A tribute to J. Wayne Trask

Published on September 6, 2013

By Sharon McLennon

The success of Junior Achievement (JA) in Newfoundland and Labrador is well-known — 5,000 students in elementary, junior and senior high are exposed every year to the world of business and entrepreneurship in most areas of Newfoundland and in remote communities of Labrador; 100,000 young people are mentored and supported by the larger business community of leaders and key partners since 1985.

Seventy-three business leaders have been inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Hall of Fame since its inaugural gala event in 1990; there was no JA organization in the province before 1985.

But behind these numbers is a compelling story of JA from idea to startup to sustainable, successful organization. The story of JA of Newfoundland and Labrador is inextricably entwined with the story of J. Wayne Trask.

Wayne died much too soon on Aug. 20 in St. John’s. He inspired and was inspired by a long list of business and community leaders, staff and other partners over the past 28 years who believed that JA could be a game-changer, accelerating a culture of leadership and entrepreneurial spirit in this province.

Wayne was passionate about JA’s possibilities for young people to understand business, be confident, lead and become entrepreneurs. He relished creating ways to attract human and financial resources to JA and recognize the contribution of others. He spent thousands of hours in JA with other business and community volunteers, staff and funding partners, first as a member of the Corner Brook and then western steering committee.

When JA was still an unknown, local businesses stepped up to the plate in record time demonstrating financial feasibility to JA of Canada. Wayne sat on the first JA of western board directors and taught the company program. His negotiation, teamwork and financial skills and sense of humour helped forge a shared vision with businesses and other partners on the west and east coasts, resulting in JA of Newfoundland and Labrador at the end of the ’80s.

The move to a provincial board, with Wayne as vice-president and then later as president, focused limited financial resources and volunteer and staff talent, positioning JA for provincial growth and national recognition. It took JA to the next level.

In 1990, the provincial board created the Newfoundland and Labrador Business Hall of Fame. It was another game-changer. For the first time, young people from grades 5 to 12 would have role models of leadership and entrepreneurship, right here. Wayne worked relentlessly with the board of governors over the years to realize the Hall of Fame’s other possibilities, JA’s long-term financial sustainability.

Progress recently profiled the power of storytelling with Tim Magwood’s Mark of a Leader and his five-level leadership: “Great leaders find a way to engage these five levels or dimensions: spirit, imagination, intellect, the heart and, finally, the hands — action.”

Inspired by his leadership

A lot of leaders just engage the intellect and hands by saying, “I have a plan. Let’s make it happen.” They fail to engage the spirit, heart and imagination. Wayne did all five in spades in JA. It was his mark.

I had the extraordinary privilege to learn this about Wayne first-hand through my work with him on the western steering committee starting in 1986, then in my role as president of the western and later the first provincial JA board of directors. His leadership supported and inspired me and so many others in JA’s early stage and over almost three decades.

What was the impact? Where are the JA “graduates” now? What difference did Wayne and other business leaders make to their lives? Who were on the long list of business and community leaders, staff, educators, funding and other partners over the past 28 years who believed that JA could be a game-changer, accelerating a culture of leadership and entrepreneurship in this province and why?

What if Hall of Fame inductees’ stories provided the content for development of a case studies program on business leadership and entrepreneurship locally and globally? What can us and others learn from the story of the successful startups of what are now JA of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Newfoundland and Labrador Business Hall of Fame?

Sharing the full story of JA in Newfoundland and Labrador is rich with possibilities for the future of JA and the province, not the least of which is an enduring tribute to Wayne’s legacy of leadership and entrepreneurship.


Sharon McLennon writes from Steady Brook.