As a young child, Dale Pollak was told he was going nowhere. Until his vision loss was diagnosed in the fourth grade, his teachers thought he was slow, and told him he had no chance of making anything of himself. “Before they knew I had a vision problem, I was dubbed the dumbest kid in the class,” says Dale. “As a young child, I internalized that, which was my biggest problem. I was convinced that I couldn’t learn, because I was stupid.”
But his fourth and fifth grade teacher, Eloise Gentry, would not let him fail. “She was tough and refused to let me believe I was incapable of learning,” says Dale. He credits her with turning his life around.
At about the same time, Dale was diagnosed with Stargardt disease. And though vision loss from the disease explained his difficulties with learning, his ophthalmologist told his mother that he wouldn’t be able to go to school with normal kids and would never go to college.
But Dale adapted and persevered. He began to sit on the floor in front of the blackboard so he could see what his teachers were writing. In middle school, he used a magnifying glass to take tests. And though there was a stigma with being the kid who needed special accommodations to learn, Dale would not be denied the opportunity to succeed.
He went on to graduate from high school in Gary, Indiana, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana University.
Dale kept being driven by ambition, or as he calls it, the fear of failure. He entered law school at DePaul University. While all the other law students had stacks of papers and books on their classroom desks, Dale sat with only a tape recorder. Without knowing at first that Dale had a vision problem, the professor looked at Dale’s lone recorder and said to him, “You must be pretty confident.” And though Dale was anything but overconfident, he went on to graduate number one in his class.
After law school, Dale worked in his father’s car business, and together they bought a dealership in Chicago. But it was the 1990s, and online and Internet communications were booming. Dale saw a great business opportunity in bringing inventory, service, and transaction data online, and developed a company that he says, “became the plumbing for dealership data communications across the country.” His business was enormously successful.
Dale sold that company and got into a new venture; he led the development of a sophisticated and powerful used car sales management system — an application that aggregated used car information from across the country. Perhaps Dale was a little ahead of his time, because the system did not initially attract the interest of car dealers. “I told my wife, Nancy, that I had made the biggest mistake of my life.” But in time, the business, known as vAuto, took off and continues to thrive.
Dale took what he learned as an auto market innovator and wrote a best-selling book, Velocity, which has reached as high as number five in reference sales on Amazon.com. About Velocity, one reviewer wrote, “Many business books shoot for — but few actually achieve — such fine balance of the familiar and the profound. Velocity is an easy read, full of personal and funny anecdotes, yet every chapter delivers new insights that will blow you away.”
While Dale has focused his energies on the car business, his wife has taken a highly active and determined role in the fight against blindness. Nancy recalls, “I wanted to volunteer my time to a cause that was meaningful, and my search led me to a link for a VisionWalk organizational meeting in Chicago.” She was on the Walk committee in 2006, served as co- chair in 2007, and was chair in 2008. Nancy also served on the Chicago Chapter Board for two years. She created and co- chaired a local tennis event in her community to, in part, benefit FFB. And, she served on the 2008 Chicago Visions Ball committee.
Nancy says, “I have had such a positive experience with FFB that I remain committed to helping anyway that I can. I am motivated by the fact that my efforts might some day help someone see again…and of course it would be great if that person were Dale.”
Link to Article: http://bit.ly/StoriesOfHopeDalePollak