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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Second Careers: Two Success Stories

By Laura A. Hobson

John Gillespie
John Gillespie has had several careers.  One was as executive director of the Medical Center Fund of the University of Cincinnati.  He has served on various boards including Caracole, Inc. and Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio and committees at Christ Church Cathedral under the leadership of Dean Gail Greenwell.

Retired at 62, he wanted to keep busy.  With three grown daughters, Gillespie chose real estate as a second career.  “Real estate is one of the few professions where my gray hair is a plus instead of a minus,” he said.  “What it is like to grow old and remain productive in a youth rewarding culture,” he added.  

Conrad White, a friend and Realtor in Hillsboro Beach, Florida, suggested he try real estate.  He said, “Your contacts are in the 513 zone, not in Florida,” where Gillespie considered moving. He constructed a business plan and  obtained his real estate license in 2014 in anticipation of being fully retired.  

Some of his contacts came from the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, in particular the recruiting office which brings people in from all over the country.  Gillespie often picks up prospective buyers at the airport and gives them a tour of the city.  He also works with relocation experts, helping visitors find a neighborhood and house. In his previous role, he had done commercial real estate and gained experience with negotiation.  

He started with Coldwell Banker West Shell and learned the business from experienced agents such as Bill Heckman, manager, and Katie MacDonald, assistant manager.   He moved to the Sibcy Cline office in Hyde Park in 2016, but returned to Coldwell Banker West Shell in 2018.  He maintained an affinity relationship with the Cincinnati Academic Health Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. 

At 68, he simply didn’t worry about his age.  “There’s nothing I can do about it, anyway,” he said. “It’s hard to advertise your success until you have success,” 

Gillespie is building his volume of sales.  The company is comfortable sending him to work with high end clients.  He sells houses in Over-the-Rhine, West Chester, Loveland, North Avondale and Hyde Park.  Clients often are influenced by schools and lifestyles.  People who move here from either coast are pleased with the affordability of Cincinnati.  One client who had a 2½  hour commute in California now has a ½ hour trip.

“I try to gauge people’s ability to buy right away,” Gillespie said.  He points out to prospective buyers that the steering wheel of a car is like I-75. “Within that radius, one will find a suitable house and neighborhood.” Sometimes, he takes clients to the Church of the Immaculata in Mt. Adams and lets them see the view of the city.  

Satisfied customers are Pier Paolo Scaglioni, M.D., and his wife Margherita Melegari, who moved from Dallas, Texas and were referred to Gillespie by the University of Cincinnati.  Dr. Scaglioni is chief of the Division of Hematology Oncology at UC’s College of Medicine.  His specialty is researching leukemia, lymphoma and lung cancer.  He and his wife eventually chose a house in North Avondale because of its proximity to the Medical Center and its affordability.

Over a three-year period, Gillespie has sold to many clients.  He would like to have two transactions per month.  He plans to market to neighbors and the community. To that, he is transitioning to heavy lifting by increasing his workload.  

Demographically, he sees people in the 30 to 50 plus age range.  The ratio of the relocation to in town is 3 to 1.  The average transaction is $200,000 to $750,000.  

His new career helps clients purchase the house they want.  “Writing up contracts isn’t my passion,” he said.  “You want to make sure you have done everything correctly,” he said.  “Paying attention to details is important.”  By 2017, Gillespie received the President’s Sales Club Award of Achievement designation from the Ohio REALTORS® for outstanding sales achievement.

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward,” Gillespie said.  “Money is part of it,” although he is successful enough to have a house in Florida.  

“What motivates me is learning something new,” Gillespie added.  “Keep your mind sharp with lifelong learning. I like taking on new challenges.”

Another aspect to his second career is bringing good, strong professional people to Cincinnati, making the community a better place.

A small, large town, “Cincinnati has something for everyone.” said Gillespie said, who grew up in Mt. Lookout, attended Walnut Hills High School, Denison University and the University of Cincinnati.  He has lived in Hyde Park since 1976.  

Other parts of his career include volunteer work in the community, which take at least 20 hours per week.  He is now trustee and secretary of Christ Church Cathedral’s endowment fund and co-chair of the Third Century Vision Capital Campaign.  “My passion is outreach and mission,” said Gillespie, reflecting the Cathedral’s emphasis on social justice.

As with many successful businesspeople, he said he couldn’t do it without the support of his wife Christine.  “At the end of the day, I work for myself,” he said.  

Does he see ageism in the workforce? “It is one of the remaining issues that is strong and entrenched.  It is not as obvious, however.  Ageism is harder to detect.  Some people think older workers are expensive and less productive. 

“My opinion is that there is bias in recruiting. In times of cutback, older people often are at the end of the scale.  That said, they bring skill sets passing along institutional knowledge.  Anyone has to prove their value.

“If they don’t want older workers, I don’t want to be there. Life experience is based on the value to succeed.  There are limits to all of us.  I am just trying to push the envelope.”  

He could flip the switch and do nothing, but instead he puts in 60 hours per week.

In his spare time, he runs – often through Hyde Park’s neighborhood – and bikes.  He plans to run the Chicago marathon in October 2018.  During his runs, he listens to audiobooks, upbeat music and podcasts.  On his bedside, he has eight different books.  He has a particular interest in local history.  “I will do real estate as long as I can and as long as I can enjoy it.”  He has become, out of necessity, adept with technology.  “I am always looking for an easier way of doing things.”  For instance, he has an app that tracks his mileage.  He likes learning new things.  “It makes your mind work in different ways.  If I sit back and reflect on what I am doing, it is self-affirming. It’s not like I am curing cancer.
“I am reasonably intelligent, but I want to have fun.”

Gillespie is a member of the Cincinnati Area Board of REALTORS®, the Ohio REALTORS® and the National Association of Realtors®.  His website is

Fred McGavran
Fred McGavran started a second career as a deacon and assistant chaplain at Episcopal Retirement Services beginning June 2010.

It wasn’t his initial career path, however.  He graduated from Harvard Law School as a lawyer in 1972.  He became a member at Kyte, Conlan, Wulsin & Vogeler where he specialized in litigation.  This law firm merged with Frost & Jacobs in 1978, the year he became partner.  

McGavran litigated securities laws and business cases, defended drug product liability and psychiatric malpractice claims as well as veterans’ appeals in the Veterans Administration. Frost & Jacobs merged with Brown Todd & Heyburn, a Louisville firm, to become Frost Brown Todd.  There was a three-year phase out that began in 2007 when he was 64.  

By May 2010, he left the legal profession ready for a change.  “I had a call to do it,” he said.  “I had the time and good health.”  He attended deacon school at Procter Center in London, Ohio for three years one weekend per month.  He was sponsored by the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer and vetted by the Commission on Ministry.

McGavran did his internship with Rev. Stephen Cuff, former chaplain at Episcopal Retirement Services.  He was able to discern a ministry with older adults at Marjorie P. Lee.  On Sundays he serves with the Rev. Angelo Puopolo, chaplain, in the chapel of MPL and the Deupree.  Two Sundays per month they serve at the Deupree Cottages.  He also leads Bible studies at three of ERS affordable living communities:  St. Paul Village, St. Pius Place and Knowlton Place.  

He also leads JAVA Time, musical visuals which enable residents to talk about themselves. “Every Monday I have lunch at Deupree Cottages.  People still have a need to talk about their feelings,” he said.  Four to five residents attend.  “It works extremely well.”  

One of the residents told him, “Remember, you’re as important as the people you’re going to see.”  His legal background gave him the ability to research whatever scriptures he was going to teach.  Opening statement arguments as a lawyer provided him a background in preparation of sermons, organizing and presenting his thoughts.  

McGavran also does SAIDO - a nonpharmacological treatment shown to improve the symptoms of memory loss among older adults with dementia - with one resident. Developed by the Japanese, SAIDO involves reading, simple arithmetic and writing exercises which stimulate the prefrontal cortex of the brain critical to memory.  He wants to offer SAIDO to every potential  candidate.  ERS is one of only two long-term care facilities that offer this program. 

Closeness with Christ is what McGavran gets out of his second career.  “I was always drawn to religion,” he said.  “I began to perceive that I had to change.

“Talking to people is much different.”  He had to relearn how to talk.  “Pastoral counseling is challenging.”  The chaplain’s job is to help individuals with their faith journey.  There is a mixture of faiths at ERS, which has made a major commitment to memory services.  

Another of McGavran’s prior achievements was serving as president of The Literary Club, an all-male club-by-invitation organization.  He also was past president and board member of Episcopal Community Services Foundation.  

“All the time I was writing short stories,” McGavran said, thinking of things to do in retirement.  He is the author of The Butterfly Collection (2009) and Recycled Glass (2017), both short story collections.  

In addition, he started an exercise program at the University Club in the fall of 2007.  It consisted of cardiovascular and weight training.  He still meets with his trainer for regular workouts.  

His wife Liz, who owns interior design business Liz McGavran Interiors, supported her husband in his endeavors and career change.  They moved to Chestnut Station in Hyde Park in 2005.  
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Do you have a story to tell about your decision to retire and move onto a different life path?  Please share it with us -

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