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Select Leader Seniors Take on Southern Florida

Monday, February 11 2019 02:40am

Last month, the senior members of the Select Leadership Development Program spent three days visiting notable Ohio University alumni who now reside in Southern Florida. Here are the highlights of this fantastic trip.

Day 1

Alumni Engagement, Delray Beach, FL

Day 1 Kaufmans

The group began the day with Amy Kaufman, Ohio University alumna and CEO of Swift Funding, and her husband, Matt Kaufman. This meeting certainly set a high bar for all following engagements. The event took place over lunch and was comprised mostly of panel-style questions and answers session.

The Kaufmans touched on multiple facets of life, including personal, professional, and general insight. A theme that Amy constantly alluded to is an eagerness to seize an opportunity. (This idea is increasingly relevant for the senior group as they transition toward post-college life.)

Similarly, Matt emphasized the importance of relieving yourself of the notion that there is a work-life balance. Life is always in flux, and it’s essential that you position yourself in a way that provides you with the most happiness. Select Leader Evan Berryman left with the thought, “Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.”

Alumni Engagement, Jupiter, FL                                                                   

Day 1 Bob Patrella

Later that day, the Select Leaders headed to Jupiter to meet with Bob and Ginny Patrella. Bob, an OHIO alumnus and the former owner and CEO of Guernsey Bancorp, Inc., shared about his early life and background, his extensive career in banking and real estate development, and some pieces of advice that he coined “Bob-isms.”

Select Leader Jackie Andrascik recalled, “The engagement that we had with Bob and Ginny Patrella was extremely entertaining. Mr. Patrella’s 'Bob-isms' extended beyond professional wisdom. His lack of a fear of failure was inspiring because in order to make a big impact you have to take smart risks.”

In his talk, Bob focused on two "Bob-isms."

The first was that life is split into four main quadrants:

  • Age 20 Develop Knowledge Through Formal Education
  • Age 40 Learn and Apply Skills in Your Career
  • Age 60 Build Net Worth
  • Age 80+ Enjoy Your Net Worth

Bob illustrated this concept with a cardboard sheet divided into four boxes representing what one should focus on during each stage of life. He asked the students’ ages and then ripped off the 20 box, because that part of life is over, and it is time to focus on the remaining boxes.

His next main point was that anything worth doing will take longer than you think, will cost more than you think, and will be harder than you think, but you should still do it anyway.


Day 2

Alumni Engagement, St. Pete Beach, FL

photo from Day 2 with John Gainor

The next day, the Select Leaders had lunch at the Don CeSar hotel with more successful OHIO alumni — John and Nancy Gainor. John Gainor, the former president and CEO of International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ), walked the students through his career, including lessons he learned, then opened up the conversation to questions.

One piece of wisdom John shared was the importance of friendliness and trust in business relationships. He noted that his ability to work with people not only provided results but created an ideal working environment. He also acknowledged his wife’s role in his success, explaining how critical it is to have a partner who not only supports and understands you but makes you a better person.

Additionally, John discussed the importance of developing talent and planning succession. He stated that his proudest accomplishment in business was identifying Troy Bader as a worthy successor, then helping him develop into an IDQ leader.

John wrapped up with two lessons he learned while working under Warren Buffet in the Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. family: (1) Avoid micro-managing, and (2) In business, reputation is everything. John told the group that his number one goal as CEO and president of IDQ was to safeguard and improve the organization’s reputation domestically and internationally.

Alumni Engagement and Tour of Masonite International, Tampa, FL

Day 2 Bob Paxton

The students then had the great opportunity to meet with Bob Paxton, the current senior vice president of human resources at Masonite International, a door manufacturer. They also toured Masonite’s Digital Practice space in their headquarters in Tampa.

The visit began with a brief overview of Masonite’s history and personal background on Bob and how he came to join the organization. In his talk, Bob emphasized that part of his role as senior VP of HR is to ensure safety on all levels of the of the company, whether it’s in the manufacturing plants or the corporate offices in Tampa.

Bob stated that the company’s slogan, “We help people walk through walls” really resonated with him, and he tries to live by that vision every day by keeping his team safe and reaching out to local communities.

Later that evening, the students attended a networking event in Tampa. Among the alumni they connected with were Chad Doran, senior talent manager at Raymond James Financial, and Dan Williams, partnership activation account executive with the Tampa Bay Lightning.


Day 3

Networking Luncheon, Lakewood Ranch, FL

photo with Bill Axline

On Day 3 of the trip, Bill and Barb Axline hosted a luncheon for the Select Leaders at their home in Lakewood Ranch. Bill, a Bobcat alumnus, has held senior-level positions in several organizations, most recently at Actuant Corporation. Among the other speakers were Larry McHale, a significant contributor to the interdisciplinary sales curriculum at OHIO, Tom Krueger, OHIO alumnus and retired professional from Mitsubishi, and John Burns, director of legal affairs emeritus and former OHIO professor.

The presenters shared their career stories and explained the responsibilities and challenges of leading organizations and employees at a high level. They communicated personal experiences and encouraged the group to prepare for changes and shifts in future career paths. Their lessons focused on the balance between taking charge and relying on the abilities of the people around you.

Senior Kevin Moberg reflected on the engagement, stating, “It’s important that Select Leaders have these conversations with alumni because it provides us with incredible insight and encourages us to follow in their footsteps and build relationships with younger leaders.”

At the end of the luncheon, the Select Leaders in the Schey Sales Centre presented Larry McHale with a Schey Sales Centre flag to thank him for starting the program and for his continued mentorship.

Networking Reception, Naples, FL

The trip ended on Friday night with a series of alumni presentations followed by a casual reception. The reception gave students the opportunity to have one-on-one interactions with the speakers and other distinguished alumni and friends of the University.

Among the attendees were Ohio University alumni, trustees, and supporters like Sheila McHale and Phil and Pat Muck; Vince Byrd, former president and COO of the J.M. Smucker Company; Chuck Ciuni, partner at Deloitte; business owners Bob Rudy, Bob Davis, and Lou Vlasho.


Final Reflections

Day 4Of the insights and advice given to members throughout the event, two themes prevailed: the importance of aligning your career with your passion for maintaining a sense of purpose, and the importance of continuous self-reflection.

Another theme was the significance of giving back to the University as soon as possible. The alumni and friends of Ohio University who participated in this three-day event continued to model this ethic when they generously shared their time and wisdom with the Select Leaders.

Select Leader Chad Cipollone summed up his experience eloquently: “The alumni event provided us with the advice and motivation to chase our aspirations throughout our careers. We also realized the importance of maintaining our connections with one another as we progress through our professional lives.” 


The Robert D. Walter Center for Strategic Leadership at Ohio University prides itself on offering the Select Leadership Development Program for high achieving undergraduate students, giving them the opportunity to explore their leadership identity through self-awareness assessments, curriculum, experiential learning and active mentoring. By modeling this program and its approach — based on the Top 25 Companies for Leaders — the Walter Center strives to offer relevant learning that transfers directly to the workplace of today. The Select Leaders have the opportunity to learn about the successes and challenges of leaders from company visits with industry executives of companies such as Cardinal Health, Whirlpool, Dell, Microsoft, and Amazon. The aim is to continuously expose students to the challenges of leadership before they begin employment to facilitate development of a long-term journey of self-discovery, reflection and leadership renewal. Students from this program experience 100% placement in top organizations and graduate programs around the world.