Cutline: Nacogdoches attorney Ken Deppisch holds a photographic memento from his days as a Navy pilot flying the SH-60B Seahawk helicopter aboard the USS Lincoln in the western Pacific Ocean. (Photo by Christian Stokes)
By Christian Stokes
Intern, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce
Life choices have enduring effects.
For Ken Deppisch, the decision to become a Naval officer directed his life for many years. Deppisch attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland for four years. He became a qualified Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk helicopter pilot while helping to lead the HSL-47 (now HSM-77) squadron over the span of five years. This maritime strike force squadron, known as the Saberhawks, was based in San Diego, California and assigned to ships of the Pacific Fleet. The SH-60B shares design features with the legendary U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk.
Deppisch returned to the naval academy as an instructor in the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law for three years. Retiring from the military was just as life-changing as the decision to serve. He swapped helicopter controls and the classroom for a chance to study at The University of Texas School of Law in Austin, the highest ranking law school in Texas.
Deppisch recently landed in Nacogdoches. For the past three years he has been happily grounded,with his two most important duties being a husband to cardiologist Hannah Deppisch and father to their daughters, three-year-old Gigi and eight-month-old Catherine. Visitors to Deppisch’s office notice his chest-high standing work station. He laughs and explains he has to stand up due to his lack of sleep because of Catherine.
Deppisch works as an associate attorney at W. Albert Weatherly, Attorney at Law, PLLC, with offices located in the northern edge of the historic downtown. He provides legal counsel for an array of cases that include estate planning, wills, trusts and small businesses. When speaking about his job as an attorney and why he enjoys it, Deppisch explained, “It’s a skill that can be used to help other people. Having ethical attornies assist someone through the (legal) process and to be involved is important, because it ensures that there is someone looking out for the way things should be working.
"While serving as a junior officer in the Navy, you get to be with the troops and do the active stuff,” Deppisch said. Practicing transactional type law seems to be a good fit, as it keeps him involved helping people and active as a leader. He has also made a concerted effort to connect with the greater community.
He has become a member of the Nacogdoches Rotary Club and the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he volunteered to provide pro-bono legal counsel to the Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation (Nacogdoches EDC or NEDCO) that it might need on specific projects. That work had been donated by Rob Atherton since the inception of the Nacogdoches EDC.
When Deppisch isn’t enjoying life with his wife and two baby daughters or working as a lawyer, he finds the time and energy to fly above and beyond, not in a helicopter, but in his service to these organizations. He serves by doing more than what is expected when helping them and also by exemplifying each organizations’ mission, vision and values.
Deppisch volunteers with the Chamber by serving on its Facility Task Force. On that committee, he is working with fellow volunteer and C.P.A. Polly Etta Sunda to create a new 501(c)3 , the Nacogdoches County Chamber Foundation.
The Chamber’s vision is “Leading Nacogdoches to be the ideal place to live, work, play and do business.” Nacogdoches EDC’s mission is “…to help existing businesses remain successful, to foster local entrepreneurship, and to recruit new industry and business to Nacogdoches County.” The Rotary Club’s vision is “To be neighbors, friends, and community leaders who come together to create positive, lasting change in our communities and around the world.” When looking at these three organizations it is clear to see the caliber of people that Deppisch aligns himself and the type of person he hopes to be.
While talking with Deppisch about his involvement in these organizations he explained why he jumps at the opportunities to serve. “My position is to try and use the set of skills that I have to help different organizations in the community move forward,” he said. "Being involved in the community was a responsibility I incurred at the Naval Academy.”
As soon as Deppisch finished his nine years of learning, training and being apart of the community in the Navy, he was eager to find a place in a new community.
He began by simply offering to help. “I’ll take pretty much anyone who comes through the door and try to help them with their issues,” he said. “I try to give my services as a leader, or just as a body.”
In the military, Deppisch enjoyed “the comraderie and how everyone focused on the same goals."
It is no coincidence that these same attributes can be seen in each of the three organizations where Deppisch chose to serve. “I don’t feel like I’ve really gotten to do much yet, but I hope to look back 10 years from now and have a long list,” he said.
If Nacogdoches attracts and keeps servant-leaders such as Ken Deppisch, the community must be doing something right.