Sometime in fall 2013, José Gutiérrez, BS Acc ’84, M Acc ’85, sat down to thumb out a note to himself on his iPhone. Gutiérrez was a trim, good-looking, 52-yearold executive at AT&T. He led an international division that oversaw more than 10,000 people in more than 100 countries. Gutiérrez owned a beautiful home and a beautiful car. He served as a tri-chair on the Mizzou: Our Time to Lead fundraising campaign. He was a big shot.
Gutiérrez loved the perks. “Every time you say something, you have people who jump through hoops to do whatever José says,” he jokes.
But the pressure was weighing on him. The stress. The sleep deprivation. The ceaseless demands on his time. He was young, but he’d recently had a health scare that landed him in the hospital. That was his wake-up call.
So as he sat and stared at the blank note on his phone, he thought about what would make him free. Then he started typing.
He wrote a list of promises to himself, beginning with retiring in three years. He promised he would hike the Appalachian Trail. “Because freedom is scarcer than money in my life.” To live without a schedule. “No more rat race.” To find God again.
True to his word, on Sept. 30, 2016, Gutiérrez worked his last day as an employee. To celebrate, he came back to Columbia (“which I still call paradise”) and walked the Katy Trail to St. Louis (“the best city in the United States”).
Walking was something Gutiérrez did all the time in his native Spain and continued as a student at Mizzou. But he had given it up as a day-to-day activity during his demanding career.
He’s making up for it in retirement.
The five-day, 111-mile walk to St. Louis was a hard pace, but it showed him he’s ready to tackle the next item on his list of promises: In late March, he started hiking the the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail.
Time on the trail is a “spiritual, mystical experience,” concludes Gutiérrez, who says he came away refreshed in his conviction of God’s love for him. “You’re very bare. You don’t have all the complications you think you need. You [only] have the necessities. It puts you in a totally different frame of mind.”