Bill Dean: Georgetown’s Budding Philanthropreneur

M.C. Dean CEO Moves Past Your Typical Party and Puts on the Glitz for the Citizens Association of Georgetown’s Gala

Bill Dean at home with his dogs, left to right, Splinter and Shredder.
Jodi King
Bill Dean at home with his dogs, left to right, Splinter and Shredder.

The Dodge Mansion on P Street, although elegantly and imaginatively renovated by architect Dale Overmyer, is very old. It has the look of old Georgetown history and wealth about it. It is the kind of house, manse, mansion that ends up on the Georgetown House Tour, which it has been.

On the other hand, Bill Dean—the businessman who lives here by himself except for his two bounding dogs, Shredder and Splinter—looks brand new, shot out of the 21st-century entrepreneurial cannon, full of energy and enthusiasm, insouciant in a contemporary way.

Add to another side of him, the word “philanthropreneur” for Dean’s work with non-profits. It’s an all-too-new descriptor that seems to fit the bill. (Seriously, look it up.)

Fresh from an early morning business meeting and scheduled to head out late morning to Pittsburgh for a presentation on trolley cars, Dean is armed with charm, an iPad and an iPhone and ready to seat for a mid-morning interview and photo shoot with the Georgetowner.

Why today? Dean has signed on with the Citizens Association of Georgetown to be a patron and head booster of its 2012 Georgetown Gala, Putting on the Glitz, scheduled for Oct. 26 at the Embassy of the Russian Federation. Such a celebration, which is the group’s main fundraiser, needs planners, volunteers and donors with money.

If you google Dean by name, a couple of things come up right away, almost like warring images, which have already attached themselves to his name and reputation. There’s the single guy about town, most eligible bachelor cool guy who throws terrific parties at his mansion. There, he has been captured photographically leading the revel in the company of stunning women or hanging out with best bud Michael Saylor, another single entrepreneur, author and guru of the digital-cum-communications age, whose book, “The Mobile Wave,” is getting big buzz in the digital brainiac culture and is on the New York Times Best Seller list. Right next to the party and social reports is what you might call the other Bill Dean—the president and CEO of M.C. Dean, Inc., a big contract and big client technology and electronics communication outfit headquartered in Dulles, Va., which describes itself as “the nation’s expert electrical design-build and systems integration firm for complex, mission-critical organizations.” When interviewed by ExecutiveBiz.com, a government contracting sector news site, it headlined its article on the Georgetown businessmen: “Bill Dean, CEO of M.C. Dean, on his passion for workforce development and more.”

Of course, the contrast and dichotomy are obvious. It’s only natural to bring it up: playboy and party-hearty with work force development, competing interests that don’t seem to jive. “Yeah, I get that all the time,” Dean says, like Bryce Harper watching a curve hanging over the center of the plate. “I mean, sure, I’m single. I like to enjoy life. You’ve sort of got to. So, yeah, I throw parties or go to parties, and they’re fun. But they’re usually about something, the community, Georgetown, a good cause. It’s not incompatible with what I do, who I am or what I care about. It’s part of who I am.”

Looking at the party pictures, one might come to some conclusions about Dean, and those would be wrong. In conversation, he’s easy to talk with, well met, with a regular guy kind of demeanor, dressed casually, short hair, goatee—and with his dogs. You relax almost instantly, forget the house you’re in and the fact that Dean runs a billion dollar company with offices all over the country and the world from Baton Rouge to Ukraine. He’s not out to impress you. He’s out to engage you. Dean is a man in tune—like a tuning fork—with the times he lives, plays and most expressly works in. He has an almost gleeful curiosity, a passion for the electrical impacts on life and people of electronics and communications, the new and shape-shifting digital world.

M.C. Dean, Inc. has a lot on its plate: there’s the big contract with the new Walter Reed Hospital, there’s the company foray into robotics, there’s the new offices in Louisiana and Texas—and there’s what everything means.

“People still don’t realize how instant, how small, everything has become,” Dean says. “It changes everything in life, the connectivity. People want to be more and more connected with more and more people and the latest information. It’s in a pad, in a phone. I understand the idea of print media, but you can see how technology has changed everything. I did it for a while. We had a regular newspaper in Loudoun County, and I liked it. But it’s just not that pragmatic a thing to do.”

As conversation flows into talk of technology as a game changer and wherever that might lead, we talk about a 60 Minutes episode on Steve Jobs. At that point, Dean jumps up from the couch, grabs his iPad and flips it open. “It’s right here, that show, that segment,” he says, as he taps on a link. There it is, the 60 Minutes segment from the night before, Jobs on a screen. “See, it’s instant, and it’s permanent, all at the same time,” he says. It seemed elementary, that thought. And it’s a big thought, too. Part of it is as ordinary as saving a file, but another part of it is magic.

Talking with a master of multitasking, who can go in a heartbeat from playing with his two dogs to explaining the presence of the keyboards by a big living room window and a friend who co-wrote the musical, “Memphis,” to his feelings about community and neighborhood and a swift aside to the Roman emperor Hadrian. “Memoirs of Hadrian” is one of his eclectic collection in the downstairs library, along with original Wizard of Oz books and “In Cold Blood”—little things tend to stick out (at least, they do to me.) No doubt, Dean has a lot of books on his Kindle, but he appears to like the presence of books.

“That’s amazing,” Dean says of the Truman Capote book. “For him to go out there to Kansas, get what he got and pull it together, it’s an amazing book.”

Dean—William H., formally on the bio—is the third Dean to head M.C. Dean. The first and founding Dean was Marion Caleb Dean, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran who started out working as an electrician in the shipyards and turned the skills and spirit of adventure into a career in electronics and electrical engineering, founding the company, which soon became adept at riding the technology advances of the second half of the 20th century and working with the government, especially the Department of Defense.

Besides running the founder’s company, and adding significantly to its wealth and enterprises, Dean got something else from his grandfather: a sense of place and neighborhood, the importance of community and a desire to be a part of the greater community in a big way.

“He grew up in the old U Street neighborhoods of Washington, went to Central High School [now Cardozo],” he says of his grandfather. “He loved the area, the city, and that’s what I love about Washington. I grew up in the suburbs, and you didn’t really have neighborhoods, the sense of place that we have in the neighborhoods of Washington.”

Georgetown, as a neighborhood, obviously agrees with him. He’s totally involved and says, “I’ve helped with Rose Park. I was on the House Tour, and I’m doing the 2012 gala with the Citizens Association of Georgetown because it’s a great group with involved, smart people who think about the community and its future. I love the sense of the past you get here—and the sense of the future with new people and kids.”

One of the articles about Dean talks about him as a CEO who cares. The company’s founder did that, too, creating an electrical apprenticeship program which still exists. Dean himself believes firmly in adding to the community by way of his business. It’s one of those ongoing commitments where you get, give back and it comes around again. We’re talking about work force training and creation, getting involved in education, creating opportunities for young people in other parts of town which might not have them.

“Education is the key to everything,” Dean says. “There are a lot of jobs in electronics, tech, engineering. And, in fact, there’s often not enough people with the training to fill them. You look for young people and students, who might not have seen the opportunities in school—but have the math or science skills and the talent but not the training.”

Dean serves on the D.C. Workforce Investment Council and the Virginia Apprenticeship Council. He has donated money for the Loudoun County Katrina Relief Fund, to the Child Rescue Centre in Sierra Leone by way of helping Children Worldwide. He has worked with the D.C. Center for Therapeutic Recreation, helped with construction needs of School Without Walls and continues to be involved in the apprenticeship program founded by his grandfather.

No doubt, too, there will be more Fourth of July and Halloween parties.

“Do I want children and a family?” he asks. “Sure, sure. You have to know when the time is right and the person is right.”

Right now, Bill Dean seems to like being Bill Dean, forward-looking entrepreneur, CEO, thinker and reader, and tinkerer and thinker. In his way, he is a man of his time and the time that’s coming just around the corner. The doorbell rings.

It’s a group of Georgetown realtors and business folks arriving for a photo shoot, including developer Herb Miller. Patrons and sponsors involved with the Citizens Association’s Georgetown Gala are heading to the pool area.

The doorbell rings again. Shredder barks. The phone rings. They’re waiting at the airport. And it’s not yet noon.

PARTY ACTIVISTS Sponsors, patrons and volunteers met a few weeks ago at Bill Dean’s P Street home to prepare for the upcoming 2012 Georgetown Gala -- Putting on the Glitz -- to be held Oct. 26 at the Russian Embassy on Wisconsin Avenue.

The gala is the main fundraising event for the Citizens Association of Georgetown, the nonprofit which protects and promotes the oldest neighborhood in Washington, D.C. And thanks to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and his wife Natalia, it will again be at their nation’s embassy up the avenue. The evening will honor Pamela and Richard Hinds as “Champions of Historic Preservation and Guardians of Georgetown Public Safety.”

Along with cocktails, buffet, a live auction (items include that house in France, apartment in Florence or spa in Mexico) and gaming tables, oh yes, there will be dancing. This time to the sounds of Big Ray and the Kool Kats. Cutting up with the movers and shakers, the evening’s fun always generates buzz, especially when it persuades the Mayor of Washington to dance with a boa and in the conga line.

Such an undertaking requires hefty support from residents, businesses and other planners and players around town. There are people to meet and money to match. Georgetown is blessed to have such a fellowship of givers, young and old, who always show up to help and are as tried and true as the day is long.

This year’s list of supporters and sponsors begins with three U.S. senators (Roy Blunt, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman) and their wives (Abigail, Teresa and Hadassah, respectively), a university president (Jack DeGioia of Georgetown), a chief of protocol (Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt), a techie CEO (Mark Ein) and master architect (Hugh Jacobsen). Impressive. All right, they are honorary chairs, who are nevertheless quite effective in helping with the invitations.

As for the really big sponsors, they include “Community Pillars,” namely, Long & Foster, Exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International and Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Vornado Realty Trust (on behalf of the Shops at Georgetown Park).

Add to that patrons Nancy Taylor Bubes (Washington Fine Properties), Georgetown University, Jamestown Properties, the Levy Group, M.C. Dean, Inc., MRP Realty and Western Development Corporation.

Now, we’re cooking. But, wait, there’s more: Beasley Real Estate, Gregg Busch (First Savings Mortgage Corporation), EastBanc Technologies, LLC, Georgetown University Hospital, PNC Bank and Securitas Security Services USA, Inc.

There are even more involved, whether it is Clyde’s Restaurant Group, EagleBank or, even, this newspaper and its media group.

This year’s gala co-chairs include Nancy Taylor and Alan Bubes, Michele and Jack Evans and Patrice and Herb Miller, assisted by a slew of neighborhood friends and influencers. Stay tuned for updates in the few weeks ahead.

Party Activist Photo Credits below: Front row: Herb Miller, board chairman and CEO, Western Development Corp.; Jennifer Altemus, president, the Citizens Association of Georgetown; Bill Dean, CEO, M.C. Dean, Inc.

Middle row: Stacy Berman, manager, Long & Foster Georgetown office; Nancy Taylor Bubes, Washington Fine Properties.

Back row: Jim Bell, founder and managing partner, Beasley Real Estate; Gregg Busch, loan officer, First Savings Mortgage; Paul Foster, senior vice president and regional manager, Long & Foster Real Estate.

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