Posted on 03 April 2014.
Indiana Wesleyan University held its naming ceremony for the Ott Hall of Sciences and Nursing Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m in the building’s foyer. The ceremony honored Gary and Connie Ott, Marion College (now IWU) graduates who contributed financially to the school’s health science and nursing initiatives. Gary also serves on IWU’s Board of Trustees.
The Otts both graduated from Marion College in 1974. Gary received his bachelor’s degree in economics and business, while Connie received her bachelor’s degree in sociology.
Gary said he first met Connie during their freshman year after she made an announcement in the student center.
“One day she walked in and announced to everybody in the student center, ‘Is there anyone who wants to go running with me?’” Gary said. “All of a sudden, I became a runner.”
The Otts married in 1975 and have three children. Two of them attended IWU, Bradley (alumnus ‘03) and Jennifer (alumna ‘05). Ryan went to Taylor University, but he now serves on the IWU Citizens’ Advisory Council.
Gary is now president and CEO of TLC Management, Inc. a provider of health and rehabilitation centers, assisted living and retirement centers and hospice services.
However, he didn’t start his career in health care. He wanted to be a pilot after college, and joined the military to continue that passion. After graduating from the academy, he worked for Texas Instruments.
Gary then took a job as a pilot back in Marion, where he grew up. His mother had recently died and he felt he needed to be close to his family.
After only six months at the flying job, the company went bankrupt. Gary went without a job for nine months, and he said he kept his options very open.
“I prayed to God and said, ‘Please give me a job. I’ll do anything, I’ll even work in a nursing home,’” Gary said.
God answered his prayer, and Gary found a job at a nursing home. He eventually worked his way up to an administrative position at the Wesleyan Health Care Center, owned by Marion College at the time.
But Marion College decided to sell the nursing home. And Gary wanted to buy it.
With Larry Maxwell and his brother John (IWU’s Maxwell Center’s namesake) financially backing him, Gary bought the nursing home.
Now, Gary has turned that one nursing home into 20 under TLC Management, with 3,000 employees in Indiana and Florida.
“I kind of feel like a turtle on a fence post,” Gary said. “I know I didn’t get here on my own, someone had to lift me up and set me there. I give a lot of credit to how God worked this all out.”
Connie has supported Gary in his business, doing social work in TLC’s nursing homes at various points. She has also worked as a preschool teacher.
“I love people, and it doesn’t matter if they are young or old,” Connie said.
Dr. Keith Newman, IWU’s executive vice president said the Otts saw an opportunity to support the school during the building’s construction. But the Otts weren’t seeking recognition for it.
“The honor isn’t something that they sought, but the building did give us a great opportunity to honor them,” Newman said.
The Otts’ character was also something that Newman said made them a good choice for the naming.
“When I think about the Otts, I think about people of faith. They’ve translated what they believe in their heart to what they do with their hands,” said Newman.
Gary stressed that he was just a normal person that God blessed in amazing ways.
“[During college], we were just ordinary people. We weren’t on the dean’s list or anything, we just felt like ordinary students like how many students probably feel today,” Gary said. “We’ve been very blessed, and we like to give some of our blessing back.”
Connie offered her final words of advice to students, stressing the importance of following God’s plan.
“Stay true to the Lord,” Connie said. “He has to be the one that guides your life.”