By Chris Schroder
Gary Price thought things were going well in his 15-year-marriage, so he concentrated on his accelerating management career at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Atlanta. Then, being “a typical male, I outsourced all the stuff at home.” His Moment occurred without warning nine years ago, when “my wife decided to walk out of the house and leave me with raising three kids, ages nine, six and two.”
Gary’s journey as a single father paralleled his rise of becoming managing partner of 1,400-plus employees at PwC’s Greater Atlanta market.
An Ohio native, Gary joined PwC’s assurance division, providing counsel to transportation and manufacturing clients after graduating from Ohio State in 1983. He moved to Atlanta in 1999 to lead the firm’s work on the Delta Air Lines account.
That Moment in 2003 when his wife walked out, he realized that “life is going to change significantly and a lot changed, but a lot changed for the better,” he said. Like many in his position, he learned to be a much better time manager. Surprisingly, he found that he matured into a better father and a more confident professional.
Gary, an early riser who sometimes leaves for his morning run at 4:30 a.m., wrote notes to his children before he left for work and he engaged them in serious discussions in the time he shared with them at home at night and in the car, driving to school and activities. His conversations veered away from “the hustle bustle of moving from day one to day two to more significant life lessons,” he said.
“It was really focusing on what was most important for the kids in terms of their specific development and what I need to distill in them and to help them with in terms of some values and lessons to ensure their health and well-being growing up,” he said. “So I spent a lot of time with the kids – really quality time – around discussing values, you know the simple things like the importance of being honest, the importance of caring for others, the importance of giving back to others, the importance of being respectful.”
Despite his emotions from being abandoned, Gary said “it was also important to me that the kids continue to have a relationship with their mother. The oldest child was not interested at the time and I worked really hard to keep that in place through counseling and through a lot of discussions. As we all know and as I said to the kids: ‘She will always be your mother – regardless of what happens between your mother and I – she will always be your mother and it’s important for you to have a relationship.’ So we worked really hard on that and over time I think that hast served the children very well.
“On the flip side, on the professional side, I also became a better professional … and I did for a number of reasons. When you go through a traumatic personal experience like that, you begin to put life in perspective, you begin to put professional career in perspective and you begin to realize that if I can make it through a situation like that, I can probably tackle anything on the professional side. And that was really was a learning moment for me. I used to get a lot more revved up, I’d get nervous in big situations and quite frankly that seemed to kind of just change almost overnight. It was almost as if well this really isn’t as important as I’m making it up to be and I can handle this because I’ve handled much more difficult things and it brought a sense of assurance, a sense of calm, a sense of confidence that I didn’t have previously. It was clearly a learning moment for me.”
Apparently, his supervisors noticed. A year after his wife left, PwC named Gary Assurance Strategy Leader, elevating him from his previous position as the Southeast Region Internal Audit Services Leader. He was named managing partner in 2006, leading the firm to extraordinary growth, nearly doubling the workforce and overseeing the office’s impending move this August to its new address at 1075 Peachtree in the new mixed-use 12th & Midtown.
Gary smiles when he recounts a recent conversation he had with his oldest son, Brannon, who’s now 18.
“He now has his freedom like most 18-year-olds, he’s got an automobile, he drives, he’s got his friends, he’s getting ready to go off to college. We have discussions about making good choices, He’s quick to remind me. He says, ‘Dad, dad you should trust me because you and I had a lot of conversations in the past about the importance of making good decisions and honesty, so believe me, You can trust me.’ So knock wood, so far, I can trust him. He’s made good decisions, but I think you can hear the conversations we had many years ago replaying in his mind.
“For a lot of reasons, I’m think I’m better off including the fact that I’ve now met my second wife (Mary Ellen) who’s a wonderful lady – and gained a wonderful, caring step-son (Ian) who is also 18 and preparing to head off to college. I would not have met her if not for that Moment nine years ago.”
Note to readers: This Moments column first appeared two years ago. Gary Price has now been promoted and is living in New York.
Next week in Moments: Bob Williams, president of the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena, recalls a Moment being an NBA announcer at age 23.
Video by Reid Childers of Schroder PR.
Don’t miss previous 2013 Moments: Jay Smith, Jennifer Johnson, David Geller, Cynthia Jones Parks, Lee Katz, Keegan Federal, Brandi Helvey, Alwyn Fredericks, George McKerrow, Wright Mitchell, Shawn Wilson, Bill Bolling, Tracey Jackson, Fran Tarkenton, Drey Mingo, Andy Cash, Fred Northup, Wendy Binns, Ann Curry, Bill Clarkson, Alicia Philipp, Dennis Creech, Meredith Leapley, Raymond King, Jerry Farber, Larry Gellerstedt, Sally Bethea, Ken Thrasher, Herb Nelson.
Don’t miss previous Moments from 2012: Solon Patterson, Charles Ackerman, Santa Claus, Mark McDonald, Frank Skinner, Tom Murphy, Matt Arnett, Kasim Reed, Alana Shepherd, Charles Driebe, Hank Aaron, Kevin Rathbun, Larrie Del Martin, Mike Luckovich, Dan Matthews, Arthur Blank, Doug Hertz, Thomas Dimitroff, Jenny Levison, Brad Cunard, Joe Roberts, Plemon El-Amin, Bob Williams, Gary Price, John Dewberry, Bill Tush, Milton Little, Hope Arbery, Bo Jackson, Lisa Borders, Tom Key, Bob Voyles, Joyce Fownes, Joel Babbit, John Pruitt, Noel Khalil, Chuck Leavell, Bill Nigut, Eveylyn Winn-Dixon, Steve Nygren, Chris White, Josh Starks, Ryan Gravel, Shirley Franklin, Sam Massell and Clark Howard