In Fords in Four, we ask an alumnus four questions: he shares insights and stories. In this blog post, Austin Hepburn '75 shares stories of adventures at Haverford and fly-fishing around the world, and reflects on why he continues to give back to the School.
Tell me about a memorable Haverford faculty member.
Thinking about Don Brownlow makes me smile. He taught us about life. Once in a while he would make an outrageous statement (or at least we thought so) to bait the class into making a bet with him. He would negotiate the terms of the bet and we would put up money – not a lot. The devil was in the details, and due to the wording of the agreement, Mr. Brownlow always won. He was teaching us how to think. With the winnings he would take the class out to breakfast at Hot Shops. One time he announced he was going to throw the money out his classroom window on the second floor of Wilson Hall. With a raucous crowd of boys pushing and jumping on the grass below, Mr. Brownlow threw the bills out the window to everyone’s delight.
Tell me about your work and trips with Uncommon Ventures.
One day, Mr. Brownlow casually riffed about entrepreneurism: risks, rewards, self-reliance. I was sold on self-employment that day. My primary business is a carpentry business. My fishing business, Uncommon Ventures, came about as a way to recruit anglers to accompany me on my adventures. It is a vehicle that allows me to share my expertise with a wide range of people.
Experienced anglers are excited by the pristine environments, the rich ecosystems, and the local support staff I put together. Beginners are amazed by what actually exists out in nature, and how exciting it is to see a fish eat their fly. Fly fishing is a niche, incorporating patience, strategy, and deception. It’s a low-impact approach to enjoying God’s gift of nature. I do more than just fly fish, but for me, fly fishing is the pinnacle of finesse. Catching a fish is always a surprise, especially for beginners, because there are no guarantees. Coaching, strategizing, and celebrating a successful release; as well as helping someone experience the “trip of a lifetime,” ignites my passion.
The Haverford School was the most critical part of my education. Serving on the School’s Alumni Executive Council is an incredible privilege. Haverford guys are all brothers – we have a common bond.
Why is it important for you to stay connected with your classmates and the Haverford community?
The Haverford School was the most critical part of my education. Serving on the School’s Alumni Executive Council is an incredible privilege. I am one of six Class Chairmen, and we have a strong class identity and good participation. The Hepburns have become a Haverford family. My brothers went to Haverford and I am especially proud of my son, Austin Hepburn III ’14. My wife Hannah’s family is even better connected to Haverford – her father and two of her mother’s brothers attended. Haverford guys are all brothers – we have a common bond.
What did you learn at Haverford that has helped you succeed?
Haverford taught me the importance of mentors and relationships. Mentors are integral to success. Don McBride gave me encouragement when I most needed it. Ted Peters started out as my coach and has been a lifelong friend. These men influenced me and I will be eternally grateful to them. Relationships are about giving, and I try to give back. Haverford impressed upon me the importance of self-reliance, determination, and critical thinking. Finding my place in the world and living by the values I learned at Haverford has carried me so far.
I would tell students to find mentors while at Haverford; build relationships and become well-rounded. Haverford has so much to offer those who seek knowledge and understanding. Understand yourself and find where your passion lies. Establish meaningful friendships, develop discipline, and never give up.
Austin Hepburn reached the pinnacle of academic achievement when he graduated The Haverford School in 1975. Austin went on to study International Affairs at The University of South Carolina and Graduate Business at The University of North Carolina. The carpentry business he founded, Austin Hepburn Installs Windows and Doors, continues to serve The Main Line after 28 years. Austin’s passion is organizing fishing trips, and he hosts a 32 angler sail fish tournament in Guatemala each March.