Kokomo — Bob Knowling remembered his first-grade teacher taking pity on his single pair of loose-soled shoes and quietly giving him a new pair of Buster Browns one day after class. He remembered his mother crying about those new shoes. He remembered catching catfish and bass in Wildcat Creek with his father as a child to help feed his large family. He remembered pulling a wagon to the welfare office to pick up flour and processed meat and peanut butter and cheese. He remembered when a man made a scathing comment about his mother begging, that they never went to the welfare office again.
Most notably, though, he remembered the Kokomo YMCA — his “second home.” When his mother told her flock of children that they could go to the Y and simply needed to enroll, he took off running. In more ways than one, the Kokomo facility kept him afloat in difficult times.
“One day, some older kids tossed me into the deep end of the pool and I immediately sank and started swallowing water,” he writes in his book. “I started to swim and I have never stopped.”
Wednesday, many years and countless experiences later, Knowling came back home. Now the chairman of consulting firm Eagles Landing Partners and past CEO of companies like Telwares, SimDesk Technologies and Covad Communications, Knowling has a resume studded with both accomplishments and downfalls — like being pushed out of his job at Covad when the company floundered amid the dot-com bubble burst.
Knowling visited the YMCA Wednesday to speak to HUDDLE, a men’s Bible study group that meets weekly, and sign copies of his book, “You Can Get There From Here: My Journey from Struggle to Success.” More than 200 men attended. In the evening, he spoke at a private event for staff and volunteers for the YMCA, as well as community leaders.