Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” The great things he’d accomplished are more a credit to those who came before him than they are to himself. A bit too humble, but the sentiment is there. So where does a giant come from? Better yet, where does the person come from who stands on the shoulders of giants? Genetic dispositions and privileges aside, growth is fostered in the shadows of those we are fortunate to have met and admire.
Curt Fuszard spends his life in a constant state of growth. He chooses to never stand on the shoulder of giants because he’s always on the lookout for a bigger giant. It goes way back to Curt’s youth, when his father was in the National Guard. This lifestyle took the Fuszard family from Neenah to Waupaca to Milwaukee and eventually to Madison. Curt attended Madison East; stayed for the University of Wisconsin–Madison; then, in the shadow of his father, joined the ROTC.
“When I was on campus, they asked me to lead all the different services—Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines—it was a really nice way to build my leadership skills.” Those skills, fostered by Curt’s teachers and professors, would prove instrumental in the opportunities ahead.
The next three years for Curt would be on active duty in an intelligence role for the Army. “Helping the commanders to understand the enemy, the terrain, the weather, all those factors.” Curt was assigned to an infantry unit, placing him in the field day in and day out. But the weekends gave him bits of reprieve, and he chose to spend that time going through an MBA program, which he finished just as his time with the military came to an end.
The initial shaping of Curt’s ethical foundations led him to become a person who leads as an example of perpetual evolutions. Curt says, “If you have high expectations of others, you better have high expectations of yourself.” Throughout his next 37 years in investment roles, Curt made it a point to reflect and enact. When he was overseeing money managers, people who invest money for the bank, he learned about a CFA (Chartered Financial Analysis) program for money managers. It would take up his evenings and weekends for three years to study for the annual comprehensive exams, but Curt isn’t the type of person who feels like he’s done all he could if he doesn’t lead by example. When his role shifted to advising financial advisors, Curt went through a similar program for financial advisors and received that designation.
He credits the military for helping his development of long-term planning. That’s probably why he took a lot of time to consider what was next after his years in the private sector. He recalls picking up Bob Buford’s book Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance . Curt says, “Bob was a very successful business person in Texas, and at about the age of 50, decided he was going to step into his halftime. … After days and days, maybe weeks and weeks of contemplation, he decided, ‘I want to spend the second half of my life giving back.’” Curt decided to spend the second half of his life in kind.
The last 10 years for Curt have been in Middleton, where he serves on the UW–Madison foundation board and is president of the Middleton Good Neighbor Festival board and past president of the Middleton Optimist Club and Middleton Endowment. Due to his developed nature of methodical approaches to making big changes, when Curt decided to “shake things up [for the Optimist Club]. Move the venue. Change membership structure. On and on. … I decided I’m going to have coffee with the five or six senior longtime legacy Optimists.” He learned about facets of the club not apparent in the literature and furthered his appreciation for the history and foundation of the club. In turn, those senior members were ambassadors for Curt’s ideas when he introduced them to the rest of the club.
But don’t mistake Curt wanting to shake things up as him injecting his vision onto those who aren’t interested. It’s more his way of helping people do an in-depth assessment of how things currently work and asking themselves if that’s truly the best way to live up to the organization’s mission statement.
Arguably, Curt makes his most significant community impact through REACH-A-Child, an organization focused on helping first responders comfort children in their moments of crisis through the power of a book. There he serves as executive director as part of a two-person team backed by a board of directors and advisory council. Curt says, “This is my opportunity to really give back after years of traditional employment.” This is Curt’s second half.
What REACH-A-Child means to Curt is strongly reflected in his approach in asking for donations. “The way I like to do it is I think about a child that’s at the scene of the car accident or the house fire or a domestic issue or whatever it is—they’re having the worst day of their life. And what could possibly comfort that child in crisis? A first responder with a book, time together, anything that is distracting a child from that bad thing.” This impact has been fostered through Curt’s efforts time and time again, and more local fire and police departments are starting to take advantage of this program, which comes at no cost to them.
With all that, Curt still finds he has room to grow. “I really think that every day presents an opportunity to build one’s character. And take the foundation and even do more to ensure that your moral compass is dead on. … Life is a classroom, but you don’t learn if you don’t reflect.” He’s even found a new giant’s shadow to learn under, his 37-year-old son’s. With a mix of pride and awe, Curt says, “He is the most amazing person I have ever met.”
Kyle Jacobson is a copy editor for Madison Essentials, and a writer and beer enthusiast (sometimes all at once) living in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.