Following God's path
Tony Baird ’92 strives to give others a chance at success.
Tony baird is certain of one thing — that God is always work-ing behind the scenes so that opportunity and success will find us. We just need to listen.
As a guiding example of the faith that followed and slowly developed in him, Baird quotes John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
While his path has been purposeful since starting at UD as a political science major, he wasn’t always certain where it would lead.
“There have been times I was angry, frustrated and confused as to why I wasn’t being seen the way I thought,” he said. “But looking back now, I know it was because God had a plan. I just didn’t know it then.”
“God had a plan. I just didn’t know it then.”
He said he cannot pinpoint when his faith became his beacon.
Was it during his time playing Flyer football as a defensive end? Maybe it was his decision to enter the U.S. Army, leaving as a sergeant after seven years. His years as a middle and high school teacher in Syracuse, New York, teaching history and coaching several sports, may have been it.
What he knows for sure is that it all led to where he is today, president and CEO of his company in his home state of New York.
In 2005, Baird founded Tony Baird Electronics, a company specializing in distribution services, customer cable manufacturing and audio-visual integration. TBE has supplied industrial materials for hydroelectric power plants, outfitted high-tech rail cars and installed the audio and visual system in the library for State University of New York Upstate Medical University as part of a teaching center that simulates real-time responses to medical emergencies.
But what makes his business special, he said, are the employees he hires: minorities, veterans and individuals with a criminal past.
While working as a teacher, Baird said he saw firsthand the vast disparity in resources and opportunities for inner-city youth compared to students from higher economic areas. He knew that to create change he needed to create opportunities for economic growth. He pulled from his electronics background and connections to build a company with purpose.
“TBE’s purpose is to support the inner-city community economically by creating jobs, while modeling successful practices in business and life,” he said. “We are committed to seeing minorities, veterans and people with criminal pasts within the Syracuse community thrive. This is the responsibility of an active member of the community.”
“This is the responsibility of an active member of the community.”
His role is not just being a boss but being a mentor to his employees.
He said he places great importance on teaching his employees life skills to become successful and maintain that success. He teaches them soft skills, such as being prompt, working in teams, developing leadership abilities and maintaining interpersonal relationships with others.
Baird is steadfast in his call: “I am spirit-led and seek God for all I am called to do. God has guided my life so that I am able to overcome many obstacles which I can then share with people in need of an encouraging word or story. Nothing is easy, but faith, hope and confidence in the Lord will overcome doubt; thereby love will prevail.”
But what gave him that sense of responsibility? He said it is directly connected to his time at the University.
He began at UD in 1977 and played football until he left campus and joined the Army in 1980.
“I went to UD solely to play football. Everything I did, including getting a great education, was made possible through my desire to play the great game of football the way it was meant to be played,” he said.
“Everything I did, including getting a great education, was made possible through my desire to play the great game of football the way it was meant to be played.”
Though he has only fond memories now, Baird recalls a period when he felt frustrated by certain coaching decisions. He said that during that time, God placed the right people in his life to help him overcome his struggles. Among the greatest was teammate Rick Chamberlin ’80, now head coach of Flyer football.
“I remembered feeling very alone, and I was not highly touted by the coaching staff,” Baird said. “Rick was a senior and a star linebacker on the team, and he would talk to me with a sincere manner that gave me comfort and a strength to keep moving forward. I keep in contact with him and make sure he knows how special he was for me in a difficult time.”
Baird, in Dayton last February thanks to a business trip, stopped at UD to chat with Chamberlin and ended up addressing the players, discussing what the team meant to him then and now.
“Tony was sincere and even had a few laughs at the stories he told,” said Chamberlin, adding that the players were engaged and saw in Baird the continued influence UD can have on their lives.
Baird, the middle child of nine siblings, remembers how his eyes were opened after his time in Dayton and in the Army, both of which offered more diversity than the agricultural community where he was raised in Hastings, New York, and where the Bairds were the only African American family in the school district.
“When I came back, a lot of things opened my eyes,” said Baird, who looked around his hometown and realized not everyone was getting a fair shot. “I thought, this is different. Something is not right. I especially realized something was off when I tried to get a job after returning from the military.”
He said starting TBE was his “calling from God” to help and provide an opportunity to the underprivileged and underrepresented in his community, just as UD did for him.
“UD took a chance on me, a struggling minority athlete who, given the chance, could excel to become an overachieving football player and a successful business owner. I am now able to help others and I am committed to my mission here,” he said.
“I am now able to help others and I am committed to my mission here.”
Baird knows his mission is far from over, and he will always be listening for and following the path God lays out for him.