Q&A: Mary Lee Gannon
Mary Lee Gannon,
President, St. Margaret Foundation
(1) Tell us a little about yourself.
I am president of St. Margaret Foundation at UPMC St. Margaret Hospital, the third hospital in Pittsburgh where I have had the honor to lead in such a capacity. I am also the president of Gannon Group/StartingOverNow.com, an executive coaching, training and consulting firm that produces higher individual and organizational performance through Executive Coaching, Organizational Development, Board Development, Visioning, and Planning. I choose to work in the non-profit sector because I feel it is where I can make a meaningful difference. In addition to my hospital work and executive coaching, I also volunteer a lot of time coaching people who are starting over in their careers and life as I had to do so as well. At the age of thirty-five my personal turnaround was as a stay-at-home mother, with four children under seven-years-old, when I endured a divorce that took the children and me from the country club life to public assistance and no home. The strategies I used to turn my life around to become a CEO I put to use today in my work, teams that I lead and in my personal life.
(2) What caused you to get involved with (fill in name of nonprofit) and what is it about the organization that keeps you coming back?
I am honored to serve as the president of St. Margaret Foundation because the mission is infinitely needed and the board of directors are outstandingly supportive. We fill in the gaps for our patients who are underserved with things such as transportation to chemotherapy, medication for people who are awaiting public funding for such, medical supplies such as thermometers, blood pressure cuffs and other devices for patients who cannot afford them, and more. In terms of my volunteer time, I have been honored to give presentations and guidance to people at: New Choices/New Options Career Development Service, Dress for Success, Girl Soucts of Western PA, HEARTH, Workquest, One Vision One Life, Pennsylvania Professional Employment Network, Urban League of Pittsburgh, Employment Advancement Retention Network, and McKeesport Employment and Training Center.
(3) Describe how a mentor or someone you look up to has helped you mold your life.
Mentors are a key factor in growing beyond where you currently are to where you want to be. In my life I have had and still have many mentors. I learned how to sell from J. Roger Friday of HeppnerFriday. I learned how to network from Jack Connors of the Avonworth School Board. I learned my character from my father. I learned how to lead from several hospital presidents that I worked with. I learned what not to do observing a few other leaders. I learned to fundraise first by watching my mother and then by observing other successful fundraisers. I learned how to turn organizations around by reading as much as I could and talking with people I admired – I call this quiet mentoring. You will go as far as the five people you are closest to. If you want to go farther, start spending time with people who are there.
(4) What makes you happy?
I am happy when I love and make a difference in people’s lives – my four children and my family, my friends, the people I serve in my work, and the organizations a lead. I am fulfilled when I can put my strengths (Love of learning new things, Curiosity in the world, Social intelligence – intuition, Leadership, and Zest for life) to work in alignment with my values (Character, Faith, Integrity, Family and Close Relationships, and Making a Difference.)
(5) If you had $1million, what would you do with it? Figure what I owe the government. Save enough to pay for college tuition for all four of my children – three of whom are in college now. Save for a comfortable retirement. Then I’d do what John D. Rockefeller told his children to do: Give 10 percent of your income to charity, save 10 percent, and have fun spending the rest.
(6) What type of music do you listen to, and what song will make you get up and dance? I love all music especially country western and classical – obviously on different occasions J. I think Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT rocks!
(7) What are 3 things we would find in your refrigerator? Organic 2% milk, eggs, parmesan cheese.
(8) What has made you as successful as you are? Being tenacious while being curious and compassionate.
(9) How do you define success? I think Ralph Waldo Emerson said it far better than I can…..
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty,
To find the best in others,
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
(10) Any decisions that you’ve made that you’ve regretted? Everything is an opportunity to learn. If you are going to fail, fail early and readjust.
(11) What do you like to do on the weekend? Spend time with my children, my friends and may parents. I also am working on my second book.
(12) What is your ideal vacation? Bermuda, Bora Bora or any quiet beach
(13) What were some of your favorite childhood memories? Eating dinner on my porch with my family followed by nightly kickball games on the four corners of our block. Being a lifeguard and captain of the swim team at the Edgewood Club.
(14) Do you have any superstitions? No
(15) How would your best friend describe you? Probably: Giving, Tenacious, and Fun.