In the beginning...
Imagine being 4 years old and having your hero-your father, hold you in his arms (for the last time, though you are not aware of it) and hear him say, with tears in his eyes: "Son, I’m going away now- maybe for a very long time. I want you to always remember how much Daddy loves you. Now listen to me, son. I want you to be real good and obey your mother- will you promise to do that for Daddy?"
Those were the last words Michael Skupin- "Scoop" ever heard from his father. He was carted off to the hospital, where he succumbed the ravaging effects of cancer at age 28. What happened over the next five years says a lot about Mike Skupin. What is a kid to do who is suddenly fatherless with a (albeit fantastic) mother who has to raise 4 children under the age of 5? You read Super Hero comic books, write away responding to Charles Atlas ads, and essentially raise yourself into the man you think you should become. Thus began the legend of Mike Skupin. Who he has become today- a warrior, and overcomer, a survivor of trying circumstances, happened because life threw him into a raging sea and said "Sink or Swim". Mike chose to swim. The path he chose was not a conventional one, but one he created in his mind that worked just the same.
Mike’s mother, Mary Louise began full time work at the local private school every day in exchange for all 4 kids getting a private school education which forced the kids to fend for themselves much of the time after school.
That’s when I met him. "Card, card, anyone want a baseball card- it’s free- I’ll give it to ya." I heard over my shoulder as I was hanging up my coat in the winter of 4th grade. The next day, no one could tackle him in our usual game of "keep away" during recess- he had these huge treads on his snow boots that allowed him to cut just before someone lunged at him. "This kid is obviously going places." I thought to myself- "I’d better befriend him before he takes over the joint."
Mike had just moved down the street from me as his Mom (Marylou) remarried to my future baseball coach- Clarence Landry. Mike loved his new dad Clarence, and at the time the name Landry came in quite handy in a Detroit Lions town. He kept it. "Is (Detroit Lions Quarter Back) Greg Landry really his dad? Is (Dallas Cowboys Head Coach) Tom Landry really his uncle?" we all were thinking. Mike didn’t start the rumors, but he didn’t go out of his way to stop them either. He had a reputation to build, and breaking into a tight knit Catholic Grade school crowd was going to be tough enough.
Success was confirmed by Sixth Grade Graduation. Mike was chosen to give the keynote speech, and the class gave him a long standing ovation before he could even speak. The legend was on his way.
Most Popular. Not long ago at Mike's house was probably one of the only 20-year middle school reunions people had ever attended. Mike made sure that that there was healing between those former popular kids and those who were outcasts and picked on back then (1974-1976). One particular guy was really persecuted during those years. One by one, at Mike’s encouragement, we all went up and asked forgiveness of this former nerd for the way we treated him. For all we know, Mike might have saved our lives. "I can scratch those people off my ‘To get revenge on’ list," this formerly persecuted guy may have been thinking. "In fact this experience reestablished my faith in the kindness capacity of human beings" he indicated as he lit up at the party after that. At any rate, it lifted a burden of guilt from my back and I’m grateful to Mike for having facilitated it.
Shortly afterwards, the persecuted, now welcomed in man passed away unexpectantly. Lesson learned, it’s never too soon to extend an apology and settle differences.
Birmingham Brother Rice High School: Perennial Michigan State Football Champions
Now there was a place a to showcase his football skills- the gridiron tight-end star had hands like glue, and when he hit you, you felt it the next morning trying to get out of bed.
But Mike had issues with their zero tolerance policy for having a little fun. Like throwing crushed wads of paper into the wastebasket from the back row during Spanish class. "Landry- jug!" was the irreversible judgment laid down by the "Bro with Fro"- our Spanish teacher, Brother Chang "Jug" meant detention- one hour after school. Detention then would mean missing football practice, which snowballed into another catch 22 zero tolerance policy. "Bro- here’s what we do. I’ll raise you another jug- staying 2 hours after school- if I miss this next shot- double or nothing."
Bro countered with "If you miss, it's 10 jugs, Mr. Landry". As the class gathered around to watch the pressure shot, Mike coolly drained it, banking it off the wall. More legend, but maybe more importantly, he inadvertently discovered a hidden talent- the art of negotiation.
So what was he to think at the end of junior year when he was offered his walking papers (expulsion) for...for what? So he threw a few water balloons on the girls changing class outside at the school one "moat" (a strip of grass) removed from ours- Marian High School. They looked over heated- it was May 20th for crying out loud and they had no air conditioning. "You come back next year, you LIVE in study hall" was his choice offered by the Deans "Murph" and "Koz". Mike checked his options. Up and coming Orchard Lake St. Mary’s boarding school offered him a "Guaranteed starting position on both sides of the ball, linebacker & tight end if he "signed" with them. "They want me, they got me." Mike thought. The firestorm revolt it set off at the start of the first day of senior year assembly was something Dean Murphy did not count on.
There was an organized revolt to boycott the school until Landry was reinstated.
The Dean won- as he always did at Brother Rice, but he didn’t dim he Legend of Mike Landry in the heart of his fellow Brother Rice Warriors. Years later, Mike was honored at a banquet with an honorary diploma from Brother Rice. His impact at the school finally “officially” recognized.
A word about the name "Landry". It was "changed back" to Skupin once he realized that was his legal name when he applied for a driver's license- though he chose not to inform his classmates as his nickname then was "The Lan". It was officially changed back to "Skupin" to the world when he entered collage because Western Michigan University wouldn’t let him without the correct Social Security number. As it turned out, the name "Mike Landry" never legally existed because Clarence, his stepfather, never officially adopted him. So after 8 years, Mike Landry once again became Mike Skupin.
After leading Orchard Lake St. Mary’s boarding school to a winning season, Mike kept a promise and attended his friend’s wedding - in Ann Arbor. As he was letting himself back into the school dorm just before dawn, he was greeted by yet another dean- he had broken curfew. "You’re gone, Mike- you know the rules". "Your welcome for the wins, Dean- see ya."
Smelling the roses
Mike: "Swanny, I’m having a hard time holding down a high school. My poor mother is upset. What the heck do we do?"
Greg: "You think you had a hard day- I think I just flunked my English exam. (So if you can’t follow this story, you know why). Dude, we’re out of here. How much you got in the bank?" Mike: "$400". Greg: "That’s huge. Remember our commitment that when it was time to go- we go together? Well, it's time to smell some roses. Ever seen the White House or Disney World? We drive to Toledo, take a left, catch the sights, and head south- you in?"
Mike didn’t really think we were serious until he saw the "Welcome to Ohio" sign on Southbound I-75. In hind sight, it gave our parents way to much heart ache to just cut out like that, which we deeply regret, but that’s the way it happened so that’s the way it was written. We returned home just before Christmas to a "Hundred Yellow Ribbons tied around the old oak tree". You could see Mike’s face turn red at this gesture of love his sisters had created- right through his tan.
That’s going to take a book. Maybe two. Let’s just say- that wanderlust taste of freedom senior year in High School found perfection in College. In fact- forget the book. Most of that stuff will never get told unless it’s dug up if and when Mike runs for President. I’ll give you this:
During his college years, Mike was given an award of accreditation for being a hero and saving a woman’s life. The story is so unbelievable that I won’t even try to tell it. If you are an "Enquiring Mind", you might want to check out what the National Enquirer wrote about it in our News section date 2/13/01...
The Turning Point In Mike Skupin's Life
Hey there - This is Mike. During the height of my wild and crazy college days, a funny thing happened to me: I got saved! What exactly does that mean? I know it's a life-long journey full of great realizations, incredible discoveries and deciding that I did not want to walk through the peaks and valleys of life alone without a Savior to share it with. I was asked a very important question: Do YOU know for sure that you're going to Heaven when you die? Up until that point I could not answer that question. Now I can live with a comfort and a peace like none I'd ever experienced before .
The Christian life is a journey- and I only got a start in college. There were several very specific incidences in my life that occurred that catapulted me to new and deeper levels of my faith and It wasn't until I went to the Australian Outback that I came into a full understanding of what it took to live my faith.
I had to repent of my lax approach to being a Christian- and I rededicated my life to Christ. Then through a series of mentors I was counseled and taught spiritually night after night for 6 months until I was equipped to go and teach others what I had experienced, learned and seen. These days, Jesus is my dear friend and I spread that message to people of all ages at church congregations, youth groups, summer camps, retreats, stadium events, etc. To fully understand your faith, I believe you need to first have a personal relationship with your Savior. I encourage people to become friends with Jesus, to know him, as I learned to do in the Outback. I am so committed and excited about what I've finally understood, I started a children's charity called Victory Over Addiction. With an incredible group of people together we are targeting the demand side of drugs and alcohol vs. the supply side of the #1 killer of America's youth, and I have an upcoming dinner date with the current President George W. Bush to see what else we can do to help.
Warmest regards and in real love- your friend in the only race on earth- The Human Race,
Forgive the length of this bio, but there has been so much interest in Mike Skupin, the "Survivor 2, The Australian Outback" challenger lately. We hope this sampler wets your appetite. Mike has a heart as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon. You can’t hurt him because he holds no grudges, and you can’t break him because he’s tougher than nails. In fact, two separate in depth psychological profiles by separate firms concluded the same thing: "He's uncategorizable." This is the only person both of these firms have ever come across who shows such absolute resiliency. Never have they seen someone who is "at once able to control and let completely go in the same person- absolutely unique with no precedent."
Mike graduated, somehow, from Western Michigan University and started selling copiers for 3M. He has never earned less than six figures in his life, and he has rarely held on to as much as six cents of it- he takes too much pleasure in spending it on loved ones, friends, even strangers. "Swanny, that walk down Rush street to the restaurant cost me 180 bucks!" he whined last October during a night out on a business trip in Chicago. Mike was handing out $20s to any bum that asked him- one had the gall to ask for a second $20, and Mike gave it to him!!! I imagine he’s sewn enough good seed in his life to have a place to stay in a different house every night until he dies.
Did you know?
Mike’s unparalleled success at selling copier’s for 3M's Harris-Lanier Copier Division can best be described in the following way:
"President turned pitchman Mike Skupin's index finger indicates Rhinosoft Interactive's CD-ROM on pack. hot, full version freebies are the #1 way to move product. General Mills reported to us an unprecedented +45% total share increase vs. same time last year." I accepted a national advertising manager job and moved to Milwaukee suburb Oconomowoc in the late 1980's. About a year later a copier salesman from 3M called on our company. I asked him, "You don’t know a friend of mine- Mike Skupin, do you?" I offered with low expectations. "You aren’t referring to THE Mr. Skupin from Detroit, are you?" they shot back in awe. "He’s a legend in our company. All our sales manuals and techniques were re-written when he topped all 7000 salespeople in the country for the third straight year- we now sell using the 'Skupin method' of sales."
A good copier salesman closes 1 in 10 calls, and the upper echelon close 25%. Mike, when he finally got out of it, was closing at a 70% clip. Profound success. Totally unheard of or even imagined before in the industry.
That really got my attention. "This dude is THE best in the business of landing business," I concluded. "I’d better sign this free agent before the market finds out and I can’t afford him anymore". Mike had gone on to a career in medical equipment sales for a change from copiers. Predictably- samo samo- he was met with flaming success and rose to the #2 spot in his first full year. I had just turned 30 and was having a full blown (premature) mid-life crisis, having not acted on our childhood dream of owning our own business.
A software company is born
"Scoop- it’s time. How about software? My clients say it’s going to grow 200% annually for the next 5 years." "I’m in" he says. That was June 1,1992. Rhinosoft Interactive was born, although its name took a while to catch up as we went through a variety of growing pains.
As best friends, we had always dreamed of having our own business together. While that dream came true June 1, 1992, it started long ago on my front porch as kids. I had a large paper route- the Detroit Free Press- and brought Mike on as a partner. Later on as teenagers (14), Mike strolled up to my house and announced he had just been hired as a busboy, and was "Let in on all the secrets of the restaurant’s future." - The Buggy Works- still in Farmington Hill, MI. "Ya know, I think I’m going to go farther in life than you", he challenged. That lead to a competitive discussion about which of us really would go farther in life. I had always hated competing with Mike. Even if I’d win at something, it drained me of everything I had because Mike never, never, never gives up. Finally, I proposed a different direction in the conversation about our future. "Let’s go into business together," I conceded. "Done" he said. We sealed it in a blood pact by cutting our fingers, signing a sheet of paper, and ceremoniously burning the paper and flushing it down the toilet. Much later I’d been counseled that’s not a good thing to do spiritually, so kids, don’t try that at home.
From our humble beginnings, Rhinosoft Interactive had grown to be the world's largest publisher of Inspirational Electronic Media with over 20 million CD ROMs published by us in circulation. The third photo shown below- Mike on left, Bill Gates in center, Greg Swan on right -is when we sat with Bill for a Willie Nelson concert this particular evening and discussed methods of mass distribution of software. We’ve been privileged to be part of the software revolution of the 90’s, and in the new Millennium we were positioned as the leading down loader of inspirational software. www.rhinosoftinteractive.com Then we discovered another method of mass distribution- premiums.
Over 3 years ago we approached General Mills about placing a CD ROM game inside their boxes to improve market share. The cereal business was a premium game and more competitive than even Mike & I were with each other. We made a "Honey Nut Cheerio Bee" game and they loved it. CD Replication couldn’t meet their premium budget, so it wasn’t until we owned part of our own replicating plant that we could offer a premium budget price. Having been in the software business for years, we also had key licenses with all the top content providers- Disney, Mattel, Hasbro, Lego, Merriam-Webster, Zondervan, DK Multimedia, Havas, Focus On The Family, etc.
We were now ready to offer General Mills a blockbuster premium give away in cereal boxes- which included a Full Version Reference Library of the 4 best selling books (Comprised of a Dictionary, Thesaurus, Bible and Encyclopedia), a popular game- ("Who Wants to be a Millionaire" was one of many), along with Free Filtered Internet access.
The results: The premium was the most successful in the HISTORY of General Mills - they sold more cereal during that time than when they gave away decoder watches in the 60's! Market Share shot up 45%!! (Very Documented).
Detroit readers were extremely good to us during the summer months when the firestorm surrounding the General Mills controversial "Bible Apology" national story broke- just about the time Mike, at the urging of his oldest son Michael was trying out for the 2nd season of Survivor. That story was originally going to be a positive piece about a home-town-boys-made-good- (We're from Farmington Hills). That story did end up getting published- by our local paper here quite recently, the Oconomowoc Focus. At that July time frame, however, Detroit Free Press/News Saturday readers sent us over 3,000 e-mails of encouragement. We promised folks then that we would use those e-mails as evidence to other manufacturers that people indeed like our premium give away in cereal boxes. Keep them coming- PLEASE! They are making a difference!
Those e-mails and that sales evidence launched us in a new direction to do premiums for other companies who want to increase their market share. We now own part of a CD Replicating plant with a max capacity of 50 million monthly units. We are finally doing it in a big way- having gained commitments from a large household goods manufacturer, a well-known soft drink manufacturer, and a food giant (among 6 majors on board so far.) And yep- in addition to giving away free, inside grocery items, popular DVD's, CD Rom games, and music, there will also be a Bible- the best selling book of all time with 2.5 Billion copies in print-on every CD as part of a best selling 4 volume home reference library- no apologies!
Mike & Greg started an organization called the Christian Celebrity Association. (CCA) that scheduled celebrities to give motivational, uplifting, and life changing talks to sizable crowds. We also give talks ourselves, but crowds fill the seats when the speaker is well known, so that has been a winning formula for us. If you are a celebrity with a testimony that you feel would benefit a searching audience, have we got platform for you! Your name will be kept in strict confidence, and you’ll be offered variety of opportunities to share your real message to a large, live, needing crowd. You will literally change lives for the better. You’ll also be surprised to see how many sports figures and Hollywood types have a deep faith- a great opportunity for true fellowship in an entertainment business that makes you a minority.
Any more outrageous stories you may want to know about Mike (my kids constantly beg for another "Uncle Mike Bed Time Story"), will have to wait for now- but stay tuned.
All proceeds will go towards Mike’s favorite charity- Victory Over Addiction- which he is the national spokesperson for. It addresses the demand side vs. the supply side of today's biggest killer of young people. Don't be surprised if you read about President Bush getting his task force on this subject linked with Mike- you heard it here first!
Personal & Family Information
Birthday: January 29, 1962.....Certainly does not feel this old :)
Hobbies: Sports, football, hoops, ice-hockey, water and snow skiing, anything active, hunting with enough exotic heads of animals to send his taxidermist to early retirement. Coaching his kids(63 seasons so far) and anything to do with water!
Music: What year we talkin'? 70's- Earth, Wind, & Fire, Elton John. 80's? Queen & Michael Jackson. 90s? You can't denya- Shania!!! Now? Faith Hill puts him in the front row. Apparently the American Music Awards agreed January 8th, 2001 gracing her with two honors. Today Michael listens to all types of music Christian, Country, Pop, Jazz, you name it.
Sports: Basketball, Football and Hockey. "Hitting guys in a “legal” competitive environment gives me an adrenaline rush like no other- I've missed that since my football days." He also has a longtime commitment to coaching. 63 seasons of basketball, lacrosse, hockey, football and baseball. "Helping kids reach their desired potential gives thanks back for those that helped me along the way."
Movies: Meet Joe Black- "Life does end, so make your mark NOW". & My Life with Michael Keaton. Favorite silly movie was Ground Hogs Day.
Personal Claim to Fame: I have seven of them that I feed everyday – my children. And, ranking 23rd on TV Guide and TV Land's List of the 100 Most Unexpected TV Moments. It’s an honor to have been there when it all started!
Inspiration in Life: My dad, a true warrior who lost a battle to cancer when he was 28 and my mom who battled emphysema for 17 years and never complained. She taught me what tough was.
Pet Peeves: Negativity and pessimism. The glass isn’t half-full, it’s over-flowing.
3 Words to Describe You: Adventurous, spontaneous and competitive.
Karen and I have 7 amazing kids! We are blessed beyond what we could have ever imagined. Karen is definitely the rock! She works and plays tirelessly to make our family work. She’s a wife, mother, daughter, sister, chauffer, employee, amazing cook, can you even begin to imagine the pile of laundry, calendar keeper (maybe her best skill), friend, soccer mom, workout partner, late-night talker and Swedish fish eater. Typically, she fixes and patches up the kids after I break them. She’s the perfect blend of love that our family needs when dad pushes the kids hard. We’ve been recently asked to take part in producing a marriage retreat on Mackinaw Island this fall on raising kids. Karen is happiest when we’re all home just hanging out with each other and you’ll often hear her say “put your phones down” so we can have quality family time. Her level minded thinking balances out my act first think second attitude and even patches me up when I sometimes break. God gave the insane roll of being the mother and wife to this family that never stops to an amazing woman!
Kristie Lynne, now 7 is the glue that holds the entire family together. As the last to arrive, we wondered how she’d fit into our crazy, always on the move life-style. She surprised all of us. Potty trained by 18 months and as the ultimate in independent child she began packing her own lunch & getting dressed for school by herself in kindergarten. She went to her first football game outside in the cold Michigan fall when she was less than one-day old. She keeps up with all of us with the energy of an entire swim team.
Leo Christian, now 11 is an incredible gift and a blessing. The doctors told us he wasn’t going to make it through the pregnancy but he fought (just like his dad) and proved them all wrong. He was crawling at 4 months and taking steps at 9 months. He was on 10 airplane trip before he was 10-days old. He leads the way in many areas as possibly our most level-headed one . While shoveling the ice rink, we had him bundled up as an infant outside for hours and he hung with us the whole time eating and playing in the snow. He loves anything with a ball and thinks he's the Hulk.....which may not always be a good thing......
Jaclyn Rose, now 15 has an incredibly gorgeous olive complexion and could have been our first model but loves sports too much. Swimming, volleyball, basketball, baseball … she never stops. Honor roll smarts and a sweet disposition gives her the personality to have dozens of friends, many of which call our house their home away from home. She’s always been our best helper around the house and took a gigantic role in helping with the little ones.
Emily Claire, now 16, our auburn haired, high spirited, high energy life lover. Although she enjoys volleyball & baseball, skating and any activity where she can burn energy, she’s an amazing student that often sets the curve in her honors classes. She is also the artist of our family and has her work even hanging in a gallery! For all his Survival skills Mike hasn't mastered how to say "No" to this pumpkin doll! She’s so expressive, she’s actually been referred to as a cartoon because her personality can be bigger than life!
Brandon Michael, now 17 has hung up the football & baseball cleats to focus on basketball where he is a starter on the high school varsity basketball team. I’ve woken up in the very early hours of the morning to find him working out, watch for him in the NBA someday! Any sport he has tried, he’s excelled at. Also an amazing student, he never fails to bring home the grades!! With so many friends we don’t see him as often as we’d like sometimes. He now has his own “wheels” so if you see an old dirty white SUV coming towards you, be sure to wave hello as he zooms by.
Kalyn Marie, now 21, award winning high school cheerleader now getting serious with a double-major and researching grad schools (goodbye any $$ I thought I’d saved). Kalyn loves sports too. Her motto is "Let's go make the news instead of watching it" She was into Irish Dance and when she was younger and was the only one who didn’t need a wig because her long blonde hair was so beautiful. She danced and competed in competitions called a feis. She loves ice-skating and being outdoors. She also loves Horses and riding them. Our hardest working child has “an undeniable “grit” about her and will achieve anything she sets her sights on.
Michael Leo, now 24 just had his inauguration into Survivor Stardom when he visited, competed and had the opportunity to spend a day and overnight with us back at camp …. During the game!! My 2nd place finish was due in part to his strategic expertise and seeing things that I hadn’t yet discovered. Always a sports junkie, playing, watching, coaching and following stats. One of my favorite memories is watching ESPN’s SportsCenter with Michael every morning before school and discussing the previous days sports. When Mike Sr. came back from the Outback, he gave Michael Jr. a Rugby hat and ball, Michael bought an entire book on the subject just to know the rules. Michael played every sport growing up and continues to compete in sports with dad regularly. He takes care of his siblings and is a model "older brother" with a heart as big as Texas. Not surprising he was awarded best smile and Homecoming King in High School.
Since home phones have become passe’, we now own 8 iPhones and a Droid (Kalyn) and that offers many moments of laughter when we compare phones and services. We’re always no more than a click away from each other and even Kristie chimes in with her iTouch which both texts and calls us with the free apps today. Kristie, learning to be creative even signed up for AARP to get bonus coins for a game she was playing
There’s so much more to tell but there’s also to much life to live …. I’m certain Mike’s book will be out this year and you can get the rest of the story ….
Skupin and Swan cement 4 more relationships in one day on a business trip - Thank GOD!
Mike, Bill Gates (center) and Greg discuss mass distribution of software.