Q&A with interim CEO/COO of the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation, Bob Wheeler

Long-time community and business leader Bob Wheeler was named interim chief executive and operating officer of the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation on Dec. 9, 2022. After six weeks in the CEO/COO role in a voluntary capacity, we spoke with Wheeler to discover his involvement from the very beginning, his compassion for our community, and what he’s working on now.

Q: Bob, how would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you? 
A: I spent 39 years in banking locally. I ended my career at Mercantile Bank as a Senior Vice President in charge of mortgage lending, but I have also been in branch management, branch administration, compliance and other banking fields. Since I retired, I have been doing real estate closings for Mt. Pleasant Abstract and Title whenever they needed more help.

I have been married to Nancy for 45 years, and have three children: Christianne; Andy; and Adam. We have five grandsons.

I have served in a volunteer capacity in many local non-profits. I have served in various capacities in my Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and currently teach a class of 10 year olds and lead them in a weekday activity night a few times a month. I am also currently serving on the Mt. Pleasant Housing Commission. I have been a member of the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club for about 44 years and served as it’s president twice. I have served on the Board of the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce, and also for Mid Michigan Industries and Community Cancer Services. I have been a volunteer in the  Boys Scouts of America for all my adult life. I have also been a member of the Central Michigan Assoc. of Realtors and the Home Builders Association to name a few.

Q: While the title of interim CEO of the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation may be a new one for you, you are certainly not new to the Foundation! Can you share with us a story from the very beginning, when you helped found the organization in 1990? 
A: I can remember a dedicated group of people whose names are well known in Mt. Pleasant – including Bill Rush, Rollie Denison, Larry Johns, George Dunn, Paul Alexander and many others – meeting in Bill Rush’s office to discuss the process of starting the community foundation. It was a trend just beginning in the state and was moved forward by the Council of Michigan Foundation, a matching grant from funds from Kelloggs that resulted in one of the largest funds in our foundation—the Youth Advisory Council. As a group, we spent many days working together to chart policies and procedures to move the foundation forward.
 
Q: How long were you on the Foundation's Board of Trustees for? Does that make you the longest-standing trustee?
A: I have served for 32 years and really enjoyed it. I resigned from the Board effective December 31, so that put me in a position to be the interim CEO. 

Yes, I am the longest continuous serving trustee although many have served the foundation for that whole time in other capacities.
 
Q: Throughout the years, your ties in the community have certainly complimented your volunteer work with the Foundation. What significance has that played?
A: I love Mt. Pleasant and have been happy to serve wherever I could. Some people play basketball or golf, but I just work, either for my career or for the community. I guess that makes me boring. But it has brought me into contact with a wide variety of people serving in all walks of life, which I have really enjoyed.
 
Q: You were awarded the Mt. Pleasant Citizen of the Year in 2012. Can you please tell us about what that designation means for you? 
A: That was the greatest honor I have ever received. I was shocked and overwhelmed. My grandfather George Wheeler also received the award many years ago as did my Step-Grandfather-Charles Anspach. They were both wonderful examples to me.
 
MPACF interim CEO Bob Wheeler. (Photo courtesy of MPACF)Q: Your wife, Nancy, is involved in the foundation as well – for 25 years, in fact! And together, you have two endowments through the foundation. How do you feel about your collaborative efforts for the foundation and the Mt. Pleasant community as a whole? 

A: Nancy joined the foundation as a part-time employee when our youngest son was in high school. Adam at that time also served on the YAC of the foundation. Since then, we have had several CEOs and Nancy has continued to work here. She will be retiring this spring.  She was scheduled to retire a year ago, but due to medical issues of staff and other situations, she has postponed her retirement until this spring.

Yes, we have started two funds—the Bob & Nancy Wheeler Fund for Scouting; and the Andy Wheeler Community Impact Fund after the death of our son Andy. We very much believe in the foundation and its ability to serve the changing needs of our community not only now—but forever.
 
Q: Now it has been since December that you've had your role as CEO – which you are refusing to be financially compensated for. What have your first several weeks been like? What goal(s) do you have for the organization as you seek the next CEO? 
A: Although I have a lot of knowledge about the foundation and its policies and history, there is a lot more to know about running the foundation. I could never do this without our wonderful long term staff members—Nancy Wheeler and Jaimie Capen-Cascadden.  hey require little or no supervision on my part so I am free to handle other things. I am only a “place holder” and my job is just to keep the foundation moving forward doing what it does best for the community until a permanent CEO is hired. My goal is just to not mess anything up! I love being able to help people start new funds so they can realize their dream of leaving a permanent legacy of helping people in our area. That is the highlight of the job.

Read more articles by Courtney Jerome.

With 15 years of professional media experience, Courtney Jerome has found a passion for storytelling and showcasing our region in a positive light. She's written stories for television broadcasts, numerous magazines, and digital publications. In addition, she owns a boutique creative marketing agency that focuses on social media, photo, and video storytelling for small businesses across Michigan and the country — courtneyjeromemedia.com. Contact Courtney, the managing editor of Epicenter, at editor@epicentermtpleasant.com.