Pete Tanguay has spent most of his life contemplating his next career move.
Tanguay has "basically" retired, having sold his company, Rock-Pond Solutions, in 2018. Rock-Pond Solutions provides data analytics and software solutions for the home infusion and specialty pharmacy industries.
He has heard that retirement will be challenging for him, based on his energetic personality.
"It hasn't been. I've really followed my passion all my life, and so now I just am able to do different things," he says. "I started a company called Rock-Pond Pros, and it's really kind of the company for the last chapter. Kind of my vision is to [affect] people locally, globally."
Currently, he's practicing moves to raise money for the 12th annual Dancing With Our Stars Gala, benefiting the Arkansas chapter of the Children's Tumor Foundation, which raises money and awareness for neurofibromatosis research.
Tanguay will compete against five others at the event, set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5. Individual tickets are $250; a two-step star sponsorship, which includes two tickets, is $600.
He has been a Children's Tumor Foundation advisory board member for more than 10 years, but he has been hesitant to take his place on the stage. Unlike his 15-year-old daughter, Madeleine, he's not a dancer, he says.
"But I love music, and it's a great event," he says.
Tanguay is working as hard for hits on his donation page -- join.ctf.org/campaign/dancing-with-our-stars-2019-or-pete-tanguay/c230456 -- as he is to perfect his dance moves.
He was tapped to be a dancer by another advisory board member, Dr. Anne Trussell. Trussell, owner of Sei Bella Med Spa in Little Rock, was last year's recipient of the mirror ball trophy, given to the star who raises the most money.
"He is passionate about the Children's Tumor Foundation and a fantastic fundraiser," Trussell says. "Pete is a wonderful person ... I'm proud to call [him] a friend."
Lesley Oslica, president of the Arkansas Chapter of the Children's Tumor Foundation, says the goal this year is $250,000, which would bring the total raised by the organization's fundraisers to the $2 million mark.
"[Neurofibromatosis] is actually fairly common. It is more common than cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy combined, but many people have never heard of it," Oslica says.
RUNNING FOR MAVIA
Oslica met Tanguay more than a decade ago through the NF Endurance Team, as he swam, biked and ran "for a reason."
Tanguay's race bibs say "Run 4 Mavia," in support of a girl from Northwest Arkansas who has neurofibromatosis.
"When I'm running a race, it's not just to finish or not just to go fast," he says. "It's for Mavia. I think about all the challenges she has, having to get an MRI every quarter and she's got tumors in her body."
Tanguay was prompted to start running by an email from his brother about the Berlin Marathon in Germany.
"He said, 'There's 2 million spectators, and it's unbelievable. And I challenge anybody to do this,'" Tanguay says. "That was in September and I didn't respond. But then in January, I'm like, yeah, I'll do that. I'll go to Berlin and run the marathon.
"Well, I never really got to train, and then it got hot. And the longest I had ever run was like 11 miles. We were supposed to leave for the marathon on the 21st of September. That was 2001."
Tanguay almost backed out of flying after Sept. 11, but he decided to stay the course. "I ran that, and I finished," he says.
In December 2005, the year he was 49, he set a deadline for himself -- he wanted to be "fit by 50." He and his wife, Lynn, were in New England visiting her family for Christmas that year, and he signed up for The Hangover Classic in Salisbury, Mass.
"I mean, I didn't run it fast," he says.
That July, back home in Conway, he started training with a neighbor for the Memphis Marathon. He did a couple of marathons a year after that. NF Endurance Team marathons, triathlons and Ironman events led him to Berlin, Rome and Vienna, and the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Zell am See, Austria.
"I've seen a lot of Europe that way," he says.
He has turned his athleticism into community service, serving as the race director for the Conway Kids Triathlon, which had about 250 participants this year.
Lindsay Henderson, chief revenue officer of the Conway Chamber of Commerce, says Tanguay has underwritten the Conway Area Leadership Institute, which takes 40-60 emerging leaders through an eight-month curriculum.
"He's very good at connecting people and he understands the importance of doing that -- that when we as a community can work together, when we as a group of people within an organization can work together, we achieve so much more than we could individually," she says.
Tanguay, the middle child of five born to Audrey Pearl and Edward Joseph Tanguay, grew up mostly in Colorado.
His mother, a nurse, was from Wisconsin and his father, from Maine and Connecticut, taught history and French and coached cross country.
"He figured out a way to get these grants to go all these places to learn stuff," Tanguay says of his father. "He went to Yale on one of these grants, so we lived in Connecticut, and he went to the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. But then, he needed to get out of teaching."
His father worked a second job with King Soopers supermarket until he could quit teaching, eventually working his way up to director of safety and loss control for that company.
"A lot of who I am is who he was. He always taught us to be independent," Tanguay says.
Tanguay's father allowed his older son to leave home with an aunt who lived in the Marshall Islands for what would have been his junior year of high school and welcomed the friend the son brought from the Marshall Islands when he returned. He also once hiked ahead while a younger son, then 7, completed the Pikes Peak Ascent with another child.
After high school graduation, Tanguay majored in business at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
"I always wanted to own my own business," he says.
He took computer programming as an elective during his second semester.
"That was right when computers were coming out," he says. "It came so easy to me. When we took the midterm, we had like an hour and 15 minutes in the class, and I remember, I finished it in like 40 minutes. You know, if this happens and this happens and then this happens, what will happen next? Will it be this, this or this? I would read those questions, and it'd be like, 'Are you kidding? Who wouldn't get that?'"
Tanguay found a program that allowed him to work for a semester with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in Rockville, Maryland, just outside Washington, in exchange for a semester of tuition paid.
DATSUN AND A HITCHHIKER
He drove his Datsun from Colorado to Maryland for the job, picking up a hitchhiker in Kansas to keep him company along the way.
"It was 1976. I got to live in Washington, D.C., during the bicentennial," he says.
He lived with his seventh-grade art teacher and her family for a while and got involved with the Christian Sojourners Community.
"They were pacifists, anti-nuclear," he says. "They were kind of a voice for justice. I actually ended up living in that community, in basically the riot corner of D.C., while I was in college. I really did a lot of inner-city work, with Mennonites and Quakers -- people that were really justice people. It really changed my life. That was a big part of kind of molding me for the future, which is kind of carrying on and the impact locally, globally."
He went back to Colorado to finish his degree, and in 1980, he moved with his former wife to Arkansas and started work with Systematics.
He soon realized banking software, Systematics' specialty, wasn't his passion, but he thought health care might be. He called the main number for Baptist Health Medical Center and asked to speak with whoever was in charge of computers there. And then he set up a meeting with that man. He wanted to know if Tanguay was looking for a job.
"I said, 'Not really. I'm just really trying to figure out what to do with my career. I'm just really intrigued by this health care stuff,'" Tanguay says. "He spent two or three hours with me touring the hospital."
Tanguay got a job offer, and he accepted. He was managing the information technology department at Warner Brown Hospital in El Dorado, a facility that had just been acquired by Baptist.
In 1983, Tanguay started his own company, Personal Touch Software. A guy he knew had started a computer sales company, and he told Tanguay his customers needed a programmer.
"I basically quit with my two weeks' vacation and a credit card," Tanguay says. "He started passing me accounts."
He sold Personal Touch Software to Baird Kurtz & Dobson three years after he opened it and started his second company, Management by Information.
He served on the United Way board with a man he knew from Baptist, and that man said Dr. Gene Graves, founder of ICare of Arkansas, a home infusion pharmacy company, was looking for someone to help with some software needs.
Tanguay wrote software for Graves, and through his company, he marketed that software.
"We ended up with customers in 46 states, and we were the leading provider of infusion pharmacy software," he says.
He sold that company to Chicago-based Option Care in 1996.
STAYING IN ARKANSAS
Tanguay has three children from a previous marriage -- Julia Martinez of Phoenix, Anna Carpenter of Conway and Mary Tanguay of Portland, Oregon. He planned to move out of Arkansas after Mary, the youngest, finished high school and left for college.
"Arkansas has been really good to me, but I had always thought I would leave," Tanguay says.
By the time Mary graduated, though, he and Lynn had married, and she and Madeleine were ensconced in the community.
Tanguay met Lynn, then a graduate student, while visiting a client in Greenville, N.C.
"I've always said if I didn't care about my customers, I might not have met my wife," he says.
Customer service is part of his brand. At the inception of Rock-Pond Solutions -- the company they built together so named because "Peter means 'rock' and Lynn means 'pool of water'" -- he called on his former customers, like Johns Hopkins Home Care in Baltimore.
"I would go there and I would say, 'So what problems do you have?' And then I would solve them," he says.
He showed his software solutions to other clients, and often they wanted him to customize similar products for their companies.
"A lot of times, it wasn't the technology that made the difference. It was just sitting down talking to someone and helping them understand something," he says. "All of a sudden, they're happier because you're making life better for them, and before you know it, you know all of these people."
Ken Pereira owned Healthcare Automation, based in Rhode Island, in the 1990s, which competed with Tanguay's Management by Information. They encountered each other at trade shows and sometimes in clients' offices. Though they were pleasant to each other they weren't exactly friends. That changed after both sold their companies.
These days, Tanguay visits Pereira at his Naples, Fla., home, and they go on golfing and cycling vacations together. On one trip, they biked 10,000 feet up Mount Mitchell in the Black Mountains of North Carolina.
"When he was running his company, he would talk about business through a whole round of golf," Pereira says. "He's very passionate about what he does, about his business, about his kids. And he knows a lot about biking. I mean, I get on the bike and ride, and I don't know a lot. He knows about the gear ratios. I would say Pete becomes kind of an expert in anything he does."
Lynn Tanguay agrees. Interests he has delved into recently include hydroponics and aquaponics, and property renovation.
"There's always music playing in our house, like maybe Celtic music and then all of a sudden there will be South American music playing. He just likes a lot of different things, and he is unapologetic for who he is. He's just a very unique person, and he's just going to be who he is," she says. "I think that's a pretty awesome quality."
He's happy to crank up whatever music Madeleine is into during their pingpong matches, and he chuckles when she points out that all of his favorite songs are old.
THE FOREST AND THE TREES
The labor at Rock-Pond is clearly divided between the Tanguays.
"We did the Myers-Briggs and so what. The way that our relationship can be summed up is that he is the forest, and I am the trees. In other words, he sees everything, and he is so outside the box," she says. "I really think that's why we work because he is the visionary and I'm the person who thinks through all the details."
Her husband is her best friend, she says, and she can't wait to watch him take to the dance floor.
"This is really out of his comfort zone. Of course, he is all in,'" she says. "That's how he is as soon as he gets involved in something. It's that, 'We're going to go a million percent on this.'"
She knows nothing about his routine. It will be a surprise for her, as it will be for her parents, Marilyn and Len Rishkofsky, who moved from New Hampshire to Conway four years ago at Pete Tanguay's encouragement.
The Rishkovskys have attended Dancing With Our Stars in years past to support the cause, and they are eager to support their son-in-law.
"Now that he's going to be a dancer, we'll get up to the ringside," Lynn says. "I am not surprised that he's doing this. This is Pete. This is what he's all about -- it's a new adventure."
DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: Nov. 14, 1956, Denver.
FIVE PEOPLE I WOULD INVITE TO A FANTASY DINNER PARTY: Steve Jobs, Stevie Nicks, Bill Gates, St. Francis of Assisi and Duke University Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
MY IDEAL MEAL WOULD INCLUDE: Fresh fish and Brussels sprouts.
SOMETHING THAT BUGS ME: People who don’t think and say that something can’t be done or make excuses.
MY FAVORITE MOVIE: The Sting.
I WANT TO SOMEDAY: Go to New Zealand.
THE ACCOMPLISHMENT I’M MOST PROUD OF: Outside of my family, reaching the finish lines in running, cycling and swimming events, and connecting with the many friends I’ve made throughout life.
SOMEONE ONCE TOLD ME: To follow my passion and believe in myself.
MY FIRST PAYING JOB WAS: I was in sixth grade, 11 years old, I lived in California. I swept the parking lot of the corner market near my house and I would bag ice. I think I made 10 cents a bag.
I KNEW I WAS A GROWNUP WHEN: I graduated from high school and left home.
A PLACE I LOVE: Anywhere riding bikes with friends or working my gardens.
ONE WORD TO SUM ME UP: Thankful
“A lot of times, it wasn’t the technology that made the difference. It was just sitting down talking to someone and helping them understand something. All of a sudden, they’re happier because you’re making life better for them, and before you know it, you know all of these people.” -Pete Tanguay
High Profile on 08/18/2019