JCC President DeCinque Honored As Chautauqua Leadership Network Leader Of The Year

MAYVILLE – After a memorable and distinguished career, JCC President Greg DeCinque was recognized for two decades of leadership.

The Chautauqua Leadership Network, whose mission is to identify and nurture regional leaders, provide a framework for an emerging network of skilled civic trustees and help our communities to meet the challenges of today and the opportunities of tomorrow, presented its annual leadership award to DeCinque, who will retire at the end of the summer, in front of a full room at Webb’s Captain’s Table Restaurant on Thursday night.

Although JCC was well-represented at the event, several other notable faces were in the crowd, such as R. Bard Schaack, Esq., Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I-Chautauqua County, and Virginia Horvath, SUNY Fredonia president.

The ceremony welcoming was presented by past CLN president, Andrew Nixon, before dinner was served.

“This evening we will presenting the 2013 Leader of the Year award,” said Nixon. “This award has been presented to 17 individuals whose leadership activities are consistent with the vision and mission of the (CLN).”

The dinner invocation was presented by Sylvia Stenander, CLN class of 1993.

“Steven Covey said, management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success,” said Stenander. “Leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. Tonight, we need to honor someone who found the right wall.”

Following dinner, opening remarks for the event were presented by Matt Ewalt, Chautauqua Daily editor and CLN president.

“This program is designed to improve one’s own leadership skills, but more importantly to expand the awareness of the communities in the county, and to truly make a difference in the quality of life in Chautauqua County,” said Ewalt. “The success of CLN is due in great part to the work of (Penelope Hutton), but also the work of the board and committees.”

Following the recognition of the CLN board, Schaack, who Ewalt referred to as “the godfather of the CLN” gave a reflection of past CLN events and memories.

“Our honoree tonight, Greg DeCinque, is the last of the education leaders that we met with back in 1991 who is still working,” said Schaack. “And we’re thrilled that he’s still working.”

Schaack continued by discussing the work of the Rev. M. Dean Patton, who helped to establish the CLN, and passed away in late March. Since Patton helped to establish the CLN, more than 500 people have gone through the program.

Next, DeCinque was recognized by several of his peers, beginning with Horvath.

“I’m here representing the Chancellor of the State University of New York, Dr. Nancy Zimpher, and I have a letter to read from her,” said Horvath. “Friends, it is my great pleasure to congratulate on behalf of the entire SUNY system Greg DeCinque on his receipt of the CLN Leader of the Year award. … As I have told Greg in the past, he knows better than anyone the crucial role community colleges play in not only shaping individual lives, but New York’s and the nation’s future. After two years of strong leadership, JCC has become a model for what community colleges should be. His will be tough shoes to fill, once he steps down. I can think of no one more deserving of this award. We are very grateful to count him as a member of the SUNY family.”

During his recognition of DeCinque, Goodell brought some levity to an otherwise emotional event.

“You cannot get a better value from a two-year college anywhere, and if you follow it up with SUNY Fredonia, you’ve got a winning combination,” said Goodell.

At this prompting, Horvath stood and applauded, and laughter followed.

“So, I’ve prepared this citation, and it’s very small print, and it lists some of Greg’s accomplishments,” continued Goodell. “It’s very long, so if anyone would like to order another drink, now is the time. As a curtsey to you all, I’m just going to read the first and last lines. ‘As a member of the New York State assembly, following the customs of our legislative body, and on behalf of the citizens of the state of New York, I am pleased to acknowledge the significant milestones in the distinguished career of an exemplary individual, whose dedication and achievements have been instrumental in developing character and academic excellence in Chautauqua County and individuals across the state. It is my pleasure to commend the effort of Greg DeCinque.'”

Christine Schuyler, CLN class of 2008 and Chautauqua County Department of Health director, read a letter of recognition from Greg Edwards, county executive, congratulating DeCinque.

Next, Denise Burbey, CLN class of 1999, presented a video reflecting on DeCinque’s career, which featured footage of a much younger DeCinque and Nelson Garifi talking about what DeCinque envisioned he would bring to JCC. The video also contained heartfelt thanks from several JCC faculty members.

Finally, DeCinque approached the podium to accept his award. In his speech, he thanked those who helped him during his career, and explained he formula that helped him to become the leader he is.

“I’ve come up with my own equation about leadership effectiveness: T+CC+HH+L+P+WWW= effective leadership,” said DeCinque. “The T is trust. I think if there is no trust, nothing is going to happen. It is the responsibility of the leader to develop trust in an organization. The first C is consistency, and that means being fair at all times. If people who are around you view you as unfair, you’re going to have a much harder road. The second C is culture. I have always believed it’s the leaders job to create an environment where people can do good work. The first H is humility, and I’ve had problems with it. You are, as the leader, not better than anyone else, no matter what your dog tells you. Humility needs to be evident in leadership. The next H is humor. Humor is good, and sometimes it’s risky, but humor in an organization is very important. The L is longevity. I used to think you could change an organization as a strong leader, but I now believe that you’re looking at least 10 years to change anything. If you don’t have longevity, nothing is going to change. The P is patience. Sometimes you just have to trust the process. Finally, the Ws are: we, we, we. It always has to be we in an organization. If the leader takes all the credit, the culture you need in an organization is never going to be built. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”