I had the honor of attending the celebration of life for Conrad Hipkins. As an estate planning attorney, I speak around the country on creating a legacy through estate planning, ending my presentation with the statement, “Our legacies are so much more than our stuff.” Sitting in the service it was clear that Conrad Hipkins’ legacy embodied leaving people so much more than stuff.
I was introduced to the life of Conrad Hipkins through his daughter, Audrey. As a “Daddy’s girl” myself, I know that we see our dads as bigger than life. However, I was able to see him through the eyes of hundreds of others who also saw him as bigger than life.
A legacy Conrad Hipkins embodied was that family matters. It’s not exceptional that Conrad truly loved and raised his two biological children, Conrad Kenneth and Audrey Cassandra. It may not even be exceptional that a foster son was brought into the family. It may not be exceptional that the children of his second wife were embraced enough to call him “Dad.” It is indeed exceptional that in the blending of the families that the former spouses were included in the family gatherings as well.
Conrad Hipkins’ exceptional commitment to family does not end with those who came together biologically or through marriage. A recurring theme of the testimonies during the celebration was that when when he or she lost their father, Conrad Hipkins stepped in! He was willing and able to provide advice and more importantly listen to those who needed a “father” to share.
A legacy that Conrad Hipkins embodied was, “I am my brother’s keeper.” He built a company when he found himself out of a job. That was not necessarily exceptional. It was exceptional that as a Black man he created a company that employed 500 people. It was exceptional the number of entrepreneurs who came hundreds of miles to honor the man who started and mentored them in business. Some of those businesses would be considered competitors of Hipkins. He helped people know “when you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it.”
A legacy that Hipkins embodied was that we must give of our time, talent and treasure. It may not be exceptional that during his lifetime he gave to his community. It is with exceptional that with strategic mindfulness Conrad Hipkins gave charitably. There was great discussion about how he put his heart, time and money into supporting the nonprofit Higher Achievement Program. HAP supported those who may not have access to resources and opportunities. He was committed to supporting an organization that supported others to gain capacity. Conrad Hipkins also committed to giving beyond his lifetime.
Hipkins’ path was not without struggles. He just took what came and built upon the experience. While his trials could have resulted in bitterness that is not what is evident. Hipkins exemplified how to pivot and build. And build he did. When his position at NASA ended he created Automated Services Group Inc. When he moved on from ASG, he became a real estate developer. With each new transition, he supported others while building. He facilitated the growth and development of entrepreneurs through sage advise and financial support.
Hipkins was strategic. He built a legacy that affected his family. The distinction is he adopted family through employment and community. His impact cannot be measured — it will travel through those he helped with his words and works.
Legacy-building is much more than your stuff and Conrad Hipkins truly was a legacy builder.