The four female leaders honored by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce as this year’s Women in Leadership honorees have far-reaching community roles that couldn’t be more different.
But each expressed in her own way gratitude to the community of Columbus, their employers, their families and friends for opportunities they have to lead, mentor and make a path for the women leaders of the future.
About 300 guests gathered Friday afternoon at The Commons for the fourth annual Women in Leadership Lunch to honor the four local women:
Lisa Shafran, president of Turning Point Domestic Violence Services
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Julie Quesenbery, Columbus police officer serving as a school resource officer
Jean Donica, co-owner and broker, Re/Max Real Estate
Jennifer Rumsey, vice president and chief technical officer of Cummins, Inc.
Each honoree received a standing ovation after sharing her thoughts about women in leadership roles. Each was introduced in short videos by a person who has worked closely with them.
Lisa Shafran was introduced by Sherry Stark, former leader of the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, who Shafran said took a chance on her by naming her director of development and giving her the job of raising $3 million for a new Commons building in downtown Columbus.“Over $4.2 million was raised,” Stark said in her video, a subtle reminder that the venue for the banquet Friday existed through Shafran’s hard work.
Stark described how Shafran would work with donors who were often struggling to create a fund in memory of a loved one, and that she always made them feel comfortable, affirmed and supported. She praised Shafran’s intelligence, her warmth and wit and particularly her empathy for all those she assists in her work at Turning Point to prevent and eliminate domestic violence in a seven-county area.
Shafran told the audience that when she “grew up” she wanted to be just like Stark, drawing laughter from the crowd. She credited Stark with teaching her the importance of service beyond self.
Giving a nod to her love of quotations, Shafran quoted a Bible passage from Luke 12 at the end of her talk, asking the audience to remember “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
She encouraged people in the audience to think about their talents, their time, their knowledge, their resources and their compassion, saying the challenge is to know your “much” and then do what you believe in.
Quesenbery’s school family
Julie Quesenbery was introduced on video by Larry Perkinson, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. employee and student assistance coordinator, who lauded the school resource officer for her compassionate approach as a police officer working with families and students.“She does what our great police officers do; she becomes part of that school community,” Perkinson said, mentioning that Quesenbery has been instrumental in developing a safety program to help local graduates be safe in college, and that she saved the life of one student overdosing in a high school restroom by reviving her with naloxone.
“She’s an officer of the heart,” Perkinson said.
Police Chief Jon Rohde echoed Perkinson’s comments, adding that in many job descriptions, the final item suggests the employee will perform other duties as assigned.
“That means they are going to get a whole bunch of extra work they didn’t expect thrown at them,” Rohde said, which generated more laughter from the crowd.
“When Julie saw that, she saw it as an opportunity to do more,” Rohde said.
In addition to the safety program, Rohde said Quesenbery runs with the cross country team at Columbus East — one of the schools she supports — to build more trusting relationships at the school.
“The kids there know, now matter what, they’ve got a friend who happens to be a cop,” Rohde said. “I know she has worked with families to make sure students get to school, and to make sure they go home to a safe environment.”
Quesenbery paid tribute to her family, especially two sisters, and expressed thanks that her dream job as a Columbus Police Department officer materialized.
“Then I had kids,” she said, describing their arrivals as events that sent her love for police work into a different direction.
Becoming a school resource officer was something she said she knew she had to do.
She expressed gratitude to BCSC for its support of the school resource officer program, and appreciation for fellow resource officer Eric Stevens, whose schools include Columbus North.
She thanked Rohde, saying she loved working for the Columbus department, and also thanked Perkinson, describing him as a terrific resource and mentor.
“These are the amazing people I work with,” she said.
Daughter Cindy Donica introduced Jean Donica in her video, describing her mother’s style as leading by example.Jean Donica started a business decades ago, long before it was common for women to be in such roles.
Describing her wide-ranging occupations from running a moving company, including driving a truck, to bookkeeping, working as a florist and eventually becoming a real estate company owner, her daughter said the one word that described her mother was perseverance.
Jean Donica, who was then introduced by her son Matt at the podium, told the audience she was much more comfortable talking to individuals one-on-one.
She talked about driving around Columbus and just looking for what the city needed to do to make improvements, and seeing the improvements that were already there.
“A vision from someone made that happen,” she said. “There’s a lot you can do to make that happen.”
Donica, too, had a funny story, crediting Stark with helping her become a tour guide for the Columbus Visitors Center tours, which required applicants to take classes to learn about Columbus architecture.
“It takes more hours to become a tour guide in Columbus than it does to be licensed real estate agent,” she said, as the crowd erupted in laughter.
“It gives me such pride to be able to show and tell about our great community,” she said.
Rumsey gets technical
Jennifer Rumsey was introduced in a video from Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger, who enthusiastically described her as a brilliant, loyal, dedicated leader who is a superwoman for the engine company as its first female technical officer.Introduced at the podium by Tracy Embree, vice president of Cummins Inc. and president of Cummins Components, Embree said she was worked closely with Rumsey over the past decade.
“We’ve grown together as leaders, mothers and friends,” she said, adding that Rumsey is someone who always inspires her to strive to do better with every new situation around every corner.
Rumsey encouraged the audience to consider helping students find their way to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, a path she took with mechanical engineering degrees from Purdue University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She said she was fortunate to have strong female role models throughout her career, and a strong support system around her that allows her to have a work-life balance with career and motherhood.
Rumsey also reminded the audience that biases still exist in the workplace for women that may not seem overt, and perhaps have been laughed off in the past.
Most of the biases aren’t intentional, she said, meaning those who say something may not realize that a statement or phrase is really a question of whether a woman really belongs where she is in the company.
One example she shared was from a customer who said it must be difficult for her to be a chief technical officer as a woman, she said.
“I said it’s difficult to be a CTO as a woman or a man,” Rumsey said.
Rumsey encouraged women to avoid being their own worst enemies and instead start becoming an advocate for ourselves.
When one of her daughters was a sixth grader at Southside Elementary School, she went to talk to a group of 15 of them, and was startled to learn that only two were STEM careers, and one was her daughter.
That led her to work with the school’s robotics program, to encourage more girls, as well as boys, to participate in STEM, she said.
She suggested that audience members also encourage youth to dream big.
“Together we can make a positive difference,” she said.
Jean Donica launched RE/MAX Real Estate Professionals 27 years ago with her daughter Annette, which now has 38 real estate agents. She received the Re/Max Distinguished Service Award in 1993 and Broker/Owner Award in 2015 and 2016.
She serves in a variety of leadership roles with trade associations, community organizations and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.
Julie Quesenbery is a Columbus Police Department officer serving as school resource officer at Columbus East and other schools since 2014.
She has provided self-defense training for students and administered a life-saving dose of naloxone to save a student from overdosing.
The 2001 graduate of Tell City High School has served as a DARE officer, member of the Honor Guard and bike patrol unit, as well as a field training officer. The former substitute teacher holds an associate’s degree in law enforcement from Vincennes University and a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Indiana State University.
Jennifer Rumsey is vice president and chief technical officer at Cummins, Inc. She leads the global technical organization responsible for research and engineering across Cummins’ business units.
She has a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and a master of science in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Earlier this year, she was named a Distinguished Alumnae at Purdue University. She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers, Society of Automotive Engineers and Women in Trucking Association.
Lisa Shafran is president of Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, an organization working to prevent and eliminate domestic and dating violence in seven counties.
She previous served in leadership roles at Neiman Marcus, IUPUC and Heritage Fund of Bartholomew County. While at Heritage Fund, she launched the Women’s Giving Circle and organized volunteers for the Save the Commons campaign.
Her community leadership roles include Columbus Service League and United Way of Bartholomew County.
Women in Leadership keynote speaker Linda DeClue, retired Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. assistant superintendent for human resources, provided a lighthearted guide to leadership by using the tenets of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
Here are her tips on leadership, from the bestselling book.
- Share everything: “As far as leadership style, I believe in collaboration,” DeClue said. “I am a better leader when I share.”
- Play fair: “My integrity as a leader is of the utmost importance to me,” she said. “I do believe and hope people will remember how I treated them and I played fair.”
- Don’t hit people: “Look at the broader context,” she said. “The words you use as a leader are important. In times of stress, remember not to hit people with angry words or sarcasm.”
- Clean up your own mess: “Leadership is hard work,” she said. “Sometimes it’s messy. Remember to clean up your own mess.”
- Put things back where you found them: “I believe in being organized,” she said. “I believe it’s important to feel like I am prepared. I want to be able to locate things quickly for meetings or projects.
- Say you’re sorry: DeClue said part of her job was telling someone they didn’t get a job that they wanted, or telling a room of parents their youngsters were going through redistricting. “I hope that the sympathy and empathy I brought to those conversations made a difference,” she said.
- Take a nap every afternoon: In the broader sense, take care of yourself, she said. Bring your best self to the table.