What courageous leadership looks like

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Ritchie Geisel and Pam, his wife, enjoying the Hillsides H100 Farm to Table event.

Ritchie Geisel stepped down as the CEO and President of Bienvenidos on Monday, Aug. 1. This represents one more milestone in the integration of Bienvenidos and Hillsides as I now assume those responsibilities for both organizations. At 71, a full year beyond what he had hoped would have been his retirement, Ritchie stayed on to assure that the transition between the two organizations would be smooth and effective. Throughout this transition period, Ritchie has stayed focused on the mission of Bienvenidos, those served by its many programs, and the well-being of the dedicated Bienvenidos staff. His unwavering commitment reflects his character as a visionary leader.

On Thursday, July 28, a group of staff, board members, friends, and colleagues gathered to acknowledge Ritchie’s tenure at Bienvenidos. The testimonials that were offered reflected the extraordinary career he has enjoyed. With an education pedigree that includes degrees from Princeton and Stanford, Ritchie could have pursued far more lucrative careers than what he chose in the nonprofit sector, but he nevertheless dedicated his professional life to serving the vulnerable and less fortunate. At no time during his decades of service was the work without challenges, requiring personal sacrifice and considerable perseverance.  Some reflected that perhaps it was his discipline as an Olympic-qualified runner that influenced the work ethic he brought to the many leadership positions that he held in the nonprofit community.

The quality of Ritchie that stands out for me is his courage. Eight years ago when he assumed the CEO position at Bienvenidos, the organization was at a crossroad, in need of being reinvented as it restated its mission to serve vulnerable children and families. In a masterful way, Ritchie engaged staff, board members and clients in a dialogue that set a direction for Bienvenidos. Dreams were realized, risks were entertained and ultimately the mission was strengthened. All of these efforts required a forward- thinking leader who was fearless without being cavalier, persistent while flexible, confident and courageous. Eight years later, the organization is debt-free, enjoys an excellent reputation and was poised for the process that has led to its affiliation with Hillsides.

Part of his legacy is a strong, loyal and dedicated team of leaders who join with the Hillsides team to not only sustain the mission of Bienvenidos but embrace the challenge of creating an effective and impactful combined organization that will exceed the expectations each held individually.

It is not often that this blog is used to call attention to an individual.  However,  the significant accomplishments of such a fine leader is important for us to feature because it serves to demonstrate yet one more reason why organizations like Hillsides and Bienvenidos are so successful: its mission-driven staff and leadership.

Thank you, Ritchie Geisel. May you enjoy health, happiness and many more years contributing to the well-being of our community.

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