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Candy's world:
How Candy Gialamas perfected her balancing act
 
By Teresa Peneguy Paprock
 

Some people sort of sleepwalk through life, achieving just what they really need to in order to get by. Other people grab at their existence, tightly and with both hands, living every moment and maximizing every opportunity that comes their way. Candy Gialamas belongs in the second camp.

 

Gialamas seems to live four separate lifetimes simultaneously: as a career woman (in a field that has always been dominated by men) and as vice president of a major real estate firm, The Gialamas Company, Inc.; as a wife and a mother of four children (now grown), in whose lives she is remains deeply involved; as a community mover and shaker; and as herself, maintaining balance and enjoying the personal time that she somehow manages to carve out of each day.

 

To really appreciate what Gialamas’ life is today, you need to know a little bit about where it started – in a family of six children in rural McFarland, where she attended school in a tiny one-room schoolhouse through eighth grade. “It was such a small school that the boys and the girls did everything together,” she says.  (She graduated from Oregon High School.)

 

The story of how her parents met seems to set the course for Gialamas’ life. Virginia Caster McKinstry, Gialamas’ mother, was the first female Marine in the State of Wisconsin. “She felt a need and a call,” says Gialamas. Her parents met while on active duty in the Marines during World War II. Gialamas was raised with a deep patriotism and respect for her country, as well as with her parents’ German values of hard work, self-discipline, and a strong emphasis on education. In addition, living in the country taught her self-reliance.

 

Gialamas’ dream was to go to architectural school, but she couldn’t afford to leave town. “Luckily, there was the wonderful University of Wisconsin-Madison at my back door,” she says. She attended college there, graduating with a degree in civil engineering with an emphasis on design and structure. Like her mom, she was the only woman in her chosen field of study, but she never felt uncomfortable. She was treated like her male counterparts, and just as much was expected of her.

 

Gialamas’ first position was with the Martin Marietta Aerospace Firm in Denver, Colorado, which manufactured the Titan and Apollo Aircrafts. She worked underground, writing Air Force manuals for ballistic missiles. This was during the cold war, in 1969, a time of great civil unrest and of demonstrations against the United States military; once again, Gialamas remained true to herself and to her own convictions.

 

She had met George, “the love of my life,” while she was finishing up at the UW. Unfortunately, at the time, the feelings weren’t completely mutual. “When I found out I would be moving to Denver, I kind of hoped he would ask me not to go,” she remembers with a smile. “He didn’t, and we broke up. I was heartbroken.”  

 

Still, Gialamas remains thankful to this day for her experience working for the military. “Affirmative Action definitely helped me,” she says. “Because of the government contracts, they were looking for women, and I definitely benefited from that. Also,” she adds, “I like to think I was good at what I was doing!”

 

She and her former boyfriend had kept in touch, and before long they were back together. “I returned to Madison in June 1970,” she says. “We married the following August.” At the time, George was in sales and marketing with IBM in Madison, “Just starting out and getting his feet on the ground.”

 

Gialamas started having children right away. “My life really changed in the ‘70s,” she says. Today, Lana is 30 and in residential real estate in Arizona, Thomas is 28 and works with his mom and dad at the Gialamas Company, Gina is 25 and is starting her PhD program in nutritional science at UW-Madison, and Aris is 24 and will graduate from Edgewood College with degrees in business and philosophy. “I always wanted eight or 10 children, but four is plenty,” she smiles. She and George still take an annual vacation, somewhere on the globe, with all of their children. Their most recent exertions have been to Peru and to Antarctica.

 

Gialamas was a stay-at-home-mom, but she remained employed in tasks over and above parenting. Her husband had just started his own real estate business, and Gialamas did bookkeeping, marketing, and telephone communications while her children played around her feet. “As you have more children, it actually gets easier,” she says. “They entertain each other. Having children and working at home was never burdensome – I loved it. The older children would help me peel the vegetables while the toddlers were on the floor banging pans.” Gialamas never felt overwhelmed. “I had no time to think about it,” she said. “I just did what had to be done.”

 

As a working mother of young children, Gialamas also found ways to become involved in her community. She was a member of the Junior League and volunteered for the Ronald McDonald House. “It’s amazing,” she says. “You get out in the community and someone mentions something that interests you. Before you know it, you’ve jumped in with both feet.”

 

The Gialamas Company started in 1975 with two employees: Candy and George. Today, the payroll includes up to 200 for special projects. “We never could have anticipated what it has become,” she says. “It came out of my husband’s dreams and visions. He’s a big-picture person, a visionary. I just cross the Ts and dot the Is.”

 

The Gialamas Company prides itself on its high-end, distinctive properties, which meet distinctive needs of its tenants throughout southern Wisconsin. Its crowning glory at this time is the Old Sauk Trails Park on Madison’s far west side, a 446-acre business and research park which offers a campus-like design with jogging trails, a day care center, green space, and lodging.

 

The firm makes use of new designs and technologies, such as rain gardens, which are both attractive and control water runoff. Gialamas company clients include such distinguished businesses as AAA, Cardinal Stritch College, Bank One, Virchow Krause & Co., and the Dean Foundation. All the projects are special to Gialamas, who says,  “Each building is like a child.” Gialamas takes care of interior decorating, and many of the projects reflect her appreciation for unique and modern art.

 

At The Gialamas Company, “We have an incredible team,” she says. “It’s like one big family. Everyone works cohesively together. Our success and growth is because of the people. And the tenant always comes first.”

 

Not content to simply be a mother, wife, and company VP, Gialamas has continued to increase her civic involvement. The list of organizations and causes in which she has been involved is literally too extensive to publish, but she does have some favorite projects. One of them is the Concert in the Park, which Gialamas started two years ago in the Old Sauk Trails Park. “I always wanted to do a summer outdoor music series,” she says. Hundreds of employees of firms in the park attend the Chamber concerts on summer evenings.

 

Gialamas is also a co-founder of the Madison Country Day School, which provides a private educational alternative to the community, and serves on the school’s Board of Trustees. “Candy has been a source of inspiration and stability,” says Nora Flood, the Head of School. “Her gentle manner and her sense of humor have made her a wonderful mentor…She is passionately committed to the vision of the school.” Gialamas is also on the boards of the new Oak Bank; the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund; the Madison Symphony Orchestra, The Great Performance Fund, the United Way of Dane County, and the WisconsinEye Statewide Campaign, among others. “It can get confusing to decide what to do, because there are so many opportunities here,” she says. “If you’re going to volunteer, you have to do things you’re really happy with.”

 

Gialamas says that she has only recently been feeling a bit too busy. “I’m kind of doing some self-examination,” she says. “I would like to have some free time. But I don’t know what to cut back on. I love everything I’m involved in.”

 

Despite her incredible schedule, Gialamas does find time to nurture her body and her spirit. She’s a voracious reader, she loves to jog, and she practices Bikram yoga four to five times a week. She and her husband are active members of Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Madison. She believes strongly in preventative medicine, including homeopathy and acupuncture. She wakes up early each day, and she sees her children often. And at the same time as she mentions hoping to cut back on her activity level, she mentions that she wants to keep her options open. “I like doing new things,” she says. “I love starting new products.”

 

Gialamas has come a long way since her one-room-schoolhouse days. Her vision is as wide as the community – as wide as womanhood itself. “My advice is not to limit yourself,” Gialamas says to young women who are just deciding who and what they want to be. “There really are no boundaries. Society leaves it to you.”

Teresa Peneguy Paprock

This article originally appeared in ANEW Magazine. Teresa Peneguy Paprock / words & stuff freelancing retains the copyright to this article and it may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without express permission. For reprint rights, contact Teresa Peneguy Paprock at words@chorus.net or P.O. Box 5207, Madison, WI, 53705.

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