2000 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Life’s choices should be made with great concern for their long-term consequences; otherwise, you may create your own adversity."
Bill Doré, the oldest of five children, was born in 1942 in a small town in southern Louisiana. His father came from a large family of Cajun farmers, and his mother was the daughter of Lebanese immigrants. Doré's parents ran away to get married, then lived with his mother's sister and her family. Ten people shared a two-bedroom house that had no hot running water.
"My youth was full of tension," says Doré. "My father was a hard worker, but a heavy drinker. He was a very talented man even though he couldn't read or write. He had many jobs, which included truck driving, shrimping, and welding." Doré's father had a fierce temper and often beat his son. Finances were also a problem. On many Friday nights, Doré and his mother had to find his father before he could spend his paycheck on alcohol. "Today, I have come to grips with my father's behavior and believe that he suffered from undiagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after World War II, which, along with his other problems, wrecked havoc on his temperament."
Doré's mother, on the other hand, was the mainstay of the family. She worked as a salesclerk at Montgomery Ward until the family moved to New Orleans, where she worked as a shoe clerk. "She had a great work ethic and determination to provide for the family," says Doré.
Early in life, Bill Doré noticed the differences between his mother's family and his father's. On his father's side, no one went to school. They were all illiterate. On his mother's side, everyone finished high school and had a higher standard of living. Around the age of 10, his mother's sister offered to adopt him, since she could have no children of her own. "My aunt was wealthy by our standards because she and her husband owned a business," says Doré. "I saw life with her as an escape." In the end, Doré's mother never allowed the adoption, and he felt his dream was yanked away from him. "I always felt that my dreams were just beyond my reach. So I began to concentrate on the smaller rungs of the ladder to success."
The Dorés moved often and wherever they lived, Doré worked. In addition to the many chores he performed around the house, he shined shoes, cut lawns, and delivered newspapers. One summer, when he was 11, he worked for a drive-in theater spraying automobiles for mosquitoes.
In high school, Doré's athletic ability won him five scholarship offers to universities. He chose McNeese University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he ran sprints in track, and returned punts and kicked field goals on the football team. He pursued a degree in education and dreamed of becoming a teacher and coach. While in college, Doré began driving 18-wheeler trucks after school, making deliveries until midnight on some days. During his junior year, he began selling life insurance. He was named Rookie of the Year and earned a salary of $12,000. As a senior he was named Most Outstanding Student Teacher, but Doré had to reevaluate his career choice. The starting salary for a teacher was only $4,700 and he was making three times that amount selling insurance. He decided to go back to school and earn a master's degree, but by the time he finished his degree, he was making $20,000 selling insurance and could not accept a reversal in his standard of living to go into education.
Doré moved to New Orleans and got real estate and securities licenses so that he could sell real estate, mutual funds, and stocks and bonds. Later, he joined a rental equipment business that serviced oil and gas operators. Soon after Doré started his new job, he bought into the small rental company for only $2,000, which was all the savings he had. The business became successful with Doré at the helm and his boss offered to exchange Doré's partial ownership of the company for full ownership of a near-bankrupt diving company. To turn the diving company around, Doré had to depend on his creativity. He rented an old truck for $1 and got it into running condition, then set up an office in an old trailer given to him by a friend. It wasn't much, but Doré was open for business. That first year, the company pulled in revenues of $400,000. The next year he made $800,000, then doubled it again the following year. "I doubled business every year for six to eight years," he says. His business, which became Global Industries, Ltd., went public in 1993 and grew from three employees to more than 8,000. It went from being a small diving company in the Gulf of Mexico to an international corporation.
Looking back over his career, Doré attributes his strong work ethic and character to his hard-working parents and grandparents. Heredity also played its part when at the age of 50 Doré was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). "Now I can appreciate the struggles my father faced," says Doré. "But one benefit of ADHD is that it has kept me in constant motion, actively seeking one challenge after another."
When he addresses young people, Doré encourages them to dream. "Expect failure-it's going to happen," he says, "but find the strength to revisit your dream."
Doré says his Horatio Alger Award is one of the greatest honors he has ever received. "To be recognized in this way and to be associated with the individuals who preceded me is humbling. This Association has some of the greatest Americans of all time. To be a part of that honors me and my family. It also brings with it a commitment that I will never forget the road from which I have come, and brings with it an obligation to help young people burdened by adversities similar to mine."