The difference a man makes

Seven Fort Wayne men answer the big questions

John Guingrich, director of programs and services for The League, CEO JAG, LLC, for-profit business support and nonprofit organization. Photography by Neal Bruns
Foundation One, owner of Foundation One Unity Barber Shop, community activist, trainer, spiritual healer. Photography by Neal Bruns
Jerry Vandeveer, co-owner, The Wood Shack Architectural Antiques, community activist. Photography by Neal Bruns
Andres Montenegro, assistant professor 3D modeling and animation, IPFW; community volunteer. Photography by Neal Bruns
Andy Boxberger, attorney with Carson Boxberger, president of Arts United board of directors. Photography by Neal Bruns
Jim Hoch, architect, principal, president, Hoch Associates; community volunteer and leader. Photography by Neal Bruns
Dan Swartz, artist, writer, curator, Wunderkammer Company founder, lover of all things Fort Wayne, Indiana. Photography by Neal Bruns

With March Madness upon us, baseball season so near and Father’s Day and grilling season really not that far away at all, it’s all too easy to look at a man and see the easy things we all come to expect.

Stop there, though, and we miss the real story of what it means to be a man in this day and age – and in this city.

So we went right ahead and asked seven interesting, busy, accomplished Fort Wayne men four Big Questions designed to get at the real story of what it means to be a man here and now.

They each tell the story so well, as so many of their fellow Fort Wayne men, could, too, we recognize. So we thank these seven along with the others they represent for being the men of Fort Wayne.

And we step aside so they can speak for themselves.

What is important to you?
“What’s important to me is being successful, and that means many different things, not just financial success. It means being respected as an attorney, being respected as a member of the community, living my life in a way that’s meaningful and fun. Isn’t that what we’re all doing here? Having fun and contributing to your community are not mutually exclusive things.”
— Andy Boxberger

God is very important to me, serving God, thanking God for saving me from being shot
when I was 16 years old. I do the best I can do for my family, for my mother, my sister, my brothers, my children, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews. Serving my community, coming to work, cutting hair, helping people get their lives unstuck is very, very important to me. The reason I live is just to serve, serving people.
–Foundation One

“I like to make a difference. I like to gather information, collect information and figure out how to apply it in multiple ways. I don’t mean just data, numbers. I love to hear people’s opinions, news stories, new technology, new processes, upcoming things in our community and figure out how I can apply that to other areas. One thing I am good at is leveraging what I learn in one place and taking it someplace else and figuring out how it can benefit me and somebody else, making connections for people. I love to know what I am doing has value for the business I am working for, for the community at large, for the neighborhoods. That’s probably why I am drawn to social service.”
— John Guingrich

“It became very evident to me during their college days that my children weren’t looking at Fort Wayne very hard; they were looking at other places. All this conversation about retaining talent here hit me right between the eyes. I understood. I’m a Fort Wayne guy, attached here from my roots, but they weren’t going to give my city a chance. The best thing I could do was involve them in the community as best I could. Being an architect, we dreamed up some local projects that involved them in projects about the quality of life with their classmates (from architecture school and pre-law and my one son is a construction engineer). They got to know the community much, much better. It made them aware of the opportunities. That’s what’s important to me, and not only my children. It dawned on me there are a lot of kids like this out there.”
— Jim Hoch

“One thing that is very important to me is to enjoy the time with my family and share my thoughts with them. Also my desire is to share all this with my students. That is what is important for me: Constant communication with my environment, with the people I work with and live with. The purpose of everyone’s life is to build something, to create. All of these things help me to make it possible to create my world, my way of communication.”
— Andres Montenegro

“Intention is something that I always come back to and always try to see through the lens of. I am a very passionate person, and sometimes that comes out as loving things and sometimes that comes out as hating things, and a lot of times I get frustrated with how things are done, but intention helps me understand the person who I may disagree with. It gives me a context to understand that something is being done for a purpose and not in a chaotic way. I would say I think intention is cool. It helps me frame things.”
— Dan Swartz

“The biggest thing is my wife. We do everything together, just everything. Everything we’ve built, we’ve built it together. When we worked on the house, when we put the two houses together, when we bought those other houses and we were able to put the siding and windows on them, she worked the shop and she’d yell down to me, “Jerry, here’s enough money, go get another square or two squares of siding.” Had she not been running the store, I would not have been able to do that. It’s our relationship together. I know what I can and can’t do. That’s the thing.”
–Jerry Vandeveer

What are you working hardest on?
“I’m working hardest on growing myself and our business, our law firm. To be successful in any career is very, very hard. My work overlaps with things I do to help businesses grow in this community, to help this community grow. As I work hard in my career, I am working hard simultaneously to help my community be a more vibrant place. It’s all one thing. I do all those things, and the goal always ends up being the same thing, creating success for our community and myself and our business and the people around me.”
— Andy Boxberger

“What I am working hardest on is helping develop people’s cerebral cortex so they can deal with their demons that create anger that destroys and kills people in my community. I want to help people develop their brains so they can develop critical thinking so they can develop into what God wants them to be. That is my mission statement, that is my obligation, that is a must. I figured out that is our problem. Our brain is not fully developed.”
— Foundation One

“I’m working hard to help transform how we include people with disabilities in our community. Obviously I grew up with a disability, but my parents back in the ’70s – some people told me they were kind of crazy.  Other than at preschool I was the kid that was never segregated. I was included in everything. The way we help kids transition from high school to something else, whether it be college, job or community living, is not good enough. Similarly, getting people out of nursing homes. I’ve never met anyone who wants to live in a nursing home, particularly somebody under the age of 75.”
–John Guingrich

“We have a real exciting area in this innovation architecture, a piece of our business where we hire ourselves, we allocate budget, we identify very important strategic community-minded projects maybe no one’s thinking about, and we put our resources and talents on them to really start the ball rolling to get people to envision what can be. We are working on several of those right now. We are very interested in the near neighborhoods of our city, just downtown living.”
— Jim Hoch

“Right now the worst thing I am dealing with is delegation and appropriate delegation. Everyone tells me I should delegate as business advice, and I agree with them I should, but figuring out what should and should not be delegated is very difficult for me.”
— Dan Swartz

“There are so many things we do. I don’t just do one thing. You get bored if you are doing the same thing. We’re still working on the memorial on Wells Street, still working on the neighborhood, working on the house, making them the best they can be. The biggest thing is I want people to know what the police department has done and is doing for us in our neighborhoods and the whole city. That’s my biggest thing.”
— Jerry Vandeveer

What are you building for our future?
“The thing I am contributing to the most is my role in Arts United and contributing to the strategic plan and the Platform for Cultural Advancement. We’ve worked very hard over the last 18 months trying to find out what to say community wants for itself culturally. We’ve had a lot of feedback. Overwhelmingly people want this to be a national destination for arts and culture. I’m not saying we can be the next New York City, but that’s not to say we can’t be a very, very vibrant cultural community.”
–Andy Boxberger

“I am building a generation of young brothers and sisters who are reaching back to God and understanding God and being disciplined enough to do what God says and not their own inner voices. I’m building the future of our community by helping and taking the time. Like Monday I start this 10-week anger workshop I do at Weisser Park helping the younger brothers master their anger. I’m working on the future. It seems like no one cares about our younger brothers. Someone needs to care. If we don’t take care of our next generation, they’re not going to take care of us.”
— Foundation One

“I’m trying to help in my little way to build our community  where the word ‘inclusive’ doesn’t even have to be brought up, a shift in mind that in our community where everybody is included, where every building is accessible, easily accessible, easily connected. Where people can decide what they want to do. Independent doesn’t mean you can do everything alone, but you control the decisions. I want this community to be a place where everybody can have that control in what they contribute. There’s nothing better than that feeling of paying it forward.”
— John Guingrich

“Right now I am working on two projects. They are the most important projects in my professional development because they took me an entire life to develop. They are animations and the creation of a world long gone. Those projects recreate an alternate reality or a narrative about something that was in my mind for a long time. So animation for me has been a wonderful resource and expression to communicate my inner world. These two worlds have to do with my childhood. I am quite happy with it because with animation and digital technology I can figure out how to pull out the idea from my mind, my imagination and flesh out this project in a narrative, a sequence of events. One is related to images from my childhood that have to do with trips and trains and train stations. The other project is about how painting is so important in my life. These are very challenging projects, but I have learned patience is the most important asset. It’s a sort of life strategy and a way to cope with difficult goals or challenges. I am entirely committed to building the future of my family, but along with that I am building a body of work. One of the things I am focused on is the way I manage my time to accomplish my projects having to do with artistic creation.”
— Andres Montenegro

“I am helping create a community without creative boundaries. Specifically what that would be is the Regional Cities initiative we have proposed called City Campus, a collaboration with Ivy Tech and an expansion of our current programming. I’m really excited about that because of its ability to translate arts and economic development together in a very visible way. There are a lot of components to it, but what I think is the coolest is it would give us a solution to our lack of welders locally.”
— Dan Swartz

“We’ve been trying to get the word out about downtown. I want people to come back downtown, and they are, in droves. Everybody is working together to make downtown better, and not just downtown, but that is where our heart is. That is where the blood is, the lifeline. Nothing is going to get better if you don’t have the heart thriving, pumping the life out into the corridors, the gateways. You may have seen our little signs we’ll have made and put out: ‘Welcome back downtown. We’ve missed you.’ And we’ll sign our names.”
— Jerry Vandeveer

What do you like best about this place?
“I like the people, and I like the hunger of what I think most people want for Fort Wayne. What I like most about Fort Wayne is there seems to be a groundswell from most people that they really want to make this a different and special place and do what it takes to get there. It’s a confluence of everybody coming together right now to make this place something special, and it has great potential to be a great place. I think five years from now we’re not going to recognize this place. Most of that stems from what is happening downtown. Most of what I like about Fort Wayne is what’s happening downtown.”
— Andy Boxberger

“At 16, I got shot right out here on Anthony on the corner at Pontiac. This is where God saved me because He knew I would be obedient and do the work. I don’t know why I was chosen to do it. I’m just glad I was chosen to do the work. I’m glad I was obedient when the voice came to me to do it.”
— Foundation One

“It’s home. I grew up here. The other thing I like is Fort Wayne doesn’t sit stagnant. We are continually trying to improve.”
— John Guingrich

“What I like so much is that it is really obvious to me there is a huge push of our youth, our young people, our millennials, for them to make a difference, and it’s our willingness as business leaders and as a community to let them in on these decisions and be a part of decision-making. I was really impressed by that. We are involved with projects I can’t speak about locally that have everything to do with quality of life and the enhancements of the infrastructure of the city and getting us back to the point where we were when my grandparents came from Detroit and located here. They came because of the opportunity, and we’ve got to get back to that, where people are coming here to seek us out.”
— Jim Hoch

“I like the way Fort Wayne is a small big city. In Fort Wayne you find all the necessary elements. I like the community, the people. I like the way Fort Wayne remembers its past and actually recollects events and takes care of its patrimony. I enjoy a lot of cultural events in Fort Wayne, especially Arts United, and how downtown is turning into a more active place.”
— Andres Montenegro

“I love how Fort Wayne is just weird enough, just unique enough to fit everything.  We aren’t that big, but we aren’t little. We don’t have the most diverse population, but if you really want to go have some sort of food, you can find it. Because of that Goldilocks mixture, all of this weird stuff, I am friends with the ambassador to the Congress of World Religions. I believe I met a former general from Burma. There’s a really amazing blogger from the design world who lives here. These people are all living here! Here it is a free-for-all of cool, random people, and I love that.”
–Dan Swartz

“It’s the people you can interact with, and it’s everybody. I’m from Chicago, and people weren’t like they are here. Here if you reach out to somebody, they are going to talk to you. They are our extended family. We have so much fun in the store. It’s the people. That’s the whole thing. If we didn’t have this type of people, I wouldn’t be here. It really is so much fun sometimes, I have to rub my cheeks from laughing so hard.”
— Jerry Vandeveer

First appeared in the March 2016 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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