THE CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER IS RUNNING LATE. A crisis has come
up, a receptionist explains. This is understandable. A man responsible
for 1,050 employees, 20 locations, and a $62 million budget is
bound to encounter crises daily.
Yet the crises of the Rev. David F. Ryan, XP-65 (96), are not
the usual corporate variety. As chief operating officer and assistant
executive director of Maryville Academy, Ryan most often faces
emergencies that involve children whose lives have been shattered
Ryan, a Roman Catholic priest, is among the thirty or more clergy
members who are graduates of Chicago. Some of them heard the call
to religious life before getting their M.B.A.s; some were beckoned
later. All we spoke to agreed: As they follow their vocations,
their paths overlap those of their secular counterparts in multiple
ways. Equipped with the same tools as their fellow alumni, they
shoulder many of the same responsibilities: dealing with human
resources issues, managing investments, raising capital, marketing
their product, and engineering growth.
Yet there is a difference. The goal of their business is not to
turn a profit; it is to inspire lives.
Underlying the budget juggling and administrative duties Ryan
performs as Maryvilles chief operating officer is his reason
for being there: the children.
Children come to us from horrific backgrounds, abused and neglected
by adults who were supposed to be their stewards, Ryan said.
We spend months tearing down barriers and years putting hope
and trust back into the lives of these children. Thats a challenge
From the agencys suburban Des Plaines, Illinois, campus, the
hub of the Maryville sites, Ryan oversees the agencys budget
and is responsible for staff and volunteers as well as a host
of other areas, ranging from emergency shelter and the witness
protection program to maintenance and transportation. There is
a correlation, he said, between providing a safe environment for
children and taking care of finances, between performing administrative
duties and reaching out.
To me, it has all blended. It is our business to provide a second
chance for these children. It is also our business to properly
care for the money people donate to us, he said. Ryan is accountable,
too, for funding from the Illinois Department of Children and
Family Services; nearly all of the children at Maryville are placed
there by DCFS.
Maryville Academy was established in the late 1800s to care for
children orphaned by the Chicago Fire. Its mission has evolved,
and now the academy is a national leader in the treatment of physically,
sexually, and emotionally abused and neglected children. An agency
of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Maryville
provides residential care for more than 1,100 children, ranging
from infants to teens. The largest residential facility is the
Des Plaines campus, which is home to 271 children.
This is a very important ministry. This is the Catholic Church
made visible, Ryan said. For us its not just another social
service agency. Jesus Christ commanded us to take care of those
who are the least among us.
Being involved in such care has been Ryans goal throughout his
priesthood, and his path to joining the clergy has been fairly
direct. By the time he graduated with a history degree from Quincy
University, a Catholic school, Ryan was comfortable and confident
with his calling.
The last part of my senior year, I kept feeling a pull toward
the priesthood, he said, and upon graduation he enrolled in Kenrick
Seminary in St. Louis. Although he began his vocation in 1979
as a parish priest, he had an understanding with his bishop that
he would work with Catholic Charities at the first opportunity.
He directed a childrens home in Alton, Illinois, where he implemented
the Maryville model of working with abused children, before joining
the academy in 1985.
When Ryan joined Maryville, the $6 million agency had 200 employees
at two sites serving 325 children. As the budget and number of
locations grew tenfold, so did his need for further education.
After Ryan received his masters degree in social work in 1994
from Loyola University Chicago, two Maryville board members, Edward
Bock, XP-31 (72), and Arthur Velasquez, 67, urged him to seek
his M.B.A. at Chicago. Bock suggested Ryan explore the Executive
Program because he fit the profile: He was in upper management
and had more than twenty years experience in his field.
The most important concept I learned at the University of Chicagothinking
outside the boxhas been a tremendous benefit in this position,
Ryan said. So too have been the concrete management lessons. Conducting
regular focus groups and exit interviews, an idea he took from
the Executive Program, has helped Ryan reduce annual staff turnover
to 30 percent, considered very low for a child care agency, he
Thats where I feel fortunateIm able to integrate my business
skills into being a priest, he said.
Those skills are invaluable, he said, in his mission of good stewardship.
If we believe that the environment provided by Maryville is a
gift of God, we are responsible for good stewardshipstewardship
of the proper allocation of funds, of personnel, of the human
spirit. Everything we do is meant to convey to a child, Youre
important. We care about you.
Going with the flow
For the Rev. Carol Johnson, 81, burnout is an occupational hazard,
as it is for most people in unpredictable, high-stress work situations.
But hers isnt the phone-banging stress of high-stakes wheeling
and dealing; its the quiet erosion of ones emotional core from
daily contact with human suffering.
As a chaplain for Vitas Healthcare Corporation, the nations largest
hospice organization, she spends her days counseling people dying
from terminal illnesses and comforting their grieving families.
To battle burnout, Johnson spends time with her husband and their
son, her two dogsand her manicurist.
It sounds silly, but I get my nails done every two weeks. Its
just something that, when Im working all the time with people
who are dying, gives me a lift when I look down. Its something
I do just for me, she said. Burnout is the biggest challenge,
I think, for any hospice worker. You have to be very intentional
about taking care of yourself.
Working for the Vitas agency in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, Johnson
is part of an interdisciplinary team that cares for sixty patients.
As chaplain, she manages the spiritual care of patients and their
families. This may involve putting them in touch with a minister
of their particular religion, or doing counseling myself. It depends
on the needs of that particular family, said Johnson, who is
a Presbyterian minister. She also calls on families and offers
Currently on a team that serves nursing home patients, Johnson
has worked in Vitass hospice facility and with patients in its
home hospice care program. Things change around here with about
the same speed they change everywhere else: daily, she said.
Nearly the same pace, it seems, that has taken Johnson around
the country, following the career path of her husband, Ron Kim
Johnson, B.A. 79, M.B.A. 80, a general manager in telecommunications.
But with each move from state to statefour moves in twelve yearsJohnsons
own career evolved.
After two years as a psychiatric nurse, Johnson decided to pursue
the subject that had interested her most while working on her
nursing degree: accounting. Receiving her M.B.A. in 1981, Johnson
started out with Coopers & Lybrand and then moved to Peat Marwick.
It was around that time that diagnostics groups hit the scene.
They were absolutely thrilled to have somebody who understood
medical terms, because reimbursement was based on diagnosis. I
could audit hospitals and understand why one diagnosis would get
greater reimbursement than another.
Johnson next moved to a consulting position within Peat Marwick.
It was then, she said, that I realized I loved working with people.
I loved solving problems and helping them with issues they were
dealing with, but I wanted to deal with issues at a deeper level
than their medical records or the reimbursement system in their
hospital. Driving on the back roads near her Wisconsin home,
I received what I thought was a call, but I didnt know what
to do with it. Id always been interested in theology, but I had
never had any role models, she explained.
A move to Denver, where she joined a church with several female
ministers, helped solidify her decision to pursue a religious
vocation. After relocating again to Cincinnati and then Philadelphia,
she entered Princeton Seminary.
In the Presbyterian Church, ministers must be ordained to a call,
and in 1996 Johnson was ordained to a hospice position in Trenton,
New Jersey. After the agency was bought and merged with anotherand
her position eliminated in the processJohnson joined Vitas. Through
hospice, she has discovered an alternative work style.
In business situations, I felt like I had to have control over
things, so I was constantly working to control everything. In
some ways my work now is very freeing, because I dont have control
over what Im working with at all. And so I just go with the flow.
The flow does include business decisions, though. Health care,
when I was in business school, was just beginning to be run as
a business. Its now a very tough world. Reimbursement is ratcheting
down, and I have a great understanding of reimbursement issues.
Most health care professionals who are providers are notoriously
poor at seeing the big picture, and I can see the whole. I head
the ethics committee, and it helps me balance the needs of all
different kinds of participants. I could go into management very
easily with my business background, but that would take me out
Should she decide to enter management, Johnson is debating whether
to stay in hospice care or move to a church, where she said her
business background would still be useful.
Were looking for different things from churches. It used to
be people went to church out of a sense of obligation, or fear,
or social pressurewhatever the reason, you were part of a church.
Our culture has changed to the point where thats not a necessity
any more. So churches have to market themselves. Guilt is no longer
a strong enough motivating factorwhich I think is wonderful,
because guilt is the worst motivating factor in the world, and
it isnt truly what the gospel message is about. I think this
shows weve matured as a society in some ways, and were seeking
in a different way than we were in the past. And thats not bad.
Like the head of any organization experiencing growth, the Rev.
Ben Aurand, 71, has found himself face-to-face with lenders,
negotiating building loans. But as an Episcopal priest, Aurand
has found a slight edge: bankers are unprepared for his depth
I like to listen to what everybodys saying before I let on that
I know what theyre saying, he said with a chuckle. Im sure
there are folks who are surprised that I understand what theyre
talking about, that they can put away the Dick and Jane textbooks
theyve pulled out to explain to the poor priest exactly what
is happening here.
For the past eleven years Aurand has been the rector of St. Thomas
Episcopal Church in College Station, Texas, on the edge of the
Texas A & M campus. Leading a congregation of eight hundred members,
Aurand orchestrated the fundraising for a new sanctuary in 1994
and is now in the midst of a building campaign for a new parish
hall and youth complex.
Weve actually grown quite a bit in the past ten years, he said.
The congregation that numbered 160 families when he started has
nearly doubled. Much of the growth happened when we built the
new sanctuary. The churchs original chapela gorgeous little
chapel that seats 110 if we all stagger our breathingwas built
in 1938 to serve students and faculty of Texas A & M University.
The new sanctuary, built in addition to the original one, seats
250. Overnight, our attendance and then our membership took offbecause
it could, Aurand said. Its amazing. Its a good case history
for church growth. Because of the churchs physical size limitations,
church membership stayed the same for thirty years, even though
the city of College Station grew fivefold during that time, as
did the university.
The barriers to membership expansion were obvious, Aurand said.
You did not have to have an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago
to recognize the marketing potential here. The congregation just
never could put together the package to finance it.
But Aurand could. He convened a long-range planning committee
to devise a strategic plan, drawing the parish into the process
through surveys and enlisting the help of volunteers.
As the church has grown, Ive had to learn to let other people
do things, and thats been a bit of a challenge, he said. Restructuring
to accommodate growth, Aurand organized a lay staff of volunteers.
Ive given them jobs they enjoy doing and that are very important
jobs, and they in turn recruit volunteers to help them. They are
kind of line managers, and its the volunteers on the next level
down that are carrying out the work.
Although a church is essentially a small business, Aurand finds
one fundamental difference: the motivation for running it. I
think in a church, the motivation really comes from deep within
your own relationship with God, and the reason youre doing this
is because God has called you to do this. God is your stockholder,
if you will. And thats rather humbling. It can also be rather
frightening. But if you recognize that God is also the one that
is giving you everything to allow you to get the job done, then
you can handle that.
Aurand did not always harbor such an attitude; for some years
before he became a priest, he didnt even attend church.
Spiritually, my life changed in 1976, he said. A teacher with
a bachelors degree from Harvard, Aurand made a career switch
to business, receiving his M.B.A. through the 190 program and
going to work for A.G. Becker and Company, where he produced audiotapes
of an investment research program.
Although the program he produced was very successful, a clever
little marketing deal, Aurand said his personal life was deteriorating.
Regular travel and a fairly severe drinking problem put his
marriage on the rocks, and his wife presented him with an ultimatum.
She was going back to school and back to church, and she really
didnt care much about what I did, he said.
He joined her in attending an Episcopal church and was amazed.
I felt for the first time that I was accepted in church. That
was a good experience, and very much surprising.
Aurand and his wife became involved with the church, and eventually
he sought a deeper commitment. After attending seminary at the
University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, from 1979 to 1982,
he served as assistant priest at a 1,500-member congregation in
Austin, Texas, before being called to St. Thomas.
Although many of his challenges as rector are similar to those
of his business days, his overall goal is unique to his vocation.
Looking very short-term, my biggest challenge is this fund drive.
But my basic call is to empower people and to make them disciples
of Jesus Christ. These other things are means to that end. The
real challenge is to let people know that God loves them, and
they are of infinite worth in his eyes and of infinite value to
humankind. And thats a nice long-term goal to work toward.C.N.