Beyond the Numbers

Get to know new WAC Chairman Gregg Blodgett

By Darrick Meneken  |  Jenn Repp Photography

Gregg Blodgett joined the WAC in 1980. The longtime finance pro steps into the role of Chairman at a critical time in Club history. But don’t think that means he’s not ready for a little fun along the way. As we learned during our time with Gregg, he’s a man of many passions.

It’s funny the things we remember. Like how Gregg Blodgett, new WAC Chairman, recalls how he and Jane, his wife of 34 years, juggled busy careers with a fortuitous balance of their hectic work schedules. And how Jane, during a recent walk with Gregg, looks startled at this and stops. What about that time, she recalls, when conflicting business trips found them passing in the doorway at four o’clock in the morning?

Gregg smiles. Of course, there were times like that, too. But that life is history now. Two successful finance careers led to comfortable retirements for Gregg and Jane, their exits from the world of harried schedules, meetings, and deadlines left behind within six months of each other back in 2011.

“It became clear that she had things she wanted to do and that I wasn’t going to have enough vacation days,” Gregg says. The pair spent most of the last decade committed to travel, sticking pins around the globe and returning to favorites from Spain to New York to Los Cabos, the latter of which Gregg says, “is mostly about golf.”

“He is quite analytical and likes to dig in and understand the nuances of business operations.”

Trim and bespectacled, Gregg wears the tight smile of a man you’re not surprised spent three decades looking over balance sheets and calculating the benefits of fixed costs and liquidity. But catch him on the WAC basketball court, playing 18 holes, or strolling near the couple’s home in Laurelhurst and a different feeling hits you.

“From a distance, Gregg appears quite serious, but he is low-key, relaxed, and social,” says WAC Chief Financial Officer Paul Lowber, who first met Gregg in the 1980s when both worked at the Seattle office of Deloitte.

Gregg takes over as WAC Chairman after service on the Audit, Finance, House, Food & Beverage, and Membership & Marketing committees. “He is quite analytical and likes to dig in and understand the nuances of business operations,” Paul says.

After spending his early career in accounting and banking, Gregg transitioned to technology startups, with their rapidly changing business models and dramatic financial cycles. His big break came as CFO of a healthcare technology company, where he steered a successful initial public offering and, four years later, company sale. That led to a series of other CFO jobs at small venture-backed startups, ending with his retirement from Twisted Pair Solutions.

“I tend to ask a lot of questions,” Gregg says. “It’s important to know the broad issues facing a business and to choose carefully where to dive in.”

It’s hard to imagine a better time than now for Gregg to step into the role of WAC Chairman. This year more than any since at least the Great Recession will require careful consideration with every decision. With so much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19—and even more questions about how the state and society will continue to react to the ongoing pandemic—Gregg expects a busy year.

“I think this is going to be a super-intensive year,” he says. “Most of the time is going to be spent navigating how we drive Club activity. How do we fashion a Club that excites our membership and continues to promote the good feeling of the WAC as we go through the uncertainty of COVID-19?”

Navigating the unprecedented economic impact of a global pandemic marks a critical point for every organization—and a huge opportunity. Through the unknown changes ahead, flexibility remains critical, a point Gregg addresses during a recent walk along Union Bay north of the University of Washington. “A year from now a bunch of things we didn’t even think of will be on the list and others will have resolved themselves,” he says. “It’s going to be a challenging year for everyone.”

Seattle roots

Gregg joined the WAC as much for the in-house basketball league as professional inroads. He continues to play in twice-weekly 50-and-over pickup games with fellow members, many of whom have become friends. “I’m missing that quite a bit,” he says about not being able to get to the gym during the COVID closure.

Gregg’s other sport of choice is golf. He began playing at age 12 and played for the Roosevelt High School team. Aside from his birth at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, Gregg is a lifetime Seattleite—View Ridge Elementary and Eckstein Middle schools leading to Roosevelt High, where he overlapped with 2017–2018 WAC Chairman Doug Seto.

“He’s the right person with the financial, strategic planning, and entrepreneurial experience to be Chairman at this unique time in WAC history,” Doug says.

WAC President & CEO Chuck Nelson agrees. “Gregg’s professional skillset is particularly timely for the Club now as we navigate the financial challenges brought on by the COVID crisis and plan our way through the current uncertainties,” Chuck says.

Gregg is part of an extensive line of WAC members who attended the University of Washington before joining the Seattle business ecosystem and the WAC. He also has served as president of the University of Washington Alumni Association and is a past chair of the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County. “Serving for the Boys & Girls Club was kind of a transformational thing for me,” he says. “That organization is near and dear to my heart.”

Gregg also spent eight years on the board of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and helped it merge into the research arm of Seattle Children’s in 2018. He currently sits on the board of Finagraph, a startup in the financial technology space.

Family and travel

Gregg and Jane raised two children— Kelsey, 32, and Michael, 29—and Gregg fondly recalls family Saturday mornings at the WAC, which often included swim lessons. Both kids still live in Seattle. Kelsey works at Amazon and was wed this past summer in a tiny ceremony. The big party, Gregg says, was rescheduled for next summer, hopefully post-COVID. Michael followed his parents’ footsteps and works as an accountant at Ernst & Young.

“Gregg’s WAC life has spanned many phases of his personal and business life, and he recognizes the Club’s value across the spectrum,” Chuck says.

Gregg and Jane first met at a training conference—they both worked for Deloitte at the time but in different cities—outside Milwaukee in 1981. A month later, they reconnected while teaching at a new-staff training in New Jersey. When the week ended, they jumped a plane together and flew to the tropics. “Our first date was actually in Bermuda,” Jane smiles.

Jane was living in Los Angeles at the time but soon moved to San Francisco. They dated long distance for three years before Jane moved to Seattle. They married a couple of years later. Jane went on to become the managing partner in the Seattle office of Ernst & Young.

Gregg and Jane are season ticket holders to Washington football and men’s basketball, and they traditionally attend the Los Angeles football matchups between Notre Dame and USC, Jane’s alma mater. Gregg graduated UW with a double major in Spanish and Accounting. He regularly reads novels in Spanish and since his retirement has updated his language skills with study-focused trips to Cádiz, San Sebastián, Salamanca, Granada, and Valencia, all located in Spain. “It’s a fascinating country,” Gregg says.

This past March, the couple was nearing the end of a two-week trip to Israel and Jordan when the COVID-19 shutdown began. “The restrictions seemed to get worse each day,” Gregg recalls. Unfortunately, that meant missing Bethlehem and Masada. “We ended up leaving Israel the last day before flights were stopped, and Jordan the next-to-last day,” Gregg says. Back home, they self-quarantined for two weeks.

A month prior to that trip they were in Australia, and last November they traveled to Egypt. More than a dozen of their trips during the past 20 years have been as hosts of University of Washington alumni travel groups. “We really enjoy those,” Gregg says.

Following their retirement, the couple spent a month in New York City. The next year, they went back for another six weeks. “We really like big cities,” Gregg says. “We like the vibrancy and action.”

For Gregg, it came as a shock how easily he adapted to life without travel during the shutdown. He started riding his bike again. His first trip took him to Gas Works Park, where Kelsey delivered some fresh-baked bread.

“It surprised me how well I adjusted to staying home,” he says. “I thought I’d go absolutely crazy.”

Still, when golf courses reopened, he returned to the tee as soon as he could. When he drove to Snoqualmie to play in early June, it was his first time on the freeway in three months. “It was strange realizing that,” he says.

A sense of honor

Back at the WAC, Gregg swings by the gym, which stands empty. It’s weird to see it this way. So often, this is where Gregg’s WAC life is centered and full of energy. “I can’t wait to get back,” he says. “I find the buzz in the WAC super-energizing and the perfect complement to my now more laid-back lifestyle.”

During this visit to the Club he also heads to the 12th Floor. Here, he often pauses on his way to meetings in the boardroom. Photos of the Club’s former Chairmen and Chairwomen dating to the Club’s founding in 1930 hang in display.

“Don Covey [the Chairman in 1981] was one of my sponsors for membership,” Gregg says. “Looking at that wall, it’s hard not to feel a sense of honor
and respect.”

Darrick Meneken is Content Director at the Washington Athletic Club. Reach him at dmeneken@wac.net.

As published in the September/October 2020 issue of WAC Magazine

note on photography: Some of the photos in this magazine were taken prior to COVID-19. During all recent photoshoots, safety rules and social distancing guidelines were followed.

—Posted August 24, 2020

 

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