The Making of a Gentleman

Photography by Rich Smith on location at Alleia

There are many published guides on how to be a gentleman, and the rules have changed over the years. In 19th century Victorian England, one etiquette book insisted that, among other traits, a gentleman must know how to ride, shoot, fence, row, and dance. Today, modern blogs tout both the importance of finding your personal look and being able to cook a signature dish.

While the external traits of a gentleman may have altered over the years, the essence of a gentleman – putting others before oneself – has remained. A true gentleman is guided by something other than his own wants or needs. In their own words, these six men share what principles guide them and how their past experiences and influences have defined and shaped them into who they are today.



Hiren Desai

3H Group, Inc.

 


I was born and raised in a third world country and then went to boarding school. Every time I traveled back to Zambia to see my parents, my father would always remind me to never forget where I came from. He would tell me that a tree withstands high winds because of its roots. That wisdom teaches me to deal with success and failure in the same way – with humility.

Being a son, father, and husband – these are all privileges in life. My father and I have these conversations often, and we have them with my sons as well. I hope my sons learn from these life lessons and grow up to be gentlemen.



Craig Holley

Pinnacle Financial Partners


Most of us establish foundational values and a moral compass early in our life, and more often than not, we can attribute these virtues to our parents. It is no different for me. My parents did not spend much time articulating their beliefs, but they practiced very simple and easy-to-understand principles each and every day. There’s really not much complexity in doing what’s right, doing more than what is expected, and making a difference in someone else’s life. I realized early on that my parents were always doing things for others and without exception, looking for the best in people.

My parents helped create this unchangeable core within me that makes me who I am today. It guides me as a citizen, as a banker, and most importantly, as a husband and father.



Tom White

Unum


My high school senior class voted me as “Most Courteous.” It seemed funny at the time, but as I’ve gotten older, it is something I take more pride in.

Any understanding I have of being a gentleman falls squarely on my upbringing. My parents, who exemplified the “Greatest Generation,” were the finest role models, teaching me the values of hard work, kindness, fairness, and empathy, mainly by example. I don’t recall many lectures while growing up, just a steady, consistent, and positive force in my life. This lesson was one that was reinforced by my older siblings, coaches, mentors, and professors, and one for which I am eternally grateful. I pray that it has rubbed off on my children.

In my professional career at Unum, I have been blessed with the honor of representing the company in the Chattanooga community and on Wall Street with the financial community. I’d like to think that the values of honesty and integrity, striving for excellence, and a respect for all have shaped my professional relationships.



Larry Buie

Chattanooga Gas Co. | Chairman of the Board, Chamber of Commerce


My father is really the foundation for what I believe and how I approach life. Growing up in a small town in Mississippi, I spent a lot of time with him as he was not just my father but also my principal and coach. He made sure I understood the difference between first impressions and actions. He told me to make good impressions as that is important, but he made sure I understood that impressions do not mean anything and are shallow unless you have positive actions that follow. That has been the mantra that I live by. Whatever I do has an impact on others, so I need to make sure it is a positive impact. My father gave me a good appreciation for work and showed me how I could impact others. We were always involved in civic or church projects.

From a professional standpoint, many of my earlier direct managers impressed on me the importance of trust within teams. You cannot have a sustained relationship unless there is trust involved, and trust comes from providing your coworkers and business partners with good, complete, and trustworthy work.



Scott Wilson

Baylor School


I have three principles that guide me. My mother was an extraordinary example of how to treat other people. She was the kindest person I have ever known. I have tried to emulate her. She’s been an amazing role model for me my whole life. My experience as a student at Baylor was also very profound. The honor code here is so real, and it’s something that has stuck with me my whole life. That sense of responsibility and sense of doing the right thing in all circumstances – it’s a part of the culture here and certainly had its effect on me. Most importantly though, I am very serious about my faith and that convicts me every day. I fall well short, but it convicts me every day.


 


Mark Ramsey

Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams

 


Although I lost my father at a young age, he said several things that have stuck with me. It didn’t originate with him, but he would always say, “A gentleman is never unintentionally rude.” I have used that to inform my conduct so that my behavior can never even accidentally be construed as rude or calloused. Kindness is all we have to give to people in this life, so I try to order my life intentionally to be kind to everyone.

My father would also say the famous phrase, “Better to look good, than to feel good.” I took this as an exhortation always to put my best foot forward no matter how I felt. I try to be aware of what is expected of me and to meet or exceed those expectations. It’s not about me or how I feel.

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