Oklahoma City businessman Steve Trice said he was burned out and anxiety-driven in his mid- to late 30s.
Trice, president and CEO of Jasco Products, said he was depressed four out of seven days a week and found himself battling bladder cancer on top of all that. Doctors told Trice he had about five years to live, and the news set him on a path to self-discovery.
“I really started searching for my purpose in life,” Trice, 64, said.
He said he was invited to the prayer breakfast held each year by Connecting Business Men to Christ (CBMC) in downtown Oklahoma City. Trice said the guest speaker told a story similar to his, except the speaker's tale included his life transformation through Christ.
Trice said he prayed that day to receive Christ into his heart. Over the course of about four years, he started meeting for Bible study with two men from CBMC.
The business leader said his Christian faith transformed him so that his focus and acumen changed for the better.
He said that transformation resulted in his partnership with Mid-America Christian University.
About 18 months ago, Trice started a tuition program for his employees to attend Mid-America Christian University. Trice said of the roughly 254 employees at Jasco, nine people took him up on his offer when he initially began the college tuition program.
Now, about 15 people are taking part in the program, he said.
“I've never known a businessman who, when asked what is his most important asset, wouldn't say ‘people,'” Trice said.
“If people are our most important asset, that should be our motivation — trying to help people be all that they can be.”
Jasco employee Roosevelt Hall, 54, said he didn't think the college program would work for him, though he did not obtain his college degree during stints at several colleges. He said he eventually decided to try the program and is now enrolled as a student at Mid-America's north campus, 11600 Broadway Extension Service Road.
“I always wanted a degree just as a personal achievement,” said Hall, a forklift driver who has worked at Jasco for six years. “I'm hoping to start a new life.”
Living out faith
Jasco, based at 10 E Memorial Road on the southeast corner of Memorial Road and Santa Fe Avenue, produces consumer electronics and electronics accessories.
Trice said despite the bleak prognosis when he was diagnosed with cancer at age 39, the cancer never came back after it was surgically removed.
“That bout with cancer was the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” he said.
Trice said the decision to offer different programs for his employees came out of his ever-growing faith. He said his faith changed the way he wanted to do business and treat his employees.
“I have half my life on one side of the cross. In the back of my mind I was leveraging people to make money for me and my family,” he said. “On this side of the cross, I've learned that God owns the business, not me, and his interest is people.”
In addition to several pay incentives for employees, a company chaplain, Financial Peace University and projects with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and Habitat for Humanity, the company donates funds, up to $500, to nonprofits and charities where employees give “their time, talents and treasures,” Trice said.
The company also sponsors employees, called “team members,” and their spouses who wish to attend Campus Crusade for Christ “A Weekend to Remember” marriage conferences.
Trice said the college tuition program just takes the company one step further in meeting the needs of its employees.
He said he wanted to invest in their lives beyond their employment at Jasco, with something that would help them be better individuals, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers.
Trice said he chose to partner with Mid-America because each of its degree programs includes ethics training, which he thinks will directly benefit his employees and indirectly benefit Jasco.
“We want the people who work for us to be ethics dedicated and ethics educated,” he said.
Hall, a Colorado native and Navy veteran who lives in Oklahoma City, said he initially attended college and changed his major several times from engineering to computer science to multimedia design, among other things.
“I moved to Oklahoma City dead broke and out of faith as you would say,” he said. “I was hoping to start a new life, and now I am.”
Hall said he is pursuing a business ethics degree and is on target to graduate in November.
He said he has been helping promote the tuition program among other employees because he has seen how beneficial it is.
Like Trice, he said the program will help Jasco employees but also their families as it may help young people realize that “education is an ongoing process.”