As an employee and then CEO/owner of a prosperous company in Illinois, alumnus Raymond “Skip” Eissfeldt (’64) spent decades building and nurturing his office furniture business. But he will always credit the values he learned at Concordia Junior College for its success.
“Try to do a good job and try to treat people how you’d want to be treated,” Eissfeldt said during a recent phone interview. He lived out these values—which echo the “Golden Rule”—each day at Stocks Office Furniture, the company he took over after Joe Stocks, his father-in-law and original owner, died.
After he graduated from Concordia, he studied sociology at the University of Illinois in Champaign. “I was one semester away from graduating and my first wife, Sally, and I got married and had a baby,” Eissfeldt said. So, he left school and began working for his father-in-law at the reproduction, blueprint and photography business that would eventually become Stock’s Office Furniture.
Eissfeldt saw a niche for starting an office furniture division at the store; the concept grew from there.
He described himself as “very fortunate” as he recounted his business blessings during his 40-year tenure as CEO/owner, such as having long-term employees like Maggie McGuire. She worked for him for 25 years and then purchased the company when he was ready to retire nine years ago. His blessings also included his largest year in business, with 17 employees and $8 million in sales.
In addition to treating others how you would like to be treated, Eissfeldt also followed another principle. “If we were profitable,” he said, “I’d like the share the profits with everybody…. For me, that was the right way to do it.”
Eissfeldt grew up in a Lutheran home. His father, Ray, was a minister and his mom, Eleanor, worked at a local high school. Skip, who played basketball in college, was inducted into the William C. Ackmann Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.
When asked what his favorite memory at Concordia was, he said, “I just feel lucky to have so many good memories. It’s hard to just pick one.” However, Eissfeldt did remember good times with his roommate, Art Schultz, and the one time he got called in to see the dean of students. He thought he was going to be in big trouble because he skipped class with Art, but instead was taught a lesson about how he had to set an example for the younger students.
Eissfeldt continues to set a good example as an alumnus. In addition to how he treated people in his professional life, he also set up two scholarship endowments at Concordia to help others who are following his path. One scholarship, which he established to honor his parents, supports students enrolled in physical education or athletic training programs. The second scholarship, which he funded with his current wife of 23 years, Denise Novak, provides financial assistance for business students.
Through all his experiences in school and out, Eissfeldt has learned some valuable advice he wants Concordia’s current students to know. “It’s so important, if possible, to have a passion and to follow it. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks,” he said. “If you can find what your passion is, I’m confident you’re going to be pretty successful.”
And, to his fellow alumni, he offers this advice: Give back! Visit the new campus. “I just think if some of them had the opportunity to go and see the campus, it would really make them feel proud to see how far Concordia has come since we were there.”
For more information about Concordia’s endowment program, contact Dean Rennicke, vice president of Advancement.
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