Thoughts on Leadership: Gateway to the West

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in St. Louis to meet with two fantastic brokerages. First, I visited Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties and members of the company’s leadership team, including Maryann Vitale Alles, president and CEO and Angie Ignatowski, broker/owner/relocation director. Then it was off to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Alliance Real Estate to speak with agents and managers, including CEO/Owner Andrea Lawrence, President/Co-Owner Kevin Goffstein and Executive Vice President/Co-Owner Bob Bax. My meeting with Alliance Real Estate was part of a two-day event, the Faster Higher Stronger Conference, which kicked off Wednesday night at the St. Louis Cardinal’s Busch Stadium, for an evening of baseball to benefit the Sunshine Kids. What an incredible experience and it all began with Steven Conner of the Sunshine Kids, who was joined on the field by his family as he threw out the first pitch of the game! Great times for a great cause!

Gino Blefari with Steven Conner of the Sunshine Kids at St Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium just before Steven threw out the first pitch of the game.

Gino Blefari with Steven Conner of the Sunshine Kids at St Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium just before Steven threw out the first pitch of the game.

As I sat up on the left side of the third deck taking in the Cardinals game, I couldn’t help as I gazed over the left centerfield fence but notice the huge Gateway Arch curving in all its famed glory just behind the stadium. I was sitting next to Kevin Goffstein, so I turned to him and asked about the history of the Arch. As I discovered, Kevin is particularly well versed in the background of the architectural wonder, so in the spirit of knowledge-sharing, I’d like to list five facts about the iconic St. Louis monument that you might not have known:

  1. It’s a symbol of our nation’s westward expansion. The Gateway Arch, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, was built as a tribute to the story of our country’s westward expansion, a “Gateway to the West,” and a symbol of Thomas Jefferson’s vision to carry the “great experiment of liberty” to the edge of our continent. From 1947 to 1948, a nationwide competition selected Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen’s stainless steel design to symbolize the accomplishments of early pioneers. On June 23, 1959 construction began and the Gateway Arch opened Oct. 28, 1965.
  1. It’s enormous in both height and weight. The Arch is 630 feet tall, or spans about as high as a 63-story building and weighs 43,220 pounds.
  1. The view from the top is incredible. Though I’ve yet to climb to the apex of the Arch, it’s said that on a clear day you can see up to thirty miles in all directions from the viewing area at the top. (I have to add, I’m not the biggest fan of heights and just the thought of being all the way up there made me dizzy even as I sat in the stadium miles away!)
  1. Its shape has a specific name. The arch is a weighted catenary curve, which is the shape of an inverted free-hanging chain held at both ends.
  1. The arch was designed to sway. The Gateway Arch can sway as much as 18 inches and was built to withstand an earthquake. Under most conditions, though, the arch doesn’t sway; it takes 50-mph winds to make the arch budge 1.5 inches from its stationary position.

So, what’s the message? Whatever you do and wherever you are, remember there’s much to be learned about the world around you. If I hadn’t asked, I never would have known the illustrious and fascinating history of the Gateway Arch. So, in the words of Thomas Jefferson for whom the Arch was constructed, “He who knows best, knows how little he knows.”

Gateway 3

Gateway 8

[Gateway Arch photos courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri]

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