This spring, APS Development Assistant Erin Seamans spoke with Ryan Wellmaker about the Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship program, a scholarship program run by the American Philatelic Society. YPLF supports young philatelists, offers them unique opportunities to attend stamp shows across the country, and connects them with experienced mentors in the philatelic world.
Ryan Wellmaker graduated YPLF in the Class of 2011 on the Author track. Ryan is currently the president at Wellco LLC. and an Investor.
E: Why did you choose to apply for YPLF and what did you expect to accomplish?
R: I did not know what to expect when I was joining. We had a close family friend named Betty Nettles, she was a huge St Louis philatests and I remember going to a stamp show and seeing her, we always had such a great time together and she was quite a fire cracker. She said I should meet Alex Haimann to learn more about the YPLF and she wanted to nominate me to go into the program. Especially 10 years ago, having younger people in the community was not as vibrant. I thought it was a wonderful idea. To keep the hobby alive and keep it fun. Alex is an extraordinary person and such an enthusiastic gentleman whom I still keep in touch with now. He was the person that I looked up to as a young philatelist, needing to have guidance and he was relatively my age and showing me more about philately other than attending stamp shows. YPLF was my first glimpse into the stamp community of Philately. I was always recognized by people because of my grandfather since I would attend Shows with him and I would end up chatting to people at the dealers as a young kid. When I started the program, I had no idea at all the immensity of philately but by the time I ended the YPLF program not only did I understand the massive amounts of logistics involved to get these exhibitors and dealers and then reaching out to collectors, and also everything between. I did not know at all what to expect and by the end of it, I had a truly tremendous appreciation for the hobby.
E: Can you recall a moment or memory from your time as a Fellow that was significant in your learning process?
R: Absolutely, I had to give a speech at Richmond, Virginia and it was the closing of my YPLF year. I had to give a summary of my experiences, talk about my area of collecting interest and that was my first major public presentation for a non-academic reason. So, I was super nervous about it because the majority of the people in the room were of great importance and I wanted to make an impact on the program because it was still young. I wanted them to know how thankful I was for the program. I remember that same night at the awards banquet I received an award that was a pair of golden tongs in which I was able to recognize both Betty Nettles and my grandfather for their contributions for getting involved with philately and made the YPLF fellowship happen for me.
E: Who was your mentor and what did you take away from that relationship?
R: Having Alex as my mentor was the most inclusive, even though I was on the Author track and didn't write as much, the knowledge and connections I learned through Alex were so invaluable to me since I work in so many facets currently in the philatelic community.
E: In what ways have you been involved in the philatelic community since graduating from YPLF?
R: I met my wife, that was a pretty big and the most significant moment in my philatelic career. Upon graduating from the program, I stayed very involved with participating in shows and it wasn't until that I met Jessica that I started getting involved with the hobby more. What I ended up supporting was the Bourse for a WPS show at Filtelic Fiesta and was on the committee for WestPex and flew out to California. Just to see how to put together a world-class show like WestPex together from the office was profound. I am also active and involved with the Classics society to find Authors for our sections in the American Philatelist. I am always looking for members of the Classic Society who would like to write about something within the classical period that is fun and eye-catching. I also was a member of the Civil War Philatelic Society because I was intrigued by New Orleans since I attended school there and the history of the area during that time.
E: What are your long-term goals in philately?
R: I’d like to exhibit and to some people it might be easier, but for me who’s never done it before it does take a lot of work, so I would like to have an award-winning exhibit as a goal. Another goal that I have is to travel the work and see various stamp shows in many different countries. I’m not near as active as Jessica when it comes to exhibiting, but I definitely am active in the philanthropy aspect. So, when we donate our dollars to local philatelic events, I want to be one of those people that has the ability to invest in people to all over the US and all over the world to grow the hobby. My pinnacle goal is to be one of the people that invested in me to get where I appreciate the hobby today.
E: What would you say to someone considering joining YPLF?
R: They are going to see a side of philately they have not seen before, that should not scare them and open it with open arms because you will see a tremendous amount of energy, work and knowledge being put into the hobby that you otherwise wouldn’t have the appreciation for. Remember that through the times that you travel to these places and dinner with wonderful stamp people, remember the people that want to invest in you because you are the future of the hobby. That is the biggest take away I have from my experience at YPLF. When considering it just know you will be buckled up for an amazing journey and at the end of the journey remember the people that invested in you, entrusted in you to see the hobby into the future.
E: Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience of fellows, alumni, donors, and potential applicants?
R: Big thank you to those who have contributed to the YPLF program, and for those looking to considering to get involved with the program it is an experience that is irreplaceable and you will make life long friends and connections and you would have never made otherwise.