He’s a tireless entrepreneur, a self-made millionaire and a job creator – but at his core, Jack Cassell is a family man. And his dad would be proud.
Multiple generations of Jack Cassell’s family have attended American University in Washington, D.C., where his father was a star athlete, a coach of four different sports, an athletic director and, eventually, vice president of the university.
Indeed, Cassell draws much of his inspiration in life from his father, who died when Cassell was just 10 years old. “My father was a great human being,” he said.
Cassell got his work ethic from both his father and his mother, who went back to school for a master’s degree to better support her children after her husband died. His mother also made it a point for him and his identical twin brother to stay engaged at American while growing up – they were bat boys for the baseball team and ball boys for the basketball team.
“There were several coaches and athletic people there who made sure that we continued to get back to campus,” he said. “We ended up growing up on campus, and it was important for our development.”
By the time he was old enough to go to college himself, Cassell had become a talented soccer goalie. He received scholarship offers from multiple schools, but his father had left behind a scholarship so he could attend American University.
“We weren’t wealthy by any means, but my father left us a college education,” Cassell said. “I went on to be the starting goalie at American, and I was fortunate enough to win a letter – the same letter jacket that my father used to wear to the campus.”
One of Cassell’s greatest moments in life was when he crossed the stage at American to get his diploma.
Forging His Own Path
After college, Cassell worked on Capitol Hill but decided it wasn’t for him. His next job was delivering equipment for an audiovisual company, Visual Aids Electronics, which had just three offices and 25 employees at the time. Cassell quickly worked his way up, becoming president of the company in just 10 years. Soon after he became president, the shareholders asked him to purchase the company, which he did.
Cassell’s relationship with BB&T started around this time, nearly 30 years ago, when he took out a commercial line of credit that enabled him to grow the business significantly. Visual Aids Electronics used the line of credit for bigger jobs, providing simultaneous interpretation systems for major events like the G-6, G-7 and G-8 summits, annual meetings in which multiple world leaders gather to discuss topics such as economics, politics and social issues.
“We provided [simultaneous interpretation] services for all the presidents’ summits since Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev met many years ago,” he said. “One of my proudest moments was when I went to the G-7 in 1990 in Houston – President [George H.W.] Bush was leading that meeting with Margaret Thatcher, Brian Mulroney and Helmut Kohl. I got to listen in when only the leaders were in the room, and I was just so impressed with his leadership at that moment.”
With Cassell at the helm, Visual Aids Electronics continued to grow exponentially. The company had 86 offices and 1,000 employees when he eventually sold the business in 2013.
Living the Dream
The serial entrepreneur that he is, Cassell continues to invest in new business opportunities. More importantly, though, he enjoys spending time with his family. After selling Visual Aids Electronics, Cassell and his wife, Denise, discovered their dream property on the Jupiter inlet in Florida, where they’ve made a home for themselves.
“My wife got a text from her friend, a realtor, saying, ‘There’s a beautiful piece of property. You’ve got to see it.’” I said, ‘OK, we’ll go look at it, but we’re not going to buy it.’ So we walked into the house and, as I walked in, I immediately saw the beautiful water and the view, and I whispered to my wife, ‘Don’t act excited,’ because I knew at that moment we were going to buy the property.”
It took a couple years from them to move in, as Cassell and his wife tore down the existing property and built their new dream home from scratch. “Prior to tearing the existing property down we would stock the refrigerator with our favorite drinks, and we’d go over pretty much every night and just look at how beautiful the water was,” he said.
Now that they’re settled in, Cassell and his wife enjoy hosting and entertaining friends. “Denise and I love just hanging out here and watching boats go by in the beautiful turquoise water. There’s a beautiful sunset here almost every night.”
Back to His Roots
As the current board chairman at American (he’s been a board member since 2003), Cassell continues to contribute to the university where he grew up. Today, not only is the basketball court named after Cassell’s father, but Cassell’s own contributions have landed his name on a residence hall: Cassell Hall opened in 2013.
“If my father were alive today, I’m positive he would be delighted with the things I’ve done for the university that he loved so much,” he said. “He’d also be proud of me for spending the time I did with my children in their earlier years and making sure they have a future that is bright.
“Being a father has been the most rewarding thing in my life,” he added. “My kids are everything to me, along with my wife. I would do anything for them.”
Even after all his success, it’s the simple things in life – being a father and enjoying the sunset with his wife – that Cassell appreciates most.
The Cassell’s are supported by their BB&T Wealth team:
Mike Thompson, Wealth Advisor
Kevin Burke, Financial Planning Strategist
Mike Clevenger, Personal Trust Specialist
Marty Radinsky, Senior Trust Manager