This blog is part of a series from alumni about their experience in Scottsdale Leadership. Scottsdale Leadership is currently recruiting participants for Class 26. Visit scottsdaleleadership.org for details.
It seems hard to believe that fifteen years has gone by since Class 10 graduated from Scottsdale Leadership. So much has happened within our community to substantiate the continued need for such a worthwhile program. When I look back at the Leadership experience, I recall many fond memories of numerous community leaders giving of their time and talents to benefit Scottsdale and help keep it a special place to live and work. The experience helped open my eyes to the huge opportunities we have to contribute to the betterment of our local community.
At that time I was working round the clock as a Vice-President for Robinsons Department Stores and Manager of the Scottsdale Fashion Square Store. Sixty hour work weeks were the norm and when adding the social responsibilities of the position there was rarely time for anything other than work.
When a good friend and local activist, Bill Heckman, recommended that I commit myself to the Scottsdale Leadership program, I did so not knowing that it would have a major impact on my life. I met many truly wonderful, civic minded, concerned and involved citizens during the nine month program. I began to look forward to the classes knowing that I would be learning, experiencing so many new things and meeting unique people who invest themselves in community stewardship.
Human and Social Services day was an eye opener for me. The day chair was Eileen Rogers; a women of such intense compassion and warmth that her very presence and personal belief in helping others and making a difference was mesmerizing. As she guided class 10 through the maze of needs, services and hopes of non profits, the senior center and finally the Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped, now called STARS, many of my classmates became enamored with her grace and style, and the manner in which she presented the various opportunities where people could help or contribute their time, talents or financial assistance.
Personally, this was a turning point in my life and Eileen Rogers was the inspiration I needed to make difficult career decisions. After Eileen’s presentation at the Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped, I approached her and asked how I could help, how I could make a difference and if I could work with her in some way. She invited me to participate in many projects the following year including becoming a co-chair with her of the Human and Social Services Day for Scottsdale Leadership the following year. She encouraged me to follow my heart and contribute my time to an organization that I felt connected with. In turn, I joined the Board of Directors of the Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped and within a few years served as their President. Fifteen years later, I still contribute to STARS as a past-president and now a Los Padrinos, (Godfather) for their advisory board.
When an opportunity to help guide STARS through a tough financial time arose, Eileen suggested that I consider taking a position with the non-profit, leaving a 25 year career in retail. I actually did so, in part because of her strength of conviction and an opportunity to put my business skills to use helping a non-profit survive lean times. She helped focus my life in a very positive direction with her keen sense of purpose and dedication to helping others.
Eileen Rogers is a “gem” to many non-profits, boards, commissions and agencies who have had the luck to work with her. She has earned numerous awards and recognition for her continuous efforts to help others, both here and abroad…even as far as Africa. Eileen has been recognized as a true leader in every sense of the word. She is even an Athena Award winner. She deserves each and every one of these accolades and more. However, when I think back, fifteen years ago, to the moment when Eileen Rogers entered my life, during Human and Social Services day, I can only count my blessings and be thankful for the opportunity the Scottsdale Leadership experience afforded me. I met a woman who has become a dear friend and continues to be an inspiration to me and so many others.