Retirement is allowing Bob and Eileen Hutton to turn the page on an exciting new chapter of life. This literary analogy is particularly apt since Eileen, a librarian, spent much of her career building an audiobook empire. As the Huttons begin writing their next chapter, the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are fortunate to be among the main characters.
Bob and Eileen embarked on this new phase with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the blessings of life: a happy marriage of 49 years, two successful careers, two wonderful children and two grandsons.
"We really have led charmed lives," Eileen says. "Helping the children of St. Jude is our way of giving back."
A serendipitous move propelled Eileen to the top of the audiobook world. In 1989, Bob’s flourishing career as an engineer in the machine tool industry prompted a relocation to Michigan. While searching for a school librarian position, Eileen’s interest was piqued by an ad for a small audiobook publishing company.
"I thought it was a cool concept. I’d never heard of an audiobook before," she says.
Eileen went on to become co-owner and vice president of Brilliance Audio. Her talent for signing big-name authors, such as Nora Roberts, Dean Koontz and Danielle Steele, helped Brilliance Audio become the largest independent audiobook publisher in the United States.
In 2007, she and her partner sold Brilliance Audio to a large, online retailer, and Bob and Eileen retired to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
"The last time we saw snow was in our rearview mirror," Eileen jokes.
As former residents of Detroit — the city where St. Jude founder Danny Thomas began his show business career — Bob and Eileen are extremely familiar with the hospital's mission.
"My mother and my aunt sang backup on a radio show in the 1930s with Danny," Bob recalls. So when the couple created a charitable remainder trust with proceeds from the sale of Brilliance Audio, it was an easy decision to make St. Jude one of the main beneficiaries.
Now St. Jude will become an even bigger focus of the Huttons’ post-career story, because Eileen has accepted a nomination to serve on the ALSAC Leadership Council (ALC). She will join other distinguished supporters as an ambassador for ALSAC, the fundraising organization for St. Jude.
"I am honored to serve on the ALC," Eileen says. "Building support and awareness is critical for St. Jude to continue to fulfill its mission, because as Danny said, 'No child should die in the dawn of life.'"
With each visit to the hospital, the Huttons' life story and the St. Jude story become more intertwined. Bob explains, "When you walk through the hospital and you see the joy in these halls, how can you not want to be a part of that?"
Reprinted from Promise Winter 2013