So What’s the Question?
Skip Vichness is an alumnus of the Wexner Heritage MetroWest group. Skip is the Chair of the Foundation for Jewish Camp and is the Managing Partner of GreyPine,LLC which is involved in the operation of day, resident and special needs camps in the Northeast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the years, mostly with the help of the Wexner Heritage program, I have thought long and hard about what characteristics go into making a quality leader. While there are many factors that go into the mix, for me none seems more important than a strong sense of integrity – a commitment to “doing the right thing.”
Although I have learned a lot from my Wexner experience, this one quality was taught to me as a young man, long before there were any thoughts about the meaning of leadership….
In preparing for my freshman year in college, my parents informed me that they would provide tuition, room and board. However it was my responsibility to earn any spending money that I would require. Since I was forbidden from having a job during the school year, that time was reserved for college activities, my summer job took on an important role for my social well being.
The summer of my freshman year, I landed a plum job working in a bank where a friend of my parents was the President. The pay was excellent and the hours tolerable – however it was indoor work and my job, filing cancelled checks, was extremely boring.
I went off to college determined to find a better summer job. By December two much better options had been identified. Through my father’s connections I had been nominated for a summer internship at the Pentagon and through a fraternity brother I had an offer to teach basketball at a children’s summer camp in the Berkshires. Both of these seemed like terrific opportunities. The Pentagon paid very well and teaching and coaching “hoops” sounded like a job too good to be true.
However, camp paid relatively little compared to the US government, so a summer in DC quickly became my first choice. There was only one problem. Funding for the internship had not yet been approved and there was no firm offer. Not wanting to be jobless, or horror of horrors, have to go back to the bank, I proceeded to stall the camp, which, by February, had sent me a contract to sign.
Coming home for Passover, I was faced with an ultimatum from the camp – sign the contract or it would be withdrawn. Still there was no word from the Pentagon, so….I signed the contract.
The school year ended and by mid June it was time to go to camp. There was still no word from Washington. So on a bright early summer morning my father and I left Virginia for him to drive me to camp in the Berkshires. A long drive, we stopped overnight in Queens to stay with my grandmother. As we walked into her apartment, she told us that my mother had called and to call home right away.
The Pentagon offer had come through! It paid about four times what camp did. I hung up the phone and turned to my father to ask what I should do. He gave me one of “those” looks and responded, “what is the question? You signed a contract – you gave your word – you are going to camp!” In that one moment I learned the meaning of integrity – a lesson that I have never forgotten.
Oh yes- more than forty years later I am still going to camp. Turns out that doing the right thing often ends up with pretty good results!