Chamber set to honor Kaup
Rex Kaup was driving down the highway when his cellphone rang.
It was Blair County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Joe Hurd calling to tell him he had been selected as the 18th recipient of the Chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Business Excellence.
Kaup, a lead partner at Young, Oakes, Brown & Co. PC since 1979, will be honored at the Business Excellence Dinner on Tuesday at The Casino at Lakemont Park.
The award recognizes a Blair County business person who has enjoyed an outstanding business career and made a positive impact on the community.
“I pulled over to make sure I heard him right,” Kaup said. “I was very surprised. When you look at the previous winners, they are true icons of the business community in Blair County. I genuinely do not see myself in that way. I am very humbled. To see me get it is unbelievable.”
Hurd said Kaup is a very deserving winner.
“Rex is one of those rare people who qualifies for ‘lifetime achievement’ even though he’s likely far from being done making an impact on his client base or on the community,” Hurd said. “If he retired today and did nothing more, he’d still have met all the qualifications for the award. At this point, he’s obviously working on becoming a legend.”
Kaup, 66, said he is not planning on retiring any time soon.
“I don’t want this (award) perceived as a retirement. I am not retiring. I have no intention to retire for four or five years,” Kaup said.
Kaup, who has won numerous awards — such as the Penn State Alumni Achievement Award, Kiwanis Club of Altoona Distinguished Citizen Award and a Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary International — said this honor tops the list.
“This ranks first because it is one person,” he said. “It is not supposed to be about a business you are affiliated with. This is an individual award, the highest award. There aren’t any awards that will reach this.”
Kaup grew up in the Logantown section of Altoona and graduated from Altoona Area High School in 1970. While attending high school, he also took classes at Penn State Altoona.
His original plans were to become a lawyer or a journalist.
He started out in the College of Liberal Arts but switched to the Smeal College of Business after an adviser, Shirley Stanton, suggested he would be a good business student.
“Mrs. Stanton said ‘you took business courses and have a liberal arts schedule. We can make you a business major and use your liberal arts courses as electives.’ She made me a business major. It worked out perfectly. She was the key person. I was in the liberal arts gray zone.”
Kaup had gained work experience, starting with his senior year in high school and through his senior year in college, working for Bill Diamond at Stag Sportswear in Altoona.
“Bill gave me a lot of opportunities,” he said.
“He took me under his wing. He let me work around school activities,” Kaup added.
“He taught me about normal business things, buying clothing from markets and how to mark it up and sell, how long to keep things before you discard them. Bill let me work as much as I wanted to. After he realized I could sell, he also paid me a commission for selling. That helped me pay my way through school.”
Kaup graduated from Penn State with a degree in accounting in 1973.
He took a job with the defense department audit division in Washington, D.C., but it didn’t work out.
“I stayed there two years, I didn’t like it,” he said. “I wasn’t a good fit to be a government employee. It didn’t work for Bonnie (his wife) and me.”
In 1975, Ed Brown, one of the owners of YOBCO, was looking for people with auditing experience. He hired Kaup and his good friend, George Savine.
In 1979, Brown died suddenly, and after about six months, his partner William Oakes offered Kaup, Savine, Gary Bonsell and Dave Baumgartner the opportunity to take over the firm.
“Mr. Oakes stepped in as advisor for the four of us,” Kaup said. “He helped negotiate a deal with Ed’s estate to buy the firm. We are grateful to Mr. Oakes for doing that for us. He was a quiet, laid back but intelligent guy. He smoothed the waters for the firm and employees. Then we looked at each other on what to do. We signed a note to buy the business. It was the sale of the century. We didn’t know each other well but it worked out well.”
As the firm grew additional partners were added, and there are seven partners today.
Kaup said he loves his job.
“I like doing something different all of the time,” he said. “I like to be challenged. My job here is on the for-profit side. I work with businesses and work on various types of problems, not just tax problems and auditing, things like buying and selling businesses. I like the fact it is different all the time, and it is busy all the time.”
Kaup has served as CPA for McLanahan Corp., Hollidaysburg, for more than 40 years.
“He does a great job in the community. He is not always well recognized except by those who work with him. He has helped numerous businesses achieve positive results, if he’s your accountant, you are in a great place,” said Mike McLanahan, chairman of the board. “We’ve looked at buying different companies and asked him for his advice. He is always spot on with his evaluations.”
When asked about his greatest achievements and key to success, Kaup does not talk about himself.
“We were able to build a firm, all of us working together to bring it to what it is 40 years later,” he said. “Being in a state of confusion and bringing it up to where it is now is our greatest accomplishment. Just being part of that team. This is a MASH unit when a client has a problem, it is all hands on deck, figuring out the best person to help them.”
Kaup credits his employees for the success he has achieved.
“We have the three best secretaries any business has ever had, and the best office manager,” he said. “Our support staff is the best around. They work as a team; they look out for each other. The three secretaries have over 90 years between them. They know all of the clients. They do things for our clients we don’t know they did. They are much more than secretaries. They are wizards on the computer.”
Community service is very important to Kaup who belongs to numerous organizations.
“Being old school, I support service clubs and non-profits. People that are trained in our profession, we have a skill set we can lend. We understand things like budgeting and can help those organizations,” Kaup said.
For example, he has been a member of both the Rotary Club of Altoona and the Advisory Board of Penn State Altoona for more than 40 years, serving as the organizations’ treasurer.
Long-time friend and business associate R. Lee Hite, calls Kaup a “winner.”
” If helping us with an acquisition or financial advice, he’s the same person as helping many service and non-profits with their needs — and always with a chuckle and a smile. I feel he has never had a bad day except on April 15th (tax deadline),” said Hite, chairman of the Hite Company.
Father inspired him
Kaup calls his late father, Glenn, his role model.
“He set a good example,” Kaup said. “He mandated a lot of things that I thought were unfair. Dad taught me the value of work, the value of money, not just making it but the value of making it.”
His daughters, Candice and Courtney, will be among the speakers at the Tuesday night dinner. They are proud of their father.
“As a child, I learned many lessons from my father — do your best, don’t judge a book by its cover,” Courtney Kaup, who is also a standout athlete, said. “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. These lessons were taught through both words and actions.
“Like many other people, my father has given me the tools to be successful and overcome adversities. He has taught me to learn from everyone, to have patience and composure. He is a role model to the highest degree. I am proud to call him ‘Dad.'”
“My dad is a quintessential ‘people person,”’ Candice Kaup said. “He is masterful at fostering relationships and solving problems, both personally and professionally. These attributes have enabled him to enrich the Blair County business and philanthropic community to unthinkable levels. His parents would exude unparalleled pride if they were here to celebrate this honor with him. There is no better recipient for this year’s award.”
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.