Ross Perot: A Legacy of Leadership

Nina Vaca
Nina Vaca
Jul 17, 2019 · 4 min read

Ross Perot left an indelible mark on this country, state, and city that we both call home. I’ve long admired him for his entrepreneurial spirit, his patriotism, his visionary leadership, and his enormous philanthropic efforts.

Since Mr. Perot’s passing few days ago, many poignant obituaries have been published. Perhaps the most touching piece came from his longtime friend Tom Luce who described Mr. Perot as stepping “out of a Norman Rockwell painting” and living the American Dream.

Mr. Perot was a pioneer and visionary in the world of technology. In 1962, well before anyone had a personal computer, and when most people had no clue about the importance of data computation, he founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS). Under Mr. Perot’s visionary leadership, EDS became a leader in the IT equipment and services space with hundreds of thousands of employees and billions of dollars in revenue.

EDS would end up playing a major role in the history of Pinnacle as well. Twelve years ago, EDS awarded Pinnacle Group a transformational contract. Almost overnight, our company quadrupled in size and expanded from doing business in 15 states to 49! We lived, slept, ate, drank, and talked about nothing but EDS for months and months during implementation.

That opportunity changed Pinnacle’s path forever and helped it become the award-winning industry leader it is today. And even though Mr. Perot was no longer involved in EDS at that time, the ripple effect of his entrepreneurial spirit could still be felt and has blessed countless Pinnacle employees and their families. Our partnership with EDS allowed Pinnacle Group to hire numerous associates, many of whom are still with us 12 years later. It also laid the foundation for them to grow their families, buy homes, and give back to our community in countless ways.

But much more than Mr. Perot’s business success, his legacy is built on philanthropy. Decades from now, we will still mention his visionary leadership in the tech world, but what will be remembered more than anything are his amazing philanthropic efforts.

One of Mr. Perot’s most admirable qualities was his ability to pass on his legacy of philanthropic giving to the next generation. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas was made possible via a $50 million gift made by his children who knew that there was no better way to honor their father’s incredible legacy.

Now, for generations, countless families and children will be creating fond memories by visiting the Perot Museum. As a fellow passionate advocate of education, I know it must have brought a huge smile to his face seeing kids interacting with the exhibits and getting excited about science.

Unlike the museum, most of Mr. Perot’s efforts were not done in his own name. For example, Dallas’ world-class Meyerson Symphony Center was funded in part by a $10 million gift from Mr. Perot. However, he named it after his longtime friend and business partner. Throughout his life, Mr. Perot contributed to countless causes and organizations — perhaps, only he knew everything he supported.

Leaving a positive legacy is something I think about quite a bit. No matter what you do, you will be leaving your own mark on your children, grandchildren, and the people you interact with. What will yours look like?

When I think about my own legacy, Ross Perot is the person I look up to for inspiration. He has always been intentional about making a positive impact and changing the world for the betterment of others. This is especially evident in the numerous stories about Mr. Perot after his death that focused on his impact on others.

Here in Dallas, Mr. Perot is a hometown hero. There are many, many people who knew him personally. I’ve met many of these people, and they’ve always had only positive things to say about Ross Perot. Each and every day, I strive to leave a similar legacy.

The photo accompanying this piece is very special to me. I still cherish the memory of wonderful conversation I had with Mr. Perot that night. It was at a Medal of Honor dinner, and there were a lot of very important people there, but Mr. Perot took genuine interest in speaking with me. Someone of his stature, importance, and wealth could easily get away with just a “nice to meet you” handshake and move on. But Mr. Perot didn’t do that.

We had an authentic conversation about two topics that we both hold near to our hearts: entrepreneurship and philanthropy. He was genuinely encouraging, telling me that neither being an entrepreneur nor giving back to the community are easy, but that they are both worth doing. That night, I felt like I was talking with both a mentor and a friend.

I’ve cited this Maya Angelou quote before, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” I’ve never forgotten the way Mr. Perot made me feel that night, and I hope to interact with everyone I meet in the same way. You never know the impact that a kind, friendly conversation can have on people.

Ross Perot’s impact on the world and this country is incalculable, and so, I am honored to add my voice to the chorus of people who he personally impacted through his kind and generous nature.

Nina Vaca
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