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Culture

Leslie Liautaud, Wife of Jimmy John‘s Owner, Supports Family‘s Lithuanian Heritage

November 19, 2017 by Mindaugus Jackevičius in Business, Culture
Leslie Liautaud with her husband Jimmy John Liautaud and mother-in-law Grazina Liautaud

Leslie Liautaud with her husband Jimmy John Liautaud and mother-in-law Grazina Liautaud

“Lithuania is a hidden gem,” claims Leslie Liautaud, writer and Honorary Consul to Lithuania for the State of Wisconsin who is in the process of attaining Lithuanian citizenship. Liautaud is the wife of Jimmy John Liautaud, the billionaire founder and owner of the Jimmy John’s restaurant franchise. Together, Leslie & Jimmy, as well as Jimmy’s Lithuanian mother Grazina “Gina” Gudaityte Liautaud, have supported a variety of Lithuanian philanthropic causes for many years.

In her Interview with DELFI.lt, Liautaud explains her connection to the country and why she wants to become a Lithuanian citizen.

What is your connection to Lithuania?

I know that your mother-in-law, Grazina, comes from Lithuania. Tell us about your family.

– I myself came from Kansas City, Missouri, where I worked in the performing arts. My job took me to Chicago. While there, I met Jimmy John Liautaud and we got married. Over the past decade, I have become an active playwright and novelist. I have written some full-length plays, as well as a coming-of-age novel for teenagers called “Black Bear Lake”.

My connection to Lithuania came from my husband’s family. His mother, Grazina Gudaityte Liautaud, was born in Zeimelis in 1938. She has been providing financial support to Lithuanian causes for decades. She devotes her time and money to supporting Lithuanian business, improving the health care system, advancing social issues, improving education and promoting cultural progress. She contributed heavily to the beautiful Lithuanian traditions in our family life. I will always be grateful to her for that!

Many years ago, I joined my mother-in-law in devoting time, effort, and financial support to non-governmental organizations which support Lithuania both locally and abroad. Due to those efforts, I am an Honorary Consul to Lithuania for the State of Wisconsin. I have been working with Lithuanian diplomats and US leaders in areas relating to agriculture, health, education, and politics. In addition, I place a special focus on promoting entrepreneurship and advancements in the performing arts.

The focus on entrepreneurship is a joint passion of mine with my husband, Jimmy John Liautaud. Jimmy is the founder, chairman, & owner of the Jimmy John’s restaurant chain. The company employs more than 70,000 people across the US. There are now over 2,700 stores in 43 states, and it’s still growing fast. Last September, we sold a large portion of the company to Roark Capital Group, a Private Equity firm which specializes in franchise restaurants, but Jimmy is still the single largest individual shareholder in the company. He has also invested in several hotels, wineries, airlines, bars, and restaurants, as well as in real estate. Jimmy has a passion to help others. He and Jimmy John’s give generously to a variety of causes including dental care, health and wellness, the US Military, education, and the arts.

At the same time, we’ve raised three children together: Spencer is 23 and works at Jimmy John’s, Lucy is 18 and a student at the University of Iowa, and Freddy is 17 and a student at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Jimmy and the kids all have dual US and Lithuanian citizenship. I am very proud of the family’s Lithuanian roots, and I’m working hard to become a Lithuanian citizen as well!

Have you ever calculated how much money you’ve contributed to Lithuanian causes?

– No, we’ve spent time and money to support a variety of Lithuanian causes for many years now, but we prefer not to publicize the amount we give each organization. I am proud of the projects we’re working on to support the people of Lithuania.

As an Honorary Consul, I fund all of this work. As I mentioned, I was inspired by my mother-in-law, Grazina to dedicate my time and financial support after seeing her do it so diligently for decades. Many years ago, I joined Grazina in support of the “Lithuanian Children’s Hope”, a nonprofit organization that provides specialized orthopedic treatment to Lithuanian children. As a family, we funded and worked closely with the people on the ground in Lithuania to establish an orthopedic department at the Vilnius University Children’s Hospital. In addition, we bought new windows for the whole hospital. We also assisted with and supported the country’s post-independence elections.

In 2014, Grazina, Jimmy, & I visited Lithuania and met with the students of ISM University of Management and Economics. We were so impressed with their entrepreneurial spirit that we established scholarships for five of the most outstanding students.

What would Lithuanian citizenship mean to you?

– As I mentioned, my mother-in-law and my husband have instilled in me a great pride in our shared Lithuanian heritage. I feel a strong connection with the country and its people. I hope that by acquiring Lithuanian citizenship, I can strengthen these ties in our family for future generations.

I also think that citizenship would help me support the Lithuanian people more effectively. I would like to continue my mother-in-law’s endless commitment to help Lithuania. I think that we can bring great entrepreneurial lessons to the country from our experience growing Jimmy John’s.

How often do you come to Lithuania?

– I have been here three times over the last decade. Once I’m a citizen, I hope to spend much more time in this beautiful country.

How would your life change if you got the dual citizenship?

– I am already extremely blessed, but dual citizenship would make my life even better by allowing me to further integrate into the Lithuanian culture which I love so much. We’d also love to buy some land and a house in Lithuania. I would certainly take advantage of the opportunities that I see in developing the country’s relationship with the USA in areas like agriculture, health, education, politics, and especially entrepreneurship and the performing arts. I promise to continue my commitment to support the country in any way that I can. It would be an honor to be a citizen of Lithuania.

What aspect of Lithuania is your favorite?

– I was born and grew up in the USA, and I love my country, but Lithuania has captured my heart as well through the family heritage that I received. The country is beautiful, calm, and rich in history and traditions. People are kind and gracious and they are always looking to learn and grow. I am constantly surprised that the country has not attracted the attention it really deserves. Lithuania is a hidden gem.

NY Rep Maloney Making a Case for a Women’s History Museum with Trump’s Women

July 10, 2017 by Gail Nussbaum in Culture

IAVA Leads Veterans’ Organizations in support of Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Extension. Photo from Flickr

Not known for his great respect for women, Donald Trump might seem like the last person someone would lobby for the creation of a new Smithsonian museum dedicated to women’s history. Yet, New York Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney will not be dissuaded merely based on the president’s bad reputation when it comes to women. Her cause is a women’s history museum on the National Mall, and she is proceeding at full speed ahead.

Maloney represents the Manhattan district where Trump Tower, the president’s New York abode, is found. She has been an advocate for such a project for quite a while, and has recently stepped up her lobbying of the president and his family and aids to get the project off the ground. Maloney went to the congressional picnic hosted by the White House in June and handed out folders on the museum to Trump and his most prominent women advisors.

“I talked to Ivanka about it, I talked to Melania about it, I talked to Karen Pence about it, I talked to Kellyanne [Conway] about it,” Maloney said. “I handed it directly to the president and he said he would read it. I asked Kellyanne for advice on how to approach it. She said to talk to the president directly, she said she would not do it on my behalf.”

Even with full support for the idea of the project, there are other obstacles standing in the way. Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas explained:

“Right now, we’re only ten months into our brand new African-American Museum, and our next big capital project is a complete revitalization of the Air and Space Museum, which will be $650 million. It would be very difficult for us to handle a new building right now.”

St. Thomas believes that women’s history can be told in a better way across the already existing museums of the Smithsonian.

 

Phoenix Ancient Art Instrumental in Return of Sarcophagus to Turkey

June 21, 2017 by Gail Nussbaum in Culture

Irina Bokova, director of UNESCO. Photo courtesy of ActuaLitté

After years of discussions, negotiations and an unprecedented international collaboration, an ancient and priceless 2nd century sarcophagus will be going home to Turkey. The artifact has been out of Turkey since the 1960s.

Weighing over 3 tons, the huge piece, which is of major archeological significance, depicts the Twelve Labors of Hercules sculpted in relief. It was created in the 2nd century when the area, which is now Antalya in Turkey, was under Roman domination. It originated in the region where the ancient Turkish city of Dokimion was.

The sarcophagus was included in the inventory of the Swiss antiquities dealer Phoenix Ancient Art. In 2011 the Federal culture Office in Bern, Switzerland said that the artifact originally came from Turkey, and added that the sarcophagus was “an object of infinite cultural value.”

International discussions to return the sarcophagus began, leading to a unique collaboration between academic and governmental authorities in Turkey and Switzerland, and full cooperation from Ali Aboutaam, co-owner of Phoenix Ancient Art.

The sarcophagus has been in the possession of Phoenix Ancient Art since the 1980s. Although there were documents proving the object’s origins, an investigation into the complete provenance of the artifact was begun. The inquiry took a period of several years, and with the necessary administrative procedures now complete, the sarcophagus is on track to be moved back to Turkey this coming September. Until then the object will be on display at the Geneva ‘Bastions’ University.

On June 19, the exhibition opened under extraordinary security with a large number of notable personalities on hand, including: Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova; Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Nabi Avci; Director of the Geneva Musée d’Art & d’Histoire Jean-Yves Marin; and Ali Aboutaam, co-owner of Phoenix Ancient Art.

The exhibition is open to the public beginning June 22 until September 2, 2017. Then the sarcophagus will be moved to its permanent home in Antalya, Turkey.

Jeff Feig: A Businessman’s Story of Thanks

January 18, 2017 by Dan Kazan in Culture, Health Care

The logo was developed for and by AED. Courtesy of © 2010 AED

Jeff Feig is allegedly a man with a lot to be thankful for. After graduating from the University of Western Ontario’s Honors Business Administration program, Feig joined the Toronto branch of Citibank. In 1994 he started to manage teams of spot and currency traders, and in 2001 he went to London to lead the central bank’s European Foreign Exchange trading division. By 2004 Jeff Feig became Citigroup’s Global Head of Foreign Exchange, and went back to New York City.

Ten years later Feig moved to Fortress Investment Group. There he became the Co-CIO of the firm’s Macro Fund and a co-president of their Liquid Markets division.

What Feig, the former financial executive, is truly thankful for, however, is how his life was saved by lay people after he suffered a massive heart attack.

In August, 2016, while vacationing in a bungalow colony in upstate New York, Feig experience a massive cardiac arrest. Onlookers who were also staying at the bungalow colony quickly leapt into action when they saw their friend collapse. Luckily for Feig, they had been trained at the colony in CPR and how to use an external defibrillator, or A.E.D.

In Feig’s case, 4 quick-thinking lay people all played a crucial role in saving his life. One person called an ambulance; a second delivered chest compression; mouth-to-mouth ventilation was begun by a third; and the fourth person ran to the social hall and grabbed the AED. The defibrillator was then used to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm, saving Feig’s life.
Even more impressive, Feig suffered no permanent heart damage or brain damage. It took the ambulance ten minutes before it arrived at the scene. The brain cannot tolerate lack of oxygen for more than four minutes, after which death soon follows. Jeff’s statement below shows that he is now a firm believer in CPR and the efficacy of AEDs.

“I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life and I’m not going to waste it,” Feig said. “My goal is to spread the word to increase the level of CPR training in the population and get every institution to have a defibrillator on hand and people trained to use it.”

Just two weeks before Feig’s heart attack, investigations show that the colony had taken a training and refresher course in CPR and the use of the AED. You can be sure that Jeff Feig, as well as his family, friends, and even clients, are thankful that they took such an interest in this important topic!

UPDATE (June 25, 2017): To learn more about this remarkable individual, go to Jeff Feig’s Crunchbase profile.