Toastmaster Erik Kauppi: In Appreciation
Yes, I know: this sort of bio is usually "AN appreciation." But I have several good reasons for appreciating Erik and, if you enjoy ConFusion or civility or fast cars or finding good beer at the local liquor store, you have too!
Erik Kauppi was chosen as Toastmaster, at least in part, because he's gregarious and friendly, and speaks and listens well. He started cultivating social skills-I mean, really studying human interaction and applying his intelligence to learning it-as a teenager. He showed his entrepreneurial talent early too, by writing specialized software for his parents' business and then marketing the program to other beverage distributors. Over the years he's gotten awfully good at interacting with and influencing people without threatening them, and fandom was part of that education.
Erik started out right by working as a gopher at ConFusion 101 in 1983, his first con. If you haven't already realized it, gophering is the best way to meet people at a con and learn how it works. It shouldn't surprise you that he worked in and ran ConSuites at many following conventions. (Let's see: a background in the beverage industry, combined with innate love of people and partying, applied to orchestrating a 3-day party for hundreds of friends and potential friends. Was this a natural or what?)
In the early 80s, Erik also completed the demanding GMI engineering curriculum and pursued another interest: fast machines. He loved motorcycles, and was deeply involved with GMI's race car club. This sounds pretty natural for a Michigander, but a lot of his involvement centered around teaching and promoting safe, defensive driving and racing. And, even more unusual in a "car guy," he has patience with those who could care less about cars, and has even taught several people how to drive (without once screaming). Greater love hath no friend than to put a timid, uncoordinated person over 30 behind the wheel of his own beloved Shelby and encourage her to mess up the clutch! (Thanks again....)
Since Erik truly is both competent and civic-minded, he ended up as ConFusion (confused?) ConChair in 1990 and 1991. It was an education to me to watch him lead, cajole, humor and persuade the cantankerous individualists comprising the convention committees-sort of like herding cats (which he can do) or shoveling fleas. Anyone who has worked with a group of volunteers on a long-term project knows how ticklish the care and feeding of such a group can be. Erik accomplished it with as few bruised feelings and egos as ever seen, and considerably more tickling than average!!
In the 90s, Erik wooed his sweetheart Nancy Denenberg from sunny California to Michigan (their loss, our gain!); helped promote windsurfing, dancing, good food and beer, and motorcycling in fandom; and succeeded in the Big-3 engineering world. But he wanted more: he left the cozy corporate niche to start a small business which makes computers for race cars (Corsa Instruments), and he and Nancy "committed matrimony" and are building a family.
He's also used his fine mediation skills to help local fandom face and discuss several thorny issues with maturity and unusually civil discourse. The parties at his house have become legendary and are an important part of the social glue which holds friends and fans together. (The hot tub overlooking a beautiful stretch of the Huron River doesn't hurt either.) Without preaching, he does his best to promote tolerance, diversity, equality and the values of an old-style liberal education in his community.
So... "Erik Kauppi, Renaissance Man"? Why not? He's a businessman, scientist, inventor and engineer who loves and appreciates music, dance, visual arts and writing; a precise and logical man who also appreciates ambiguity, the intangible, the mystical; a fully-fledged human being who is fascinated by humans. In keeping with certain other Renaissance traditions, he's been known to display some fondness for spirits (especially good beer), women and romance. Ask him to tell you those stories....
Bio by Roberta Kennedy