Who has inspired you?
My mother. It was an honor to plan my mother’s 100th birthday celebration last April. One gift of having your mother live a long life is that she keeps teaching you lessons. Mom continues to crochet caps for cancer patients. She has made hundreds and hundreds that are all colors, shapes and sizes. I can see that no matter how old we are, it is purpose that gives meaning to life and creates our legacy.
Whom do you hope to inspire?
The Lincoln community. Recently I was visiting with several community members about the increasing divide and gap forming in so many places: locally, in our state and nationally. There was a real sense of discouragement. After listening for a while, I remarked that in my 44-year career, I am feeling more hopeful than ever. We have business leaders working to help build lives at the grassroots level in our highest-need communities. Neighborhoods are working together on early childhood, employment skills and innovation/entrepreneurship. Education institutions are building innovation pathways from cradle to career. Our public, private and philanthropic organizations have come together for projects like the West Haymarket and Antelope Valley. We have faith leaders in our churches, synagogues and mosques guiding us to love one another. I am hopeful because when I think about all the sectors and voices in our community, I feel the energy and know that we can work together so that everyone prospers in Lincoln.
I challenge all of us to be inspired – all who love Lincoln and desire it to be a city like no other, a city where young people want to come to work, play and build their lives. I challenge us to step up and into the action.
What does leadership mean to you?
We all have talents and skills needed in leadership. It is important to learn and know our strengths and then share them generously wherever we have the opportunity. We lead by finding our joy in service to others. This generosity makes us happier. A recent neurological study, led by the University of Zurich and published in Nature Communications, found that there may be some biological truth to the adage “It’s better to give than to receive.” Two groups were studied over a period of time. One group’s members spent the money they were given on themselves, and the other group gave it away. MRI scans afterward showed for those more giving, there was greater activity in the brain area associated with altruism. In addition, this part of the brain was more connected to its reward center. What matters when we lead is how we share.
What is your favorite quote or motto?
Johnnetta Cole, former Spellman College president, wrote in her book Dream the Boldest Dreams – “Leadership comes not only from growing up in a place called home, but from growing out into unfamiliar places.”
How would you describe a great day at work?
People often inquire, “How can you ask people for money?” It is such a privilege to help connect individuals to passions that they care about and want to support. The funds established by donors provide grants that impact arts and culture, education and youth, environment and animals, health and human services, and faith groups. These grants provide resources to accomplish great things. The Lincoln Community Foundation’s mission is to provide leadership and resources to help build a great city. My day is not about asking for money. My day is about connecting passion to purpose. Pinch me!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you?
It was 1991. The Lied Center was in its infancy, and I had the wonderful position of working with the Friends of Lied and the volunteers providing tours in the beautiful new facility. Woody Varner and Sheila Griffin were the magnificent duo running the show. An opportunity for an executive director position at another nonprofit was presented to me. I was torn about leaving the energy and excitement of the Lied. Sheila advised there were not many executive director positions available in Lincoln. She said, “Take the position and make something happen.” I did, and that’s the rest of the story. Thank you, Sheila.
What’s the highlight of your career (so far)?
My colleagues the past 44 years. First are my fellow teachers in Elmwood, Blair and Cozad. What a difference they make every day for our children and youth. The Friends of Lied and volunteers really introduced me to Lincoln in 1989, and I am forever grateful. The staff, board members, volunteers and donors for the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools provided 18 years of comradeship and inspiration as we worked together to provide opportunities for the students, teachers and families in our great public schools. For nearly eight years at the Lincoln Community Foundation, I have worked alongside a dedicated professional staff, board members, donors and volunteers who all love Lincoln and want to help it become an even greater city. My colleagues and I have had great fun and accomplished some good deeds. What could be better than that?
How have you changed over the course of your career?
I hope for the better. I used to relish Roger Larson’s stories and words of wisdom as he would close with “and that’s the way I see it.” Now I often find myself with the most silver hair in the room providing the history and telling stories. As an elder,* I enjoy serving as a mentor for the next generation. Seasons change, and this is an awesome season.
*Elder: anyone over 50.