Jim Latta (January 2017)

Chance Meeting Leads Alums to Longtime Business Partnership and More

By DeVry University

One was already well established in the audio systems design, installation and service industry, the other a high school senior. Both hailed from America’s heartland in Central Indiana. Little did Jim Latta and David Calvert know a chance meeting in a school gym 35+ years ago would lead to a personal and professional relationship that’s still going strong.

The Early Years
After losing his video systems engineer job due to a tough economy in the early ’70s, alumnus Latta (’56, ’59) maintained a steady flow of sound system project work. For larger jobs, he solicited the help of an industry acquaintance. This working relationship kindled their entrepreneurial spirit, and the two soon formed their own company, Sound Around. While neither relied on Sound Around for full-time employment, Latta and his partner nurtured the business for a decade before amicably parting ways. Sound Around remained with Latta.

Enter that high school senior, David Calvert. Latta and Calvert first crossed path in 1981 when the elder was hired to perform sound system checks for Calvert’s high school gym, field and theater. Latta needed an assistant, and Calvert – a self-proclaimed “AV geek” – jumped at the chance.

“It was my job to prepare the systems before Jim got there, and Jim was to check my work,” explained Calvert. “We hit it off immediately. Jim was patient, knowledgeable and willing to answer every question I had.”

A Partnership is Born
Impressed with Calvert from the get-go, Latta asked his protégé if he wanted to help set up and operate a PA system for an upcoming church festival. Calvert didn’t hesitate. It was his first paid job in the audio industry, and he delivered. It was also the beginning of the team’s decades-long professional relationship.

Since the ’80s, Sound Around, under Latta and Calvert’s leadership, has served Central Indiana as one of the “little guys,” skillfully meeting the audio needs of churches, schools and civic groups that often prefer little guy personal service and supporting locally owned businesses. Sometimes fulfilling clients’ needs requires adapting technology on hand to newer methods of using it. “We’ll ‘invent’ an interface or custom piece to make things work better. Sound Around can do larger jobs, but we choose to focus on those we know we can manage without hiring outside help,” said Calvert.

A few years ago, Calvert and another partner formally took ownership of Sound Around, with Latta continuing as a consultant. Today, Latta likes to say, “At age 82, I do what I do best now…end-of-finger engineering. I point!” He also remains active in the industry as a life member of the Audio Engineering Society. 

Mutual Respect
Calvert credits Latta as his inspiration for attending DeVry. “Jim always spoke so highly of DeVry, and since I knew I needed formal education to ground my field experience with Sound Around, I explored it,” said Calvert. Not only did he explore, but he enrolled and excelled. In 1986, Calvert graduated from the Electronics Technician program at DeVry’s Chicago campus, finishing at the top of his class and with a perfect 4.0.

Latta and Calvert are complimentary of each other’s expertise and integrity, attributing much of these to their DeVry education. “David is far faster than I ever was at acoustic analysis and CAD projections,” said Latta. “Honesty and quality workmanship continue for Sound Around customers under David’s leadership. His strengths are very similar to mine, as we were both taught what I believe is the right way – the DeVry way.”

Calvert concurs. “I’m a hands-on guy, and DeVry taught me foundational service principles and afforded me great learning opportunities,” he said. “I use those lessons every day.”

Jim Latta and David Calvert – DeVry alumni from different generations, both with great appreciation for their education, their craft and the business they built together. The Sound Around and DeVry legacies continue.