If there is one thing that stands out to him, it is Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech. In this speech, Jobs stated that “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”
In Ted Kaye’s mind, this statement has never been truer.
Ted leads the Las Positas College Foundation as Chief Executive Officer, helping to pull together funds for student scholarships through donations and events such as the Best of the Best gala.
But he has not always been involved with nonprofit organizations — in fact, his previous line of work is linked with a name that many will recognize. And it is this line of work that helped to connect the dots to where he is and who he is today.
“I would literally not be sitting here if it weren’t for Disney,” Ted said.
The year is 1975. Twenty-seven-year-old Ted is finishing up his Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles when he meets a woman on his doctoral committee who is married to John Rich.
John Rich, known for shows such as “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “All in the Family” and “MacGyver,” is just starting his own production company with business partner Henry Winkler. At the time when he meets Ted, he is looking for a production assistant.
“He was looking for an intern, someone to carry a notebook, and with a Ph.D. in hand I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” Ted said.
The job is intended to be an unpaid internship, but John starts him out with a stipend of $200 a week. On production weeks, when there is a show, this raises to $400. Regular workdays are 9 to 5, but really only end when the work ends, which can sometimes be midnight.
But it isn’t about the money. With this internship, Ted gains something that is of much more value.
“There really is a thing about the show business bug,” Ted said. “From the time I walked onto stage, I was really bitten and I got it. I got the sickness.”
In the next three years, he transitions from production assistant to associate producer for MTM Productions and John Rich Productions. Then, midway through the eighties, he begins at the Walt Disney Company.
It is now 1986. Thirty-eight-year-old Ted is an independent production consultant, working on production economics and facilities management to a variety of clientele.
It is then that he hears about an opening for a production executive position at Walt Disney Television, which is located in Burbank. As things would work out, he gets the job.
“I started about two years after the Michael Eisner regime went in,” Ted said. “It was an exciting time because Disney had been a sleepy little studio in the San Fernando Valley, and no one was using the assets.”
In working for Disney, Ted learns an important thing about running a well-oiled business.
“What I find interesting is there are many people in other jobs who are all hung up about ‘I’m Mr. Jones’ or ‘Dr. this’ and it’s so irrelevant. Disney is a very well-run organization, and when I was there, when someone said ‘Michael wants this to happen,’ you didn’t have to ask ‘Michael who?’” Ted said. “It was all first name basis with senior managers. And it in no way diminished their authority or ability to get things done.”
In 1988, 40-year-old Ted is the Vice President of film and tape production at Disney-MGM Studios, located in Orlando, Florida.
“With apologies for all those who live in Florida, I refer to it as doing time in Florida,” Ted said. “(But) I did enjoy it. One of the best, best things of my life occurred there, which is that I met my wife.”
Shortly after arriving in Orlando, Ted is approached by Dale, who works at the time for the mayor of Jacksonville. They are working on bringing an NFL team to the city for economic development, and in order to do that, they need to throw a party to attract the business.
The person she needs to talk to for renting New York Street at Disney-MGM Studios for the party is Ted.
“This new guy came in to run the MGM part of Disney,” Dale laughed. “He was in the film business, and he knew a lot.”
Over the next couple of years, Ted and Dale work at their separate jobs in Florida and become closer. In 1990, Ted moves back to Los Angeles to once again work as Vice President of production, this time for the Walt Disney Network Television at Burbank. A year later, Dale follows him to work for the governor of Florida at the Florida Film Commissioner in the Los Angeles office.
“I really moved out here ‘cause of Ted because he was called back to do television,” Dale said. “We were dating and it was getting really serious, and the stars were sort of aligned.”
On Feb. 6, 1993, 45-year-old Ted marries Dale. They have an East Coast wedding at a friend’s house on Park Avenue in New York City, and the next day, they fly to the West Coast to celebrate with their West Coast friends.
“She is the best wife,” Ted said. “That sounds corny, but she is attractive, she’s bright, she’s confident, she’s done unbelievable things in both the world of politics and the world of entertainment.”
With Dale comes another blessing in the form of her son Erik, who is going to Cal Tech in California. Now it is midway through the nineties, and the whole family is together in California.
Over the next five years, Ted advances through the ranks to become Senior Vice President of production at Touchstone Television, still under the realm of the Walt Disney Company.
“But all good things come to an end,” Ted said.
At the age of 55, he has the opportunity to retire and takes it.
“I can’t stress enough how very fortunate I was to be paid more money than I ever thought I would see,” Ted said. “What I wanted to do is to do well and do good. In other words, I had done well and made the money, but I still wanted to be involved in some sort of business and do good.”
From January to June, Ted works for Beyond Shelter, Inc., a nonprofit organization that caters to family homelessness.
Later on that year, however, he and Dale receive news that Erik and his wife are expecting, and they make a decision.
“Dale and I said, ‘Why are we in L.A.?’” Ted said. “We loved L.A., but we were tired of the population, the misplaced hostility. We said, ‘Why don’t we go and become the grandparents who live a half mile away?’ That’s why we came to the Tri-Valley.”
They move to Pleasanton shortly thereafter. When Erik and his wife have Amelia, their first child, something changes for Ted.
“This was the first baby that I’d really ever held like that. It was the best of all worlds,” he said.
A short couple of years later brings Andrew, a second grandchild.
“Ted never had children, he got my son and with him two little grandchildren which Ted just adores, and that has opened a whole new part of him that he was not familiar with,” Dale said.
One year later, chairman of the Livermore Chamber of Commerce Jim Ott approaches Dale for a job, and the chamber hires her as Chief Executive Officer. As a founding member of the Las Positas College Foundation, he approaches Ted, as well.
“Jim was a mentor in a very significant way to me and my wife,” Ted said. “He told Dale about this (LPC Foundation) job. It’s seven miles from home. Jim is a large part of making that happen.”
Ott has his own experience with nonprofit organizations, something that he and Ted have in common.
“He and I have the shared experience of leading a non-profit organization and working with a volunteer board of directors,” Ott said in an email with The Express. “Perhaps I’ve offered a few worthwhile ideas over the years that have served to mentor Dr. Kaye, but he has offered just as many ideas to me.”
It is with nonprofit organizations that Ted finds his passion.
“He really cares about doing good. He came from an atmosphere where people were so spoiled, his feet never hit the ground,” Dale said. “Someone washed his car for him, someone gassed his car for him, gym membership…he chose to leave that so he could do something good for students. That shows a lot of where his priorities are.”
A decade later, and Ted still remains with the LPC Foundation.
“I don’t want to sound self-serving or disingenuous, but it really is so good to be doing well and also be doing some good,” Ted said. “When I get a check, it’s not made out to Ted Kaye. It’s made out to the LPC Foundation. And it is so great to see that we are helping people who need help.”
He is now preparing the LPC Foundation with its annual Best of the Best gala, which gathers funds for scholarships for LPC students.
The event takes place this year on April 26 and has thus far raised over $90,000.
In his Stanford commencement speech, Steve Jobs mentioned that it is nearly impossible to connect the dots as one is going forward.
Ted feels the same way, and not unlike Walt Disney, it all began with a mouse.
“I would literally not be sitting here with you if it weren’t for Disney. I wouldn’t have a stepson. I wouldn’t have grandchildren, because I wouldn’t be married to Dale,” Ted said. “When I look back at the dots, they all make sense. I loved what I did for Disney. I loved being involved with the people.
“And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” he finished with a smile.