BRADENTON -- When the Rev. Don Roberts attended Port Arthur High School in Texas way back in the day, he had two schoolmates who became quite famous.
One was rock icon Janis Joplin.
The other, champion football coach Jimmy Johnson.
Roberts' career path was a little different and the 618 people who honored him and his wife, Peggy, during Goodwill's 30th anniversary tribute luncheon Friday at Jones Aviation at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport are glad he did.
A Methodist minister for 48 years, Roberts and his wife are retiring after 30-plus years with Goodwill Manasota. He was the nonprofit's chief executive officer and president; she, its president of housing.
President Bob Rosinsky will be the next CEO come January.
"What a great ride this has been," said Roberts, 70. "I always say you don't go to the circus to watch people hang onto the trapeze. You pay to watch them let go and grab the next one. That's where I am in life -- it's time to let go of the trapeze and grab the next one."
When he started with Goodwill Manasota in 1974, it was a sheltered workshop of 75 people, employing people with disabilities. Under his direction it has grown as a job service organization with a staff of more than 900, enabling people to gain employment and providing services to more than 15,000.
"My skill set is to hire good people and get out of their way," Roberts said.
Ed Chiles called him one of the most unique people he's met.
"Don could've been on a worldwide network, flying a jet and preaching all over," said the Anna Maria Island restaurateur. "He could've been running any kind of business. Instead, the course he took wasn't about money, it was about helping people."
Rosinsky has worked with Roberts since 1991, but admits he's got big shoes to fill.
"It's been Don's vision and his drive that made this Goodwill what it is," he said. "He changed this community for
Rosinsky's focus will be on three initiatives for Goodwill Manasota:
n Expanding services to accommodate returning veterans and their families.
n Maintaining and enhancing the recycling and green efforts in Goodwill locations.
n Collaborative partnerships with area employers to connect 1,001 people in need of a job with employment opportunities. "The better we do in our mission-integrated business, the more powerful our impact," he said.
Charlie Lenger, chairwoman of the Goodwill Manasota board, expects a seamless transition. "Bob's the behind-the-scenes guy making it happen; Don's the dreamer," said the Tropex president. "Bob is capable of dreaming big, too."
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix.