At one point, Dennis Cullinane oversaw the food-service needs of a bevy of National Football League stadiums, professional baseball stadiums and dozens of convention centers throughout the land.
“He doesn't talk about it a lot,” he said of his dad's service in Vietnam. “He was an intelligence chief.”
While his father was in the military, the family moved every three years.
“I've lived all over the United States,” Cullinane said. “I was raised with a little bit of discipline.”
His residential resume during his childhood includes Chicago, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Hawaii, Norfolk, Va., and Harrisburg, Pa.
His father also served as a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina.
The family retired to Harrisburg, Pa., where Cullinane, who grew up with a younger sister, got to finish high school.
He played offensive tackle for his high school football team for three years before graduating in 1976.
He briefly studied pre-engineering at a community college before attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he studied hospitality management and business.
By then, he had put behind him the notion of engineering.
“I decided I didn't want to do that,” Cullinane said. “My jobs were always in restaurants. That's more of a social group of people. Hospitality is what I wanted.”
“We used to cater some of the commercial jets and private jets,” he said. “It was cool. We got to go out on airstrips.
“Some of the meals were quite elaborate back then.”
A year later, he moved to Boston, where he handled catering for the Bose Speakers company.
From there, he got into convention-center food-service work, with his first job in 1983 at the El Paso Civic Center, where he stayed for three years.
He then worked for the Kansas City Convention Center for a year before moving in 1987 to Houston, where he oversaw operations for the George R. Brown Convention Center and food-service work throughout the downtown area.
A highlight job was the Republican convention leading up to Bill Clinton's defeat of George H.W. Bush in 1992.
After 12 years in Houston, Cullinane moved on to food-service operations for the RCA Dome and Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
He soon found himself promoted to the company's vice president, picking up food-service work throughout the Midwest.
His role grew larger when he became senior vice president in 2004, with jobs in Dallas, Hawaii, western Canada and along the West Coast.
But in 2009, that all ended.
“When credit got tight, we were purchased by a group of investment bankers, and they released all of the top management,” Cullinane said. “It gave me some time to do some volunteer work and really want to figure out what I wanted to do next.”
He and his wife decided to focus the job search on Texas, where she has family, and jumped on a listing for the top spot at the East Texas Food Bank. He already had experience in food bank volunteering.
“I thought it was something that was made for me,” he said. “I'd always enjoyed being involved in feeding people.
“They are so grateful to receive food from you, rather than dealing with angry guys who pay $8 at a game for beer.”
He started work at the food bank in March 2010, taking over an agency he said already had a solid foundation.
“I think it's gotten more organized,” he said of the food bank's progress since he took over. “We had to do some physical restructuring and get our team organized. We had to form some teams to meet the needs of some new programs.
“We've done a lot of work with branding and brand recognition. It's given (the food bank) a real foundation in the community and lets people know we're here to support them. This has been a solid organization for a long time and was built on a solid foundation. For me it has been standing on the shoulders of the others.”
The food bank, 3201 Robertson Road in Tyler, in 2011 alone distributed 18 million pounds of food — or about 15 million meals.
Cullinane has been married to Cynthia since 1990. They met at the George R. Brown Convention Center, where she worked as a telephone contractor. Their first date was to a Christmas party at the convention center.
The couple has two grown children between them.
Cullinane, 55, also is a Downtown Rotary Club member and on the Tyler Unity Center board. He also serves on the Texas Food Bank board.
His wife works in interior design.
In his spare time, Cullinane enjoys working on cars, gardening, running and mountain biking.
Most subjects for this column come from business cards randomly pulled from a briefcase. Send cards to Managing Editor Brian Pearson at 410 W. Erwin, Tyler, Texas, 75702.