Hitting his mark
By Francisco J. Duque
Bill Reifsnider grew up the youngest of five siblings in a closely-knit Catholic family in Toledo, Ohio. When his father moved the family to Pensacola in 1984 Bill was a junior in high school. The move, though troublesome for his parents, came easily to their teen-age son, the only child living at home.
“Rather than worry,” he said. “I decided to focus on doing well in school and sports.” It was a natural transition for him. His parents were always closely involved with their children, teaching them strong study habits and good Catholic values. They also took a keen interest in their children’s sports.
“Mom served on the athletic board at school, and she was the track coach and basketball coach,” Reifsnider said. “Dad coached basketball. Our parents were big believers in family values, and they let us engage in a fair amount of competitive spirit among us siblings.”
Backyard baseball games were just one example. Others abounded. During the Easter egg hunt, for example, the kids raced around to see who would find the most eggs, because the winner would take away certain prizes. Competition came naturally to the Reifsniders. Bill’s mother Mary Pat is a gold medal-winner senior Olympian, participating in swimming and the javelin throw.
That competitive edge, combined with a tremendous work ethic and desire to learn, have served Reifsnider well. In the late ’80s his stellar play at first base for the Barry baseball team made him the university’s first male All-American NCAA athlete. Throughout the ’90s his drive, tempered by his moral upbringing and desire to give back, have guided his career. Today he is a better person, he will tell you, because of what he learned and did at Barry.
In Pensacola, Reifsnider had quickly fallen in step with his new surroundings at Woodham High School. He played football and baseball during his junior and senior years, while continuing to maintain a solid GPA. And he got to know classmate Shanon Adams, who became a lifelong friend.
In the fall of 1986 he came to Barry University, attracted by Miami’s diversity and its climate, ideal for baseball, which he wanted to pursue in college. But although he played two years of baseball in high school, his skills and his confidence needed a boost.
“When I first got to Barry, I had no fundamentals of the game,” he said. “I was afraid of fielding a ball.”
Working under baseball coach Bruce Barclay, Reifsnider set his mind to improving his game. He played first base and, at 6 feet tall and nearly 200 pounds, he quickly rose in the batting order. It was perfect timing. Barry’s male athletic program had been instated only two years back in 1984.
“He became one of the first male student athletes who excelled both in athletics and in academics,” said Mike Covone, director of athletics.
During his first year, Reifsnider became so enthusiastic about the program that he called his friend Adams, who was attending Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., and convinced him to transfer to Barry and join the team. Adams came the following year as a sophomore and the two became roommates.
“Bill was never the fastest guy in the world, but he developed his body the best he could,” said Adams. “He was constantly working out in the gym, or in the pool. There was no time off for Bill.”
That same drive led Reifsnider to big honors on and off the field, for the first time landing Barry University on the map of NCAA Men’s Division II.
Reifsnider went on to become a four-year starter for the Buccaneers baseball squad. He won a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and the Woody Hayes National Scholar-Athlete Award in 1990. He was Barry’s first Rhodes Scholar candidate, and his career batting average of .359 remains the top in Barry’s history. In 1996, Barry University recognized Reifsnider’s accomplishments by including him as a charter inductee into the Barry Athletic Wall of Honor.
Throughout his athletic career he continued to perform academically, accomplishing a career grade point average of 3.676 as a political science major. He also participated in teaching and mentoring children through the Office of Mission and Ministry.
“He involved himself in the community, taking the game of baseball to inner city youth,” said Adams. “He wanted to show them the game of baseball and teach them the basics.”
After graduating from Barry in 1990, Reifsnider took his desire to tutor to Czechoslovakia, still rumbling from the collapse of communism. For one year there, he taught English and coached baseball. But witnessing the disastrous economic conditions in the country was a sobering experience.
“It made me more conscious having learned how one society had suffered so much economically,” he said.
Upon returning to the United States, he set out to take control of his own financial life after realizing that a traditional career was not the path he wanted to take.
“I wanted to find a way to build my own business and have more say about the direction of my future,” he said.
Reifsnider now works as an independent associate for Prepaid Legal Services Inc., providing legal services to middle-income Americans. He became acquainted with the company after working for two years to launch the People’s Network, the first television network free of any sex or violence. In 1998 People’s Network merged with Prepaid Legal.
“I must admit that I was a little surprised when my business partners announced the merger,” he said. “But after learning about the product and the integrity of the people behind PrePaid Legal, I, too, soon fell in love with the merger.
“I now spend my days helping the 80 percent of middle America understand how they can find affordable access to the legal justice system.”
And he’s applying some of the lessons learned at Barry to his own business.
“One of the things that attracted me to Barry was something as simple as the golden rule found in the idea of helping others and doing what you think is right,” he said.
“I have found that it is an excellent concept to apply in your career and in your personal life.”