Answering the Call – Again and Again
One of the pillars of chiropractic’s success in Michigan – and of Life University’s continued success as the world’s largest chiropractic institution – is Dr. Joe Lupo. He became part of Life U when it was still the Life Chiropractic College – and studied with Life’s founders.
Perhaps most significantly, when the chips were down, and it came time to answer the call, Dr. Lupo became one of Life’s “re-founders,” leading the charge to save the University when a political storm knocked out the power. Dr. Lupo not only donated a significant dollar amount to turn the tide, but he dug right in and then spent years sharing the chiropractic message with others for whom it rings like a bell in their soul. And, in the process, those people became the next generation of students.
Dr. Lupo is truly one of our Icons at Life U and, recently, Dr. Kathryn Haag had a chance to stop by one of his student recruitment events (known as SREs and, yes, he still holds them regularly to encourage more people to become chiropractors).
In the video below, you’ll hear why Dr. Lupo feels called to his profession and his patients, to serving them – along with his alma mater – and why he’s answered that call, time and time again.
(See a complete transcript of Dr. Lupo’s remarks below the video)
So, the question is, WHY DO I DO WHAT I DO FOR LIFE University?
Well, I do it for chiropractic. That was the whole point. Without Life University, there isn’t going to be [any] chiropractic; chiropractic would morph into medicine if it wasn’t for Life University. So that’s how important Life University is to me – and I get many, many people that agree with that statement. I go back to the Life University way back in 1975 when it was a brand-new school. When I arrived there, it was only six months old…I was in the third class to start there and… including my class, they had a total of 100 students. And the whole campus was a building that was a warehouse – and half of the warehouse was occupied by the unemployment office. So, we had the other half of the building it was really a warehouse. They had movable walls the class classrooms would change week by week, depending on what’s going on around there.
And so, I was there in the infancy and my son, Dr. Jeff – now Dr. Jeff, was three months old when we arrived and we watched the school grow.
I saw a bunch of dedicated, really dedicated, people when I arrived there; people like Dr. Gerry Clum, Dr. Robert Watkins – you could just name a whole bunch of ’em – Sid Williams was the founder of the school. And these people were all on the same page about changing the world.
Chiropractic, frankly, was in some dire straits back in the early 70s and late 60s because it lost its leadership because Dr. B.J. Palmer from Palmer College died in 1961. And the profession really needed a leader that it didn’t have. Sid Williams rose to his leadership and he developed a tribe of people that really got on the same page with him. He taught them all kinds of principles about visualizing and creating the world and changing the world and emptying the prisons and emptying the hospitals and filling up the churches. He used to talk life this. We’re going to change humanity for the good.
You know, the drug situation is bad, by the way, in this day. It’s worse. You hear about it. You listen to radio; besides music, you hear about the opioid epidemic and the crisis and all that stuff, and thousands of people have died with this stuff. So, it’s pretty bad stuff, right? Chiropractic is out to save the world. In other words, it’s going to get sick people well without drugs and surgery. Most people have come to the chiropractor have already tried some things. So, they come here they find a new way, and if we tell the story, they can learn something new and learn something better about how to conduct their lives and live a better, healthier life and be responsible for their own health. So, back to the school that was the vision: we’re going to change the world. Like I said, empty the hospitals and empty the prisons and fill up the churches and that’s kind of like the whole global feel about the whole thing.
So, I heard about this and I said, I’m buying into this concept. This is for me. I was a successful residential builder at the time when I decided to be a chiropractor and I left that because there was an event, like the one I’m holding in my office tonight, for recruiting students. It was at Wayne State University. You know, many students are at Wayne State, about 30,000.
Well, at this chiropractic student event, one person showed up with my friend who lived in Roseville right here, and he went there and he met four chiropractors and a chiropractor’s wife. And the chiropractors were Ian Grassam, Chuck Ribley, John Hofmann, and Jim Gregg and Ruth Ribley was Chuck’s wife. And, since there was no event because only one guy showed up, and Mrs. Ribley went into the room and talked to my friend as she pumped him for about an hour. And when you’re going to talk verbal with Ruth you’re going to lose because she’s gonna always wins; she can outtalk anybody.
So, the point was, he met these four doctors that really really impressed him. He said, these are some hot dudes, man. They’ve got it together. They were all like about 30 years old at the time; I think Hofmann was 27 – and he called me up a couple of days later, all turned on about this chiropractic thing. And the first thing he asked me, when I picked up the phone is this, “Joe, would you like to make $100,000 a year?” I said…now, we’re talking 1975, girls, It was a hundred grand a year…I said, “You got my attention.” And so he says, “You need to be a chiropractor.” “What is that?” He says, “They’re doctors that, you know, don’t deal with drugs.” I said, “Yeah, but since I’ve been to college, I’m not going back for eight more years of this. No, no, no, no.”
He said, “You’ve already got the qualifications; you can go to chiropractic school now.” “Really?” So, to make it fast, long story short, within two months we went to see Dr. John on his office to learn more about chiropractic because this is going to be a big change for me and I better know what I’m getting into. Right? Vince, my friend Vince, already made up his mind, he’s dropping pre-med and he’s going into chiropractic. So, we went to see Dr. John Hofmann, and he was one of the guys who was at Wayne State University, and we sat down in his office and the waiting room filled up with a bunch of people – at 7 o’clock at night. Standing room only. And this young man came out and he gave a phenomenal talk on chiropractic, which I had never heard before. But everything he said resonated with me.
I said, I already think that way. I’m a guy from the 60s but I was never of the drug culture, so I can’t put crap in my body; I just know it’s not good. You know, everybody’s tripping on LSD and everything else back then. And, I said, this chiropractic thing sounds really good. But, he could deliver the talk. He was just astounding. So, we spent a few hours with him after work – 11 or 12 hours that day with patients – and he’s kept us there till midnight and he totally changed my whole way of thinking – and possibilities for me. And that was in April, you know, fast forward to July; by July, I was in school with my friend. We started together, we finished together. In 1975, we started; in 1978, we finished. And, by the way to my friend Vince went to work for Dr. John Hofmann, and saw 300 patients a day over there.
And I went to work with John Hofmann’s friend Jimmy Gregg and we saw 300 patients day in that office; for real, we were doing it. So, when I started my practice, I had no problem believing that I could see 300 patients a day. But frankly, when I got to 291, I said this is too much work for me. I don’t care to do this much; but I’ve always had a phenomenal practice. My practice was exceptionally…a fast starter, let’s put it that way. I had about 99 new patients the first two weeks in practice, right at Eight Mile Road in Detroit, in 1979. And, it went gangbusters and it’s always been rewarding, because it’s all I can imagine; it’s beyond what I could ever imagine.
Although my imagination did ramp up a few notches when I got introduced to Dr. Sid Williams and the whole Life University; it wasn’t even called Life University; it was Life Chiropractic College. I was in that tribe; I totally committed to that tribe and watched this school grow. When I graduated, it went from about 100 students to about 650 students. And as the years went on, by time my kids went to school, my son Jeff started in 1996, it had about 3800 students. It was the biggest chiropractic school in the world. And there’s politics in life, things can happen, and sometimes there are some real problems. Anyway, somebody found a way to have an accreditation problem with Life University in 2002 and they actually pulled the accreditation for a few months. Well, if you’re a student and your school loses accreditation, what are you likely to do? Bolt, right?
Well, they did, in droves. Some stayed, but the majority – about three quarters of them – actually left. And when I got wind of what was happening there, I said this can’t stand. They got their accreditation back within a few months. But the damage was already done. You know? You’ve got to all these buildings they grew into and not many students. I said, this cannot, this cannot happen; Life can’t go down because if Life goes down, chiropractic is going down.
So, I got my buddies; I said, “You know guys, the old guard that started the school? We are that now; we have to save the school.” Literally, we had to do that. And I talked to Dr. Ribley because he’d been my friend the whole time, and he says, “Joe, you got to get your buddies and cough up and make this thing happen. The school is really suffering bad. It’s going to go under.”
I said, “What does that mean?” He says, “Well, first of all you’ve got to write some checks.” I said, “What do you need, $20,000?” “No, no. We need more than that” and I’ll speed it up again here. There were a handful of us, probably about 10 of us, that wrote checks for $100,000 out of our own bank accounts to save the school. But that’s not the only thing we did. It was even more important to bring students because, like I said, if Life goes down, chiropractic goes down. It’ll be like a pseudo medical thing. So we started recruiting people and we started doing recruiting sessions like the one I’m going to be doing in my office here in a few minutes. And the first one we had was about 14 miles from here, in a little hotel in Detroit, and we had about 35 prospective students; 35 one night. It was people like Corey Rodnick and a bunch of people from the area.
So it’s ok. I think we’re going to bring the prospective students in that first…SRE (Student Recruitment Event) that we did actually produced, I’m going to say probably about 20 students and some of these people were really ready to go already and we started filling up the school. And we did it, not just in this area, we actually traveled city to city and had student recruitment events like in Boston and different cities moving down in Ohio, different places. Me and Dr. O’Dell and Dr. Cousineau would actually get on a plane to go do an event in some doctor’s office or whoever would give us a crowd to speak in front of – and we brought the student body back up. And we used to have phone calls about this, a conference call every Tuesday, for several years – I think that might have gone on, maybe, for six or seven years.
Most Tuesdays we’d be on the phone from nine o’clock at night for about an hour talking about everything to do with Life and why this thing is so important. So, I kind of lost some of my friends that were behind me with this thing. People have lives and different things, changes, and as time goes on. But I just made a commitment I’m just going to make sure I do this thing because chiropractic has done more for me and my family and the people I know than you can shake a stick at. It totally changed everything about our lives – the way we think, our lifestyle, what we could afford. And you know, when you can’t afford things, you can’t help other people, and you can’t, you know?
But when you do – when you have the means – you can help other people. And I learned to get back… We’re only here for a short time. So you just do what you do and make sure you show gratitude and get back to the source, and the source is God, period.
It all comes from there. You don’t own anything, you’re just using it while you’re here. So, you pass along to somebody that can make good use of it. That’s that’s my whole take on this thing. So, we’ve been having SREs, student recruitment events, since 2003, was the first one we did, in November of 2003, and we were doing them every month at our district meetings here in Michigan. And it would be for the district meeting, which started like 8:30 a night, we’d have an SRE maybe at 6:30, we might have three to five, ten to fifteen prospective students.
And we kept feeding it and feeding it and feeding it – in this neighborhood. But that was going on in other cities, too. You know, in Florida, in New York and different places. And we did it because we believe in the cause – and chiropractic truly can save the world but we need many, many more of us – many more. There’s only about 70,000 chiropractors; maybe worldwide, maybe 75,000, something like that. We could get 10 times that many, it would be scratching the surface. There’s such an opportunity in what we do here. Such an opportunity in this profession, it’s incredible. So, my goal and my mission is to get that into some… many other people’s, young people’s brains so they can get that message and run with it and do what I do. Do the same thing. So that’s my thing with Life University as I give back.
And I love doing it. I don’t even think it’s giving. It’s just something I do. And I travel down, the good girls that work for me here, know that I do this four times a year or make a trip down Marietta, Georgia…at least four and they put me on the board because I know how to recruit. And so, I sit around and listen all that inside stuff and put in my two cents worth. Love doing it.
It’s a family. The board has become my family in the last 12-14 years. And the whole crowd of people in this profession, I consider my family. I hang around with chiropractors; I’m going to have a chiropractic get together at my house at the lake this weekend and we just like to chew the fat about chiropractic. We talk about a lot of other trash, but it always comes to chiropractic when we’re together. It’s just the way we are. You know, we go to dinner together. Same old stuff, you can tell what’s going to be said. It’s going to be chiropractic. So, I heard somebody say about Dr. Chuck Ribley, if you cut him open and open him up, you’re gonna see chiropractic inside of him, all the way through. And he’s been my mentor, so I’ve got to credit him. But I’ve got to credit John Hofmann, too, because John Hofmann, in one night, about three, three-and-a-half hours, just inspired me to no end.
And the granddaddy of them all was Ian Grassom. I wish I had some videos to show you, of Ian Grassam speaking. He was incredible, how he could weave a story about purpose in life, and giving and saving the world. You could really catch on with what he’s saying…God, he’s just incredible. You wanted to be, him you want to do what he did, he could inspire people so wel. So, he could give a talk to a roomful of people in his office and the ones that weren’t patients, became patients. Because when you are enthusiastic, and you got that excited about it, and you’re committed about it, people want it even if they don’t understand it yet, they still want that. So what else can I tell you? You could ask me questions, I could talk about anything; I just go on and on and on about this. But maybe I’ve given you enough material to play with for a while and you can edit it down to one minute.
Dr. Haag: Thanks, Dr. Joe.
Dr. Lupo: My pleasure.