Who has inspired you?
From my earliest memories I have been inspired by my hardworking grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression and would have given someone the shirts off their backs. My grandmothers were especially amazing as women who lived through many difficult times, but continued to laugh, love and fight fiercely for their families. My young parents also inspired me. They were teenagers and they did a great job of raising kids and building a home. My amazing mom graduated from college and graduate school, and my dad worked many long nights. As an adult, you learn to appreciate your family more, but I have always been proud of the generosity, honesty and value of hard work and customer service instilled in me by my family. I am also lucky in my academic and professional careers to have had many wonderful mentors. And over the years, I have met some amazing people – fellow Rotarians, nonprofit board members, elected officials, college students, entrepreneurs and community volunteers, as well as thousands of inspirational patients we have seen at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital over the last 58 years. Every day is a gift of grace.
Whom do you hope to inspire?
I hope I inspire others in a couple of different ways. I hope I inspire my daughters and my son to lead authentic lives of service, finding happiness and meaning in good work and in their families. And I hope to share with everyone I meet the importance and dignity of all people – especially people with disabilities. Everyone should feel valued and loved.
What does leadership mean to you?
Service. Robert Greenleaf said of servant leadership, “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.” I don’t know if that is why I have a hard time saying “no” to a project, committee or board. When you see needs in your community, you want to help. Helping others to succeed is the highest form of leadership in my book.
What is your favorite quote or motto?
“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
How would you describe a great day at work?
It involves introducing new friends to the work we do at Madonna! Ask anyone who knows me; I can (and will) talk about our patients and their stories all day long. It also involves knowing that I can make a difference in people’s lives. Even though I am not a nurse or a therapist, I can help get individuals back to their fullest lives possible. Sometimes that means that Santa shows up with presents for the kids in our pediatric unit. Sometimes it means a volunteer hauls in prizes for the weekly bingo games. Other times it means a generous supporter makes a gift toward a transformational initiative. All those people help us improve lives. How great is that? I guess knowing that you make a difference – THAT is a great day. That and a large fountain Diet Pepsi.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you?
I have had some great mentors in my life. First of all, my dad has given me a lot of sage advice – some of it a little salty, but all of it right on. He reminded me that I didn’t need to shower and dress up to go out and do the chores in a timely manner. “Honey, it’s not a fashion show.” This advice continues to be valid in many ways.
And when I was first in the workforce, my kids were young and things were harried. A friend, mentor and former boss told me to think of work as a refuge from the other cares in the world. See your career as a great opportunity to focus on using your skills and helping others. Many of my friends and I are at a place in our careers where we work hard, we are having success, but we also have children we are launching and aging parents. All of this boils down to being intentional and maintaining perspective.
Third, our church minister Otis Young used to give great advice as well. He used to give a sermon every year that started with this line, “Life is difficult.” I think once you accept that, your life actually becomes more joyful.
What’s the highlight of your career (so far)?
Every patient that walks (or rolls) out the door of Madonna to continue their life as an independent adult or a child heading back to school is a highlight. Building relationships in the community is a highlight. Graduating with an MBA from Nebraska Wesleyan this spring will be a HUGE highlight. I also tend to find happiness in a lot of little things.
How have you changed over the course of your career?
I have gotten more confident and feel more comfortable in my own skin. I don’t feel like I have to try to be someone I am not to be a success. I try to learn something new every day (also advice from dad) and I try not to sweat the small stuff.