Chattanoogan: Jay Jumper – “My Kids Are My Hobby”

Thursday, December 26, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey

Sports enthusiast Jay Jumper may recall his own glory days on the field, but as he attends a game or a cross country track meet today, it is more about watching his kids and supporting them, than the sport itself.

Parents Jim and Ann Jumper raised their children Cal, Mary Jane, Joe and Jay in Red Bank and afforded them the opportunity to play sports. Jay’s oldest brother played football at Vanderbilt and Jay thought he was destined to do the same.

“I played several sports - football, basketball and baseball all year round. It was what my life revolved around. I always thought I would play football in college somewhere, but I got hurt really bad during my senior year,” Jay reveals.

It was the second game of the year that took Jay out for a third of the season when his leg went down straight in front of him as the pile came down on top of him, causing his left ankle to align with his left ear. The crush was a hard one and Jay was transported to the hospital by ambulance suffering a dislocated hip and torn ligaments.

Seconds before the pile up, a photo of the play was taken for the newspaper and graced the front page of the sports section.

“My ever-humorous sister gave me a framed copy of the picture. It was a great picture, but it was that significant play that caused me to get injured,” Jay laughed. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. My dad played football in college, both of my uncles had played in college, my brother did… I thought that was what I would do too.”

Jay had hoped for a way to get “red-shirted” where his injury wouldn’t count against his eligibility, but high school rules differed from college and hoping for a scholarship was out of the equation. He knew that he would have to attend a state school and help to pay his tuition.

Jay liked sales and had thought of becoming a pharmaceutical representative so he majored in marketing. When a friend who was a finance major called him offering a job with First Union Bank, Jay took the opportunity to learn the banking business and combine his marketing and sales expertise.

“With my finance background and my propensity for sales, I then went into the brokerage industry and worked for a company called Morgan Keegan in Atlanta. That’s where I met my wife,” Jay says. “A lot of my friends from Tennessee were down there and Dawn was living with two of them.”

After dating for four years while working in Atlanta, Jay had the opportunity to work for American National Bank (now SunTrust).

“We dated long distance for about six months. I thought I would have to bring her back to Chattanooga kicking and screaming because she never thought she would leave Atlanta and now she is probably the biggest cheerleader that Chattanooga ever had and she would never leave,” Jay laughs.

When Jay told his family that he was being interviewed and was asked about his hobbies his son Will said, “Well, I think WE are your hobby.”

“It’s true, that is my hobby - my kids. They would probably like me to do less of my hobby and do something else,” Jay laughs. “I can’t wait until grandkids.”

As Jay describes more about his ‘hobby’ he begins with the oldest to the youngest.

“Hannah is just your typical… well, I wouldn’t say typical - there is nothing typical about Hannah… she is an incredible over-achiever. She is an extremely hard worker and she has excelled in everything she has put her mind to. Hannah is a very driven girl. She was the president of her class at Baylor. When they gave out the senior awards she got about six senior awards and anything she has ever done, she just excelled at. She is now a junior at Vanderbilt and a cross country runner – she got nine state titles and she won the SEC freshman runner of the year award,” Jay says proudly.

His middle child Colton is extremely athletic, having played football and baseball at Baylor like his father.

“He was a two-time All-State football player and was committed and going to the Naval Academy last summer. He got accepted, but when he was going through the medical exams, we caught a kidney condition he had and we had to report it. The coaches told us that it wouldn’t be an issue and we could just get a waiver, but the day they asked for the waiver was the day the superintendent announced that he was prosecuting three football players for rape. So needless to say, he was not in the mood for giving waivers for any football players,” Jay says.

A week before Colton was to attend the Naval Academy he was told he couldn’t go. Colton had passed up scholarship offers from several esteemed schools in order to go there.

“His kidneys are fine and it is a condition that you would never know anything was wrong and will probably go away over the next few years, but it is just a non-qualifying condition from the Navy,” Jay explains.

Colton decided to do a post-grad year and chose the Hun School of Princeton in Princeton, N.J. based on recommendations from the Navy football coaches. The week school started, the coach was fired and it seemed to be one thing after another as Colton tried to reach his goals, but Jay praises his son on how well he has handled the many disappointments.

“He has a great attitude about everything. He tells me that all of this is happening for a reason and 30 years from now he will be able to sit back and laugh and understand what it is. He is going back through the recruiting process and has a lot of offers again hoping to make a decision and enroll in January at a college of his choice,” Jay says.

My youngest son Will is ‘Mr. Easy-Go-Lucky’. He is very relaxed and can talk with anybody from two years old to 90 years old. He is a very good football and baseball player also, but just has such a gregarious personality, it amazes me and Dawn every day. He has a great gift of communication,” Jay says.

While Jay’s mother attended most of his athletic events that she could, Jay’s father was busy traveling in his job and that pressed Jay to schedule his work around his own kids' events.

“I make it a point to be there for my kids. When I schedule for business I put those things out if there is an event. With my son in New Jersey right now, I would go see one son’s game on Friday night and go to see my other son play on Saturday or watch my daughter run in a cross country event. It is just important for me to be there – it is the number one thing,” Jay demands.

The trait that stands out most about Jay that he has passed onto his children is that he never quits.

“I didn’t develop that trait until I started my own businesses at about 30 years old, but my kids have developed that at a much younger age. If I had that trait earlier or worked as hard as they have, I would have had a lot more success,” Jay said.

“I would also say that they show perseverance. I never had the struggles my son has been having to deal with life-changing events - to not go into the Naval Academy and be able to handle it in such a positive manner… and my daughter battling through injuries at Vanderbilt. And Will is still at Baylor and he teaches me every day to not take things as seriously as I tend to make them.

Though his kids are his hobby, Jay’s team wouldn’t be complete without Dawn.

“Dawn is a phenomenal mom and incredibly supportive wife. I could not have done what I do without her. She has an etiquette company and her calling is teaching many of the social graces we were taught growing up. She teaches kids how to create a conversation when you meet somebody and how to use etiquette in social media. She is such a wonderfully polished person and I think Will gets many of his traits from her,” Jay says affectionately.

As a certified etiquette consultant, Dawn partners with parents and schools to help students develop a foundation of good manners. She helps them understand the importance of consideration for others and the role etiquette plays in leadership, which is a vital building block to success. Schools are beginning to invest in her program as they understand their students represent their university. Dawn will be teaching a class at Vanderbilt in January.

Jay also has a few companies that he launched over a decade ago called “ProNvest” and “Signix”. With both companies, Jay addressed mass markets before the market was ready.

“I started ProNvest to help people (such as our parents) manage their money because that’s probably the only money they are ever going to have. We created it to go after the largest of assets which is the 401K or 403B and it really is geared to my mom’s world. She has a 401k plan, but some people are hindered by getting someone to help you plan. Our average balance is $40,000.00 so we help participants plan toward their retirement goal,” Jay clarifies.

When he bought Signix, it was a fledgling company out of bankruptcy which created electronic signatures of any contract that needed to be signed.

“Our kids will probably never sign a contract with a Bic pen. We are in a massive growth market to help automate signatures and do it electronically. We address the market from a security standpoint and have added ease-of-use to a very secure e-signature solution. How we separate ourselves from our competitors is by our documents that are independently verifiable where, if Signix ever goes away or you quit doing business with us - 20 years from now, you have a document you can take into court and be able to prove exactly what was signed, who signed it and how it was signed - the original document,” Jay insists.

Though passionate about his business, Jay still holds that his kids are where he puts most of his energy.

“They are my passion because my parents were divorced and Dawn’s parents were divorced and I always wanted our kids to know that we were there for them no matter what.  Marriage isn’t always dandy - there is trouble in any marriage, but we are in this as a family forever and always. When Dawn and I got married – that was a lifetime event - it was not until bad things came along’. That was the most important thing we have ever done and that has been our number one focus,” Jay vows.

Jay and Dawn both stood firm in their belief to provide their children with a stable environment and to let them know that they would always be there for them and never quit.

Jay explains his steadfast love and joy in making his kids his ‘hobby’. “I would say …I love my kids more than… there is nothing more important to me than them,” he pauses and concludes, “Everything I have done in my life has been to support my kids and be there for them and, hopefully …they will pass that along to their kids.”

jen@jenjeffrey.com



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