Ray Bishop '81
President, Bishop Photo
Moravian helped him help himself. Now he does the same for others.
"I hire Moravian students because I know what Moravian turns out. The Moravian College students I hire stack up to anyone, anywhere, anytime."
It’s a good bet that if your son or daughter has played youth sports—baseball, soccer, football—in this region, he or she had team pictures taken by a photographer working for Ray Bishop ’81.
Bishop’s company, Bishop Photo, employs photographers from Orlando, Fla., to Boston, Mass., and every year makes memories for thousands of youngsters and their proud parents.
Bishop and his wife, Teri McCandless Bishop ’81 came to their success the hard way—they earned it. He was the first in his family to go to college, and remembers his firefighter father working second and third jobs when he was growing up, in order to support the family of eight, and to buy all six children a Catholic school education.
“There was no money for college,” Bishop recalls. “And there was only one year between my brother and me. We needed to be self-sufficient.”
Bishop’s self-sufficiency began with high school academics. He knew that good grades would open doors for him, and so he studied and did his best, earned high scores on his SATs and was accepted into the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He didn’t feel “called” to go to a military academy, but figured a scholarship would enable him to get the college education he so desired.
He was aware that he could leverage his high school football career, although he also knew he was not a scholarship player who would be able to make it in the bigger divisions. He was ecstatic to receive his Coast Guard Academy acceptance letter, and thought he had his future all figured out until months later when he got a call from the recruiter who gave him the bad news: “I had failed the physical because of my eyesight,” he says.
And although that disappointment stung back then, today, he looks at that moment as one of God’s blessings. “It was April or May of senior year, and I had nowhere to go, and I reached out to my high school teammate, Bill Ormsby ’80 who was a freshman at Moravian,” he explains. Ormsby suggested a meeting with Ed Little, Moravian’s football coach.
“And Moravian got it done for me,” he says. “I applied, got a financial package of loans and work-study, and played football for two years, and that’s how it happened.”
* * *
The first time the Montclair, N.J., native had ever heard of Moravian College was when a family friend, David O’Brien ’78, enrolled. Bishop was an accounting major, a member of the accounting club and Omicron Gamma Omega, but had to work to help pay for his schooling, so he took on a warehouse job with W.W. Grainger that kept him busy for about 30 hours a week.
Bishop had always liked working with figures, but started out as a physics major, which he calls simply “a different approach to numbers. But I switched to accounting and made sure to put all my focus onto the courses in my major, so I would do well,” he says.
Today, Bishop is the president of Bishop Photo, a company that got its start much as Bishop got his at Moravian—with a bit of luck and grace and a lot of knowing how to grab the opportunity that presented itself.
After several years working as a staff accountant and getting his CPA, Bishop joined Prudential in Newark, N.J., as an accountant and continued his education at night, ultimately earning his MBA from Seton Hall University. In 1984 he married Teri and they lived in New Jersey. After starting their family, they moved back to the Lehigh Valley and he continued commuting to Prudential’s headquarters for 18 months. But during this time, he was doing some research into the growing business of youth team sports photography, which increased as the popularity in youth sports grew.
“Our wedding photographer did sports pictures on the side, and I got interested in it and the innovative things like trading cards and magnets that were possible with it,” he says. “I started going to industry trade shows and met people.” Bishop’s outgoing and enthusiastic nature, combined with his willingness to try new things, soon led him to establish one of the top youth sports photography businesses on the east coast.
From trading cards to magnets to buttons to banners to pennants, plaques and trophies, Bishop Photo turns out dozens of products, all personalized to various teams and their players, from its corporate headquarters in Bethlehem. Hundreds of sales and administrative personnel and photographers cover seasonal sports from Florida to Massachusetts.
Bishop takes only partial credit for the success of Bishop Photo. “I was in the right place at the right time,” he insists. “Teri and I always ask each other how it is we were so blessed, and we have been. If it hadn’t been for my poor eyesight and being turned away by the Coast Guard Academy, I wouldn’t have found Moravian or my wife. We wouldn’t have our beautiful children or this business.”
Bishop quotes John F. Kennedy, “To those whom much is given, much is expected,” when he talks about his life’s path. And in his gratitude, he has made it standard practice to give back liberally.
His practice of paying-it-forward starts with employing Moravian students in his Bethlehem facility. Bishop hired Rob Bennett ’96 during his sophomore year at Moravian, and he is now his second-in-command. Mike Forster ’02, also was hired while still a student, and now runs the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., office. “Both of them started with me before they graduated,” explains Bishop. “I hire Moravian students because I know what Moravian turns out. The Moravian College students I hire stack up to anyone, anywhere, anytime.”
Bishop and his wife also are involved in their community through various social service agencies; they have chaired the Catholic Charities gala and the Catholic Church’s Bishop’s Annual Appeal for Northampton County. Bishop also is president of the finance committee for Bethlehem Catholic High School and the president-elect of the Lehigh Valley chapter of Legatus, a national organization of Catholic business executives.
He has served as president of the Lehigh Valley All-Star Football Classic, as a member of the McDonald’s Lehigh Valley football classic board and of the McDonald’s Hall of Fame. “Every year, we sponsor the All-Star game which raises about $25,000 for the Ronald McDonald Camp and House,” he says.
The Bishops’ gratitude to Moravian has recently culminated in the establishment of the $100,000 Bishop Family Scholarship to provide financial aid to students with financial need.
“We know we have been blessed, and we also take great satisfaction in working hard and knowing that what we are able to give back because of that hard work and blessing,” he says. “I just want to try to make it so no one has to do what I did. It was hard.
“We are so very grateful to Moravian, and what it provided for us. The College bent over backwards for me, and then I worked hard to be successful.”