longer deployed, I was really able to plug into our community and had fun teaching Sunday School and leading Senior High Youth Group with Lisa.  I enjoyed helping with middle school youth as well (with retreats to Trout Lake Camp being my favorite).  I coached 11 years of Baseball, 5 years of Soccer, and 8 years of Basketball, at different levels from 4-year-olds to 18-year-olds.  Lisa was always my Team Mom, baseball line-up creator, and kept the book during ballgames.  We loved it.  Plus, it was nice to have at least one person who smelled good in the dugout!  I also served on the Little League Board and on the Church Board, and Lisa was the Coon Rapids High School Booster Club secretary for both the basketball and baseball teams during our sons’ high school sport years.  We eventually needed to find a church home that offered Saturday services (since our boys were often participating in Sunday morning traveling basketball games) and have enjoyed membership at Eagle Brook Church for around 12 years now.     

Lisa never misses a ballgame (here she is during chemo, wearing a wig beneath her ball cap).  Jake had already graduated and gone onto college ball here, but Lisa attended his old
 teammates' HS games, and they always flocked to see their former Team Mom.

Below, celebrating that game's Ace after a 1-0 pitcher's duel victory in a wood bat tourney during
the Little League's All-Star Season- Summer of 2011



Eventually the players got a little too tall to fit on my shoulders as you can see from this
pic of two former basketball players I helped coach...love these guys! You can also see
a key reason why our traveling squad won its division State Championship twice.
A couple of the guys who went through the program have gone on to coach their own teams, and I couldn't be more proud.

 

Favorite activities within North Oaks have been observing the magical light show of summertime's fireflies, cross-country skiing with neighbors along beautiful trails, walking, biking, and running below a canopy of majestic trees, watching in awe as creatures great and small make their way across our lawn, and enjoying awesome food at the golf club while looking out at the beautiful view.  Lisa loved going to Recipe Exchange each month and is so sad it's postponed indefinitely due to Covid-19.  Summerfest and Farmfest were both such a great way to enjoy other community members (Dog Show was awesome!).  One of our favorite events of last year was hosting The Villagers' Christmas Party.  We had such fun talking with so many fascinating people, and Lisa and I noted how refreshing it was that we didn't see one cell phone pop out the entire time anyone was here!  We love our neighbors and friends in North Oaks and are always excited to meet more of you!   

I have been blessed to work with superb leaders over the course of my career (both military and civilian), to learn from them, and to develop my own skills through leadership opportunities and stretching myself to learn new areas.  I greatly enjoy using my leadership abilities to serve others and help teams I lead reach their full potential.  I am most energized when team members build confidence through their experiences. 

When I entered the civilian workforce in 2001, I started at Guidant Corporation, now Boston Scientific, at the Arden Hills' campus.  I began working in New Product Planning where I collaborated with Key Opinion Leader Physicians to define next generation products and then partnered with Research and Development personnel to translate those definitions to actual products helping patients.  I transitioned to Management, taking a position in Regulatory Affairs in 2004, and have worked in Regulatory Affairs ever since, now as Vice President.    

To keep things light, Boston Scientific colleague, friend, and fellow North Oak'er, Dan Goldman, and I have done a spoof on Hans and Franz to help recruit people for service projects and campus fitness challenges. 


In Regulatory Affairs, our team earns global regulatory approvals, permitting compliant access for patients to technology.  My team and I have the opportunity to work with a number of cross functional partners in Regulatory Affairs, including Research and Development, Design Assurance, Quality, Clinical Affairs, Manufacturing, Process Development, Marketing, Finance, etc... to provide all the required information to support an approval decision.  Each of these functions brings deep subject matter expertise to our work, and the Regulatory team collaborates with all to help build the right set of evidence to support that our offerings are safe and effective as we submit our applications to The Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  We then work with 77 different countries (and their versions of FDA) to meet their specific needs and address their questions to support their review of our devices before they are approved and made available to the public.

In this role, I am constantly assessing tradeoffs, tradeoffs for various testing methodologies, proven and established versus new and offering potential advantages, evolving global regulations and standards, new materials and biocompatibility, toxicology questions, software questions, manufacturing process validations, cybersecurity concerns, clinical data collection and various study structures, inspections and audits from countries all over the world, labeling for physicians and patients, training of physicians and allied personnel, etc... The role requires a lot of listening, learning from experts, asking questions to help understand the options we have, making decisions based on what is best for patient care, and simultaneously workable for the business.  I seek first to understand what our experts have learned, then dive in to define options that best utilize our resources to produce the best solutions. 

I feel this role, and the fact that I work with so many diverse perspectives within our own company, but then also with governments from all over the world has helped prepare me to work with different stakeholders in North Oaks who have their own unique goals and viewpoints, and seek solutions that can work well for all parties.  I can't be selfish in my solutions at work, they need to work for a very complex ecosystem, and the same is true for North Oaks.  

Curious STARBASE students use angioplasty balloons
to clear Play-doh blockages. 
The Play-doh simulates a blockage in an artery. 


In my current volunteer work, I focus on service projects directed towards Minnesota Veterans, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, as well as other efforts to assist people with Cardiac-related health conditions.  I serve on the Board of Directors for STARBASE MN as well.  STARBASE MN is a unique program: a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1993 and whose mission is to educate and inspire youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  Since 1993, STARBASE has served over 66,000 Twin Cities' youth.  STARBASE is a program of the Department of Defense and Minnesota National Guard who provide a state of the art faciity, access to an exciting, technology-rich environment, inkind services and volunteers.  STARBASE partners with area school districts to provide STEM programming, and corporate partners that provide financial/inkind support, and volunteer scientists and engineers to programs.  In the Fall of 2017, STARBASE expanded to Duluth, MN on the 148th Fighter Wing of the MN National Guard.  STARBASE has a 23-member Board of Directors and 11-member Duluth Advisory Board with backgrounds in business, education, military and government.  There are 66 STARBASE locations in the U.S. in 40 states and Puerto Rico. 



Lisa said that since you have taken the time to scroll through my background experiences, we should reward you with cute puppy pictures: 

My parents, Steve, and me with our dog, Elsa's special contribution to the happiness of the world

   
Our beloved first dog, Indy

Dave with our dear Molly and silly Duncan


Thanks for reading my story...I'm looking forward to hearing more about yours!

 


 

 








Popular posts from this blog

Hello friends!

Teamwork