By Judy Bass
William V. Powers has had a flourishing and highly diversified career. In fact, practically anyone who looks at a recounting of this Minuteman High School grad’s myriad accomplishments would be truly impressed.
Intense, thoughtful and a natural optimist, Powers, 46, an Arlington native and current West Barnstable resident with an entrepreneurial knack, studied Culinary Arts at Minuteman, although he seemed headed for a position as a high school history teacher and basketball coach. Bright and capable though he was things weren’t always easy for Powers, who was only 17 when he lost his father, a World War II veteran.
“Sports and Minuteman [where he graduated in 1985] kept me focused,” Powers says now. “I never thought I was driven, but my teachers weren’t surprised at all [by my eventual success].”
He attended Cape Cod Community College from 1985-87, where he played basketball and led the New England junior college conference in scoring. “Basketball was always important in my life,” he said. “It created a fantastic path for me.” That path led Powers to work for and become friends with legendary Boston Celtics superstar Dave Cowens, eventually start his own basketball school in Wellesley, coach basketball at Melrose High School for the legendary Nick Papas, who was his high school coach at Minuteman, and become a sports agent.
Upon completing his time at Cape Cod Community College, he attended Seton Hall University in New Jersey for a short time in 1988. He eventually finished his studies at Boston University in 1990, but never obtained his teaching credentials. By then he was involved in his basketball and sports and entertainment business and became so successful that in his words, “I was making more money in my senior year at BU than I would have as a teacher.”
What says a lot about Powers is the spirit in which he made that comment – no hot-shot swagger, only justifiable pride in himself and profound gratitude for all the opportunities he has been given. He is thankful to all the “great role models” who have crossed his path, all of whom encouraged him to be industrious and develop an unquenchable work ethic.
“I am a kid from Arlington who has been blessed by being around some great people,” Powers self-effacingly observed.
What appears to be his mantra, in life, sports and in business, is that “the idea of not winning is foreign” to him.
“I believe success is a choice for all of us,” Powers said, “and we should expect greatness of ourselves and each other every day.”
For him, those expectations of greatness - and his eagerness to cultivate that virtue in others - kept being fulfilled. “In all my businesses, now, not just basketball, I’m still coaching,” Powers declared.
By 1997, he worked for Westwood One and American Radio, then, two years later, Powers was recruited to grow a venture capital start-up, Traffic.com. Bringing him aboard was clearly a wise move. As senior vice president of sales, Powers used his expertise to help bring in $100 million in revenue, expand the company to 600 employees, and take it public in 2006 before selling it a year later.
Today, Powers job is Executive Vice President of Strategic Development at Swoop, a Cambridge, Mass.-based technology start-up. Additionally he serves as a founder and advisor to a small MIT start-up also based in Cambridge.
Perhaps his most deeply heartfelt endeavors have absolutely no connection with business or commerce, and are utterly personal.
For Powers and his wife, Suzanne, everything changed dramatically nearly 13 years ago, on Nov. 22, 2000, when they lost their beloved newborn son Luke in childbirth because of what Powers describes as “medical errors” bred of “arrogance and under-staffing” that were made at a Boston teaching hospital. Suzanne was subsequently in a coma for four weeks, Powers said and required seven “life-saving” surgeries.
Their story appeared in the prestigious and widely-read Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), reaching, according to Powers, four million ob/gyns around the world.
It seems totally characteristic of him that rather than indulge in despair or recriminations, Powers took his and his wife’s crushing tragedy and is using it to educate others, including those in the medical profession at teaching hospitals, conferences, and state hospital associations around the US in hopes of preventing similar situations in the future.
The couple also created the Luke Vincent Powers Foundation (www.lukeslove.org), which reaches out to children in need by, for example, building playgrounds for handicapped children, sending valentines to the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., scene of a horrific mass shooting last year, and assisting youngsters impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
Determination resonates in Powers’ voice when he talks about what he and Suzanne do in their precious son Luke’s memory.
“We’re all here for one journey,” he said. “I’m not trying to save the world, I’m trying to do the right thing and leave this earth and our time here better than we found it. As long I can breathe, we’re going to keep trying to make a difference in people’s lives for the better.”