Name: Daniel Bevan
Title: President & Trustee, Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation
Hometown: Baton Rouge
Daniel Bevan, a Baton Rouge native, first began working when he was 15 years old for his uncle, Huey Wilson, at Wilson’s Jewelers and Catalog Showroom as the store’s engraver. After graduating from LSU and serving in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, Bevan went back to work for his uncle in the company’s corporate office before becoming a CPA and managing the Wilson family’s affairs. He is now president and trustee of his uncle’s charitable firm, the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation.
What is your most satisfying professional accomplishment?
Being asked to lead the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation.
How do you define “success”?
When completing a task, you can reflect on the process involved in doing it and have a smile on your face knowing you did it well.
What is a great piece of advice you personally received, and can you think of a time when you had to put that advice to use?
You can always be replaced. You need to bring your “A” game to work each day to be the best that you can be.
Where did you grow up and attend school? What were your professional aspirations?
I grew up in Baton Rouge, attended Baton Rouge High School and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in finance from LSU. I originally thought about a career in the banking industry.
How did you become acquainted with Huey and Angelina Wilson? What was your role in their business?
I went to work at Wilson’s Jewelers and Catalog Showroom when I was 15 years old. Huey Wilson was my uncle, and I started working after school and in the summer as the store’s jewelry engraver. I continued working on a part-time basis through high school and college. After graduating from LSU, I served in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps for three years. As I was nearing the end of my tour, I called Uncle Huey and asked for a job in the corporate office as his company was rapidly expanding across the southeastern United States. I worked in the accounting department for about three years when it became apparent to me that if I was going to achieve certain goals within the company, I had to become a certified public accountant. So I went back to LSU at night for a couple of years to qualify to sit for the CPA exam which I completed in in 1980. In 1983, Huey asked me to leave the corporate office and come to work for him in his Family office, which managed the affairs of the Wilson family.
The Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation was founded in 2000. How did it come about, and what was the Wilsons’ philanthropic vision?
Huey sold his retail company in 1985, and that same year, he and a partner bought a manufacturing facility in Houma that made offshore drilling platforms. That company, Gulf Island Fabrication Inc., went public in 1997. In 2000, Huey and Angie formed the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation with a $5 million donation. Their vision was to give back to this community that afforded them great success.
Whom does the foundation serve and why? Did the foundation begin by focusing on one area of service—say, education—then expand to a total of four? Are there leaders within the organization for each of the four areas?
In deciding what types of non-profit organizations to support, we sat with the Wilsons for most of one day and went over a vast list of area nonprofits and their respective missions. It became obvious that the Wilson’s focus was on helping those people in our community who were less fortunate than others. We were focused on those with disabilities, both physical and mental, those who lacked a basic education, those who were economically lacking because of poor job skills and literacy issues. It became apparent that the focus areas of the foundation were on human service organizations, education organizations, healthcare organizations, and prison re-entry organizations. The Wilsons wanted to give each citizen in our community the chance to succeed, to become productive members of society.
The grant awards program of the foundation has grown impressively over the years, from a total of $159,022 awarded in 2000 to $3,480,760 in 2013. How has the foundation succeeded in attracting increasing numbers of donations, even during the recession?
The foundation works with a staff of three people. With a small staff, we have no specialists, just everyone working together to make the most impactful grants to the benefit of our community.
What is a particular characteristic of your foundation that has helped it to attract donors?
In 2000, the Foundation made its first grants totaling $200,000. Upon seeing the impact of those grants to the needy in our community, the Wilsons made additional donations to the foundation of $35 million in 2004 and 2005. As the Foundation has grown, so has our giving to the point where we now give approximately $3.5 million annually. It did take a few years for the Wilsons to realize the powerful impact that the foundation has on the community, but they became true philanthropists.
How have the foundation’s grants impacted the community through the years?
A few of our important investments over the years has been $900,000 to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank for their new facility, $250,000 to the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation for the new Emerge Center, $250,000 to St. Vincent de Paul for the expanded pharmacy and men’s shelter. In fact, since 2000 the Foundation has awarded over $26,000,000 in grants to 140 different organizations.
What is something the general public should know about the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation?
Despite their wealth, the Wilsons remained very humble and true to their roots. When Huey passed away in 2008 on his 80th birthday, they still lived in the middle class house they purchased in 1970.
Do you serve in a leadership capacity in other local or regional groups?
I proudly serve as a board member on several local non-profit organizations including Louisiana Resource Center for Educators, Educations Next Horizon, Advance Innovative Education and Children’s Charter School Foundation. From this list, it is apparent that I have a passion for education initiatives.
Did you have one or more mentors in the course of your career?
Since I was employed most of my life by Huey Wilson, he has been my one true mentor. Many of my values were instilled by him over the years.
What’s the best part about your job?
Although the majority of our work involves the Foundation, my staff and I still manage the Family Office. We oversee the Wilsons’ investment portfolio and business interests. But the best part of the job is knowing that the Foundation is helping to make Baton Rouge a better community by enhancing the lives of its citizens. When we go on site visits and see so many programs at work, and you can see the lives of people changing right before you, that’s special.
What is the greatest personal or professional obstacle you’ve overcome?
I suffered a heart attack at the age of 53. I was completely shocked. I thought I was in good health as I was not overweight, I exercised regularly and did not smoke. It makes one realize that you can’t take anything for granted.
What gets your workday off to a good start?
When I get to the office, it’s all about being prepared for the day. Of course something is going to come up that ruins that preparation, but being prepared is the best way to start the day.
What book(s) are you reading?
A great read is “The Promise of a Pencil” by Adam Braun, a very inspiring book that will make you want to change the world.
If you could have dinner with any three living people, other than relatives, who would they be?
Dinner would be great with Warren Buffett. He shared many qualities with Huey Wilson. Angela Merkel, to understand how a woman could end up being one of the most powerful people in the world. And Steve Harvey, so dinner would not get too serious.
What do you do to unwind?
At the end of each work day, I go to the health club or do the treadmill at my house. Got to get some exercise!
Do you have a favorite sport you like to play or watch?
I like to play golf. I just don’t do enough of it. I particularly like to play in golf tournaments supporting our nonprofit organizations. I get to play golf and feel good about it helping our nonprofit community.
What are three of your favorite movies?
Favorite movies include some old ones: “Patton,” “Chinatown,” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”
What is an item on your “bucket list”?
Bucket list items: Sky-dive (although I’m pretty sure that won’t happen) and a round at Pebble Beach (I’m pretty sure that will happen).
If you could have any job other than your own, what would it be?
If I weren’t working for the foundation, I would like to be a high school teacher. I like working with young people, and I enjoy having an impact on their lives.
What website or app are you especially fond of?
I like the Kindle app. You can get news, magazines and books all at your fingertips.
What is one travel destination you especially like?
My wife and I like to go to the Caribbean. We’ve tried several places and loved them all.
Do you have a favorite spot in Baton Rouge?
I love the revitalized Downtown Baton Rouge. It’s gotten very good and has the potential to be great.