So what does one say when receiving not one, but two, major awards that reflect a lifetime of work?
It’s all very humbling and when I look in the mirror, I say: “Who, me?”
In October, I received the Distinguished Alumni Award at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay (UWGB) and in November, I was awarded the 2017 Coach of the Year – Women in Business Silver Stevie Award.
Here are my comments at the UWGB awards dinner and they reflect my feelings about the Coach of the Year award as well :
It was August, 1975.
I was registering to return to school and was in the financial aid and student employment office.
I was terrified.
You see, my high school counselor said I wasn’t college material and shouldn’t count on a career.
And my family used to say I was cute but not too bright.
And for many years, I believed them.
On that day in August 1975 – my whole future was about to change.
Myron VanDeVen, Jean Wiggans, Bob Pritchard, Mary Turensky Baranyk and Mary Kay Pankratz saw potential that I didn’t see.
As a work-study student, I worked on projects that made a difference, like the calculations for financial aid and creating a process for student employment. I’m sure my high school math teacher would be horrified!
Back then, the university was less than 10 years old and it was before computers. There wasn’t a system for posting jobs on campus or a centralized place for students to find jobs.
With dozens of index cards, we created centralized system for posting jobs and a selection process that lasted about 8 more years until computers automated it.
That single experience changed my future.
And in 1979, that experience opened another door for me at a little company with 250 employees called Wisconsin Employers Group, now Humana.
During the next 11 years, the company grew to 1700 employees, a billion-dollar, nation-wide company. By the time I left, I was a corporate officer, created almost every human resource function for the company including compensation and performance management systems, a flexible benefit plan, employee recognition programs, a nationally recognized training department, one of the top 25 corporate wellness programs in the country and led a transition team for a major computer systems conversion.
All because Myron, Jean, Bob, Mary and Mary Kay saw potential… and it changed my life.
Throughout my career, as a corporate executive and for the past 18 years of my own business as an executive coach and consultant, I have tried to model their way – to look for potential and provide opportunities. To raise the bar, so they can accomplish things they never thought were possible.
I am humbled and amazed to receive this award tonight. I have to admit, there are times I look in the mirror and still see that young woman, making $2.75/hr, working minimum wage jobs…
And thinking – I know I can do more. But I don’t know what it is or how to do it.
So – on behalf of all the people who are told they’re not bright enough or are told that looks are more important than what they think or how they act or what they do –
I invite all of you – to look around at the people in your life – and look for potential and provide an opportunity.
Be the change!
You never know what might happen.
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