In 1962, television changed forever when Johnny Carson took over as host of the Tonight Show. The top TV show that year was The Beverly Hillbillies, and Tony Bennett won the Grammy when he sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
The biggest dance craze exploded on the scene as Chubby Checker sang “The Twist,” and Annette Funicello movies made going to the beach more popular than ever, or at least watching movies about the beach. The average price of a gallon of gasoline was 28 cents, and the average income per year was $5,556. In 1962 some of today’s most-popular companies opened their doors for the first time. It was the beginning for K-mart, Taco Bell and Target. My, how things have changed.
But not all things.
For fifty years, Bill Frazier held the University of Iowa school record in the 800-meter run. Because of his exploits on the track, Frazier, a longtime agent for Western Catholic Union, has been inducted into the National Iowa Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame.
“It’s just a great honor,” Frazier said. “It’s hard to believe it’s been fifty years.”
His record time of 1:47:64 was accomplished on a cinder track, running with full-inch spikes, in cowhide shoes. Still, his time in 1962 is only three seconds off the pace needed this year to qualify for the United States Olympic team in London.
The Frazier Flash set records in the 600- and 880-yard run indoors, as well as 660- and 880-yard outdoors. In his career, he won 8 Big Ten gold medals. Because he ran multiple races, along with a few relays for the Hawkeyes’ team, he never knew how much he could have improved on his record if he was able to concentrate on just that one race. “I never really got to know how fast I could go,” he said. “I didn’t have much recovery time between races. But running in several races each meet helped the team, and that’s what it was all about.”
Bill’s philosophy about teamwork has never changed. His track career was interrupted by Achilles and hamstring injuries, and then following graduation he was drafted into the Army for two years. He returned from the service to teach for a while, and started his insurance business in 1971. He found that starting a business was much like executing a perfect relay race. Each team member had to do his part. “You can’t make it on your own,” Bill said.
Through the years, Frazier has built a team of agents from all over Iowa. His team has that “family” feel to it. Today, his daughter Sarah is President of the company. “Just the other day my daughter told me that she couldn’t have built this business today, not from scratch,” he said. “You have to depend on others. You learn from other people, and work with them. You need good people around you.”
Hard work. Consistent effort. Every day. That’s been the winning formula for Frazier all his life. How did he become a great runner? As an 11-year-old boy in Princeton, Iowa, he would get up at 4:00 in the morning to go down to the river to row the fisherman as they ran their lines. He was a 1960’s version of Tom Sawyer. He loved the river and spent hours diving for clams. Later, he also worked on local farms, and in construction, concrete and loaded hay and straw. He was just having fun being a kid, but that daily lifestyle turned a young boy into an elite athlete.
His daily business plan has created a highly-successful business at Frazier & Associates in LeClair, Iowa. “The business world is no different,” Bill said. “Our coach would lay out our schedule, and we knew what we had to do to get ready for the big races.”
“Sports….business….it’s all about vision. No difference.”
“When I say vision, I mean that I never went into a race when I hadn’t run that race in my mind a thousand times. My mind’s eye already had a vision to what that race would be. I knew exactly what I needed to do and when. I knew what my time had to be throughout the race, so when a coach would yell out my time I knew exactly what I had to do.”
This year, after fifty years, Frazier’s school record fell to Erik Sowinski. They had a chance to talk about racing and life when Bill invited Erik to be his guest at the Hall of Fame banquet. “He’s a fantastic young guy. He’s going to Med School.” During the banquet, it didn’t take long for Bill to learn that Erik also visualized his races.
Times have changed, but winning formulas don’t. “Success takes hard work,” Bill said. “I remember not knowing where I was going the next day, so I took the phone book and started calling people in the “A’s”. When I got through with them, I’d call the B’s. It’s what I had to do to be successful.”
“I am so grateful for the freedom and opportunity to pursue our business as an independent business,” Bill said. “Do it your own way. The motivating factor is building it to support your family.”
“It’s the American Dream.”
And if anybody understands the fast track to success, it’s Bill Frazier.