Ken “Kannes” Noack Jr. ’73 shares the same passion for mountaineering as he does for the causes in his native Sacramento community and throughout the world. August 2018 marked Noack’s 39th mountaineering sojourn in the Dolomites of Italy as well as his 46th year as a philanthropic leader who has raised millions of dollars for the likes of local PBS affiliate KVIE 6 TV, Sacramento Society for the Blind, Rotary Club of Sacramento and its Foundation, and the California State Library Foundation, just to name a few. Among the multiple accolades Noack has received for his extensive commercial real estate work, he has been recognized three times as Humanitarian of the Year by the Sacramento Association of Commercial Real Estate (ACRE) and as Fundraising Volunteer of the Year on National Philanthropy Day by the Association of Fundraising Professionals California Capital Chapter. Noack began his schooling at OES (Bishop Dagwell Hall at the time) as an eighth-grade boarding student.
You started boarding school in eighth grade when it was still Bishop Dagwell Hall. What was it like to be so far away from home and how did this experience shape who you are today?
It was a paradigm shift and life-changing event, as the oldest child of three. It was the brainchild and recommendation of my parochial grammar school principal, Thomas Parker. My mother had attended boarding school and that was an influence as well. It had been a good experience for her. My experience shaped who I am today by instilling, virtually overnight, responsibility, discipline, independence, self-awareness, the trials and tribulations of group living and group dynamics, and mixing with peers from very different cultures of the world. I don’t regret one minute of it and applaud my parents for the courage to send me off to boarding school. What a remarkable school it was and continues to be today.
What are you currently working on professionally?
I am in my 40th year of commercial real estate, primarily focused on my first love and passion of land brokerage with a little retail leasing and investment sales brokerage thrown into the mix, just for the variety and perspective to keep it interesting.
What has your path been from OES to where you are now?
I graduated from OES and attended the University of Denver. At the time, it was the closest institution of higher education I could attend, without going to the East Coast, to continue my love for playing lacrosse (thanks, coach Fred Wood and John Hicks) and to ski, hike in the Rockies, join a fraternity, and go to school (in that order of priority!). I then transferred to UC Berkeley, was elected president of my fraternity, skied, hiked, and studied (again in that order). I dropped out of college to the dismay of my folks, joined a lifelong friend (and OES student, Nils “Harold” Larsen) in the Pacific Northwest, building custom homes and converting old brick apartment buildings into condominiums for about a year.
I then travelled through the mountains of Asia for a bit and settled in Santa Rosa, California, where I built about 2500 homes, mini storage, and office buildings for six years while also obtaining my sailplane license, pilot’s license, and real estate license. I completed my college degree (BS in human relations and organizational behavior) on the 10-year plan (as it was the only thing in life I had started but had not completed).
I then moved back to my native Sacramento where I have enjoyed practicing land brokerage as a career, self-employed, travelling, and climbing worldwide along with my philanthropic passions.
When did you first recognize a desire to exercise your "power for good”?
Giving is a passion and it is something that either comes to one’s soul naturally or not at all. You can’t make it happen; rather, you just can’t help the feeling. You are moved. It struck me as a teenager, but I really couldn’t be as effective as I wanted to be on a larger scale until my professional life.
How did your passion for the outdoors develop? Did any of your OES experiences contribute to this passion?
My parents instilled this passion in me. As kids, we spent summers and winters at our cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California and our beach house in Bolinas, on the Pacific Coast of northern California. At OES, my sister Karen Chickering ’74 and I, among others, desired to continue our passion for skiing, but as boarding students there was no way to get to Mt. Hood. Skiing was not a school sport, but we made it a school sport by getting our chemistry teacher, Mr. Hutchison, to be our official “coach.” We taught him how to ski, raised money at a concessions stand we created at home basketball games and wrestling matches, we started a ski team, and raced! I was never a good racer but it afforded the ability to ski on the weekends. The late Paul Gerhardt ’74 was our star racer. He was really good!
Your deep desire to help your community is obvious. How does the work in your volunteer commitments play a role in your professional life?
It has returned benefits to my professional career in spades, through name recognition, respect by peers for the contributions made to the community, and any number of other six degrees of separation. I pursued community work because I was passionate about those specific needs in our community and in the world. But I had no idea, nor did I even think about what the beneficial repercussions could be and how it would influence my professional and personal life for the better.
With all the many good causes out there, what advice do you have for young alumni in balancing their professional careers and the desire to give back?
There is no free lunch in life and so much in the world frankly cannot be achieved without the voluntary and financial contributions of individuals. The gratification of giving is indescribable. It also affects one’s self-worth, perspective, and attitude. You might have had a bad day in the office but look what you did for that blind person, that kid without a book to read,
eradicating polio worldwide, digging wells to provide potable water, opening library collections to learn from by millions, providing computers to those who can’t afford them so they can educate themselves, exposing the world to the redeeming media of public television, and on and on and on. My advice: pick a cause you have a natural passion for and the organization of that passion whose majority of dollars go to the cause, not overhead. Although we are just one, we can and do make a difference.
With the recent tragic fires in Paradise, has your community come together to support the fire victims? Have you been involved in supporting the fire relief efforts in California?
Yes, it’s one of many increasingly tragic events on the planet. Rotary has played a major role in helping the affected, including my club, through financial assistance and just about every other imaginable contribution you can name. It is remarkable and fascinating to me, with respect to almost every tragic event worldwide, how the species of Homo sapiens comes together to help one another, unlike most other species on our planet. We all have a lot for which to be thankful!