7 p.m. June 7
What do an award-winning songwriter, a world-renowned opera singer and a giant in the transportation business have in common? Rodney Clawson, Emily Pulley and James Welch have achieved exceptional success in each of their respective professions, and they each have a degree from West Texas A&M University.
He moved his family nine times during the course of his career, and later retired as a CEO in the transportation business. He planned to travel and enjoy life, but retirement was short lived for James Welch, who let his compassion for his former employees pull him back into the fold at YRC Worldwide.
Welch grew up in Amarillo, played drums in his own garage band and graduated from Amarillo High School. When it came time for college, Welch looked at several options and discovered West Texas State University was the perfect fit for him. He entered as a psychology major with a minor in business and lived and worked at the family farm near Canyon.
Farming kept him busy, but Welch still found time to participate in WT’s many activities while enjoying the University atmosphere and camaraderie. He graduated in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science degree, and the working world soon was calling his name.
He started with Yellow Freight System in Houston in 1978 and began building a very successful career there with multiple moves and fast-track promotions. By 2000, Welch was serving as president and chief executive officer at Yellow Transportation. But seven years later, Welch was ready to slow down, travel and just enjoy life. He retired.
“I sacrificed a lot on the personal side as I worked my way through the organization,” he said. “I never had a goal starting out to be the president of the company. I was just always taking the next job I was given as what I was going to be doing.”
Apparently he did each of those jobs quite well, putting in 29 years with the company. Retirement for the business savvy Welch didn’t last long, though. He took on some consulting jobs and then less than three years ago, lenders who had taken over his old place of business were calling to see if he would come back and turn the company around.
“At first I said no, because it’s always hard to come back to a company that you’ve worked for for so many years,” he said. “It’s kind of like going back home and living with your parents after 20 years of being gone. It’s really hard to do.”
But compassion won out when Welch remembered the 32,000 employees at YRC Woldwide. He knew he had to give up his short-lived retirement and go back.
“We (Welch and wife Shannon) did some soul searching and really thought about it and realized there were still 32,000 employees and their families kind of depending on what we do with this company.”
He has worked hard and good things are happening. Today, under his guidance, YRC Worldwide is a $5 billion transportation company and a leading provider of LTL transportation services throughout North America. But more importantly, 32,000 jobs were saved all because of a man with good business sense and a big heart.