Toasting our muses

My father recently retired after a prolific career in a highly successful not-for-profit organization. As I write this, I have a wine glass in my hand, toasting my father’s accomplishments and thinking back to how much he and my grandfather have inspired me. My daughter, Derby, is named in honor of both of them.

Harry Leigh Derby
“Harry” Leigh Derby – my great, great grandfather – lived the American dream. He grew up very poor, but with good values. When the time came, he left home and started a career in chemical sales.  Eventually, he led various chemical companies and became founder and chairman of many, many more. Throughout his career, he served as a Trustee or Chairman on a number of community and corporate boards, opened plants in South America, negotiated labor union disputes, and even served the Roosevelt administration during WWII. His biography reads as a who’s who in American History. Friends with President Hoover and the Rockefeller family, Harry even attended a private party hosted by the Rockefellers on the Hindenburg prior to its fateful voyage.

I was young when my grandfather passed. My memory of him is faint. In fact, I have a greater recollection of his expansive Montclair, NJ, home and of my wonderment at having a chauffeur and an elevator in your home.  

All that said, Harry’s been on my mind lately. I’ve had a chance to reflect on his achievements and success over his long life. In fact, I googled him the other night and found a book he wrote on transportation. He wrote the book in 1916 while he was in college, and it is still available on Amazon today.

Harry Leigh Derby IV
My father, Harry “Leigh” Derby IV, inherited his business acumen from his great grandfather. Dad is also an inspiration to me because he focused his career in the not-for-profit world. Thirty-eight years ago, he established a school in the basement of a church for a handful of individuals with development disabilities. He provided one of the first alternatives to institutionalization of individuals with developmental disabilities (then called mental retardation).

Over the past 38 years , Lifespan has grown into an agency supporting thousands of clients across North Carolina with employment, education and enrichment opportunities. In short, Lifespan works to enhance the abilities of individuals with development disabilities from infants to adults. Dad and Lifespan have integrated preschools with normal and special needs students, created employment programs, and developed creative schools offering cooking, horticultural, drama and computer instruction – just to name a few. Lifespan has also consulted with many other organizations and its curricula and programs  have been adopted by both nationally and globally.

In honor of Dad’s retirement, Lifespan named one of their flagship schools after him. I am so inspired standing before The Leigh Derby School and reading the plaque that adorns his name.  

Sources of inspiration are vital to all of us. Find a spark in your career, your friends, or your very own family tree.Share your story. Leave a comment and tell us who inspires you…

Tiffany is a  North Carolina native, wife, mother of 2 wild and crazy kids, and an entrepreneur. She loves her family, a delicious glass of red wine, girl time and the occasional spa treatment. As an enthusiastic member of Wednesday Night Whine, she rarely misses a “meeting” unless she’s traveling for business. She is the President and CEO of Intellect Resources a recruiting and consulting firm specializing in the healthcare IT industry. 


  1. Anonymous8.8.12

    Harry Leigh Derby 1 was my great uncle and I lived him and with Aunt Alice
    Derby while in College in New York. He inspired me while I lived there with his example of a fine person and a caring mentor. I rode to New York with Uncle Harry and Oscar often. He told me about his many achievements and also took His granddaughter Leigh and I to a baseball game. I have had lots of good experiences in my life and I think of both of them often. Your Dad was there on a visit and I remember him too. All the Best to you and your
    father. Shirley Shay Little when there. Good Luck and Happiness I am 82 yr
    old and do not do robot thing so read this

  2. Thank you thank you for responding!!! I love that you are online at 82! We know very little about Harry and Alice's siblings. I sure hope you will respond and tell me more. We don't have to do the robot things.