Richard Lipsey said he was just finishing dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in New Orleans with his family Tuesday evening when he received a call that left him “flabbergasted” and rushing to his car to return to Baton Rouge.
That was when Lipsey got the unexpected news he had been named the 70th Golden Deeds winner.
“I’m just shocked, surprised,” he said. “I feel so honored that I would be selected.”
Golden Deeds is an honor bestowed annually to local philanthropists by the Inter-Civic Council and The Advocate.
Having grown up in Baton Rouge, Lipsey said, he’s extremely familiar with the award and knows “99 percent” of the past recipients.
But he didn’t expect to count himself as one of them.
“I’ve always been so impressed with everyone who’s won, and they’re so deserving,” he said. “I just hope I’m as deserving.”
With seven nominations for Lipsey from a host of prominent local residents, it appears deserving is a fitting description.
Lipsey spent “68 of his 72 years” in Baton Rouge making the Capital City his hometown and passion, he said.
Lipsey has contributed to and served on boards of dozens of local charities and organizations including the Capital Area United Way, the Istrouma Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Temple B’nai Israel, the Louisiana Research Association and Baton Rouge Green, according to one nomination letter.
He also served on the board of directors for Mary Bird Perkins for 19 years, carrying on a cause dear to his mother, Anna Lipsey, who was one of the cancer center’s founders.
The LSU alumnus said his alma mater is the cause that is closest to his heart.
“That’s my real love,” he said. “There’s so many alumni here in Baton Rouge, we’d just do anything for LSU. We bleed purple and gold. It’s been my honor to watch LSU grow and improve over the years.”
Lipsey has had a hand in that: He has served on the LSU Flagship Coalition, the Forever LSU and Gold Century campaigns and several other councils, foundations and boards, his nomination letter says.
He was also one of the founders of Tigers Unlimited, now the Tiger Athletic Foundation, the letter says.
For his work, he’s received numerous recognitions and awards including Volunteer Activist in Baton Rouge, Outstanding Citizen in Baton Rouge from the Boy Scouts of America and the Arthritis Foundation Award for Civic Achievement, the letter says.
But there was no award for one of his most honorable achievements.
In the days after Hurricane Katrina, Lipsey helped rescue as many as 80 people from the floodwaters, he said.
Lipsey was among a handful of volunteers who, with the help of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, went into the hardest-hit areas on boats in search of the stranded.
The rescued people were loaded into Lipsey’s van and taken back to Baton Rouge, where they were reunited with loved ones, he said.
Baton Rouge has been Lipsey’s home since his family moved to the area in 1943 so his father could run Steinberg Hide & Fur Company, which later became Steinberg’s Sports Center.
Lipsey took over the family business in 1964 and later acquired S&S Wholesale Sporting Goods, which now bears his family name. The company has “become one of the top sporting goods stores in the country,” he said.
But continuing his parents’ legacy goes beyond business for Lipsey.
He said his good deeds are just the result of following the lessons taught by his parents, who were actively involved in bettering the community.
“I learned from them that you’ve got to give back,” he said. “You’ve got to participate. And you’ve got to do it with love in your heart.”