WATERLOO, Iowa — One wasn’t enough this year for the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber’s Fulfilling the Vision of One Award.
This year, the Alliance & Chamber is honoring two winners — Reid Koenig, vice president of customer relations at CUNA Mutual in Waverly; and Steve Tscherter, CEO at Lincoln Savings Bank in Reinbeck — with the award, which honors individuals for their leadership roles in the business community.
The award is one of five — plus, for the first time this year, honors for large, medium and small businesses that are active in diversity and inclusion efforts — that will be presented at the Alliance & Chamber’s annual celebration March 7 at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in downtown Waterloo. The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. with a social hour. A dinner follows, and the award presentations are set for 7:45 p.m.
It was right to give the award to both Koenig and Tscherter, said Bob Justis, vice president of community development at the Alliance & Chamber.
Justis said Koenig has been active in the Alliance’s investor relations group and has been notably active in diversity and inclusion efforts.
“When he first saw the Leader in Me demonstration at North Cedar, he called the next day and wanted to know how CUNA could get involved,” Justis said.
Koenig praised the Alliance for embracing Waverly and other satellite communities around Waterloo and Cedar Falls.
“It takes a group to make a village, and that goes for the Alliance,” he said. “We’re all looking for a common goal and common cause.”
Tscherter’s diverse activities in the community caught the attention of the awards committee, said Bette Wubbena, the Alliance’s director of membership retention.
“He’s also on the investor relations task force and serves on the exec committee on the Alliance board, so he’s very active,” Wubbena said. “Lincoln Savings Bank has a great presence in the Cedar Valley.”
Tscherter, like Koenig, said he was “humbled” by the award, saying there were “many deserving nominees.”
“When you consider what Tom Penaluna has done with the Leader in Me program for area schools; what Dee Vandeventer has done as a pioneer with GCVA; and what Jack Dusenbery has done with Wheaton Franciscan — makes this all the more special for Reid Koenig and I to be co-recipients,” Tscherter said.
The Legacy Award, which honors the memory of automotive engineering and educational pioneer Harold Brock, goes to H.D. “Ike” Leighty, 97, a Waterloo entrepreneur and philanthropist. The Leighty Foundation, which he started, supports earth protection, education and the promotion of philanthropy and volunteerism.
“I can’t think of a person more deserving than Ike Leighty to receive the Legacy Award,” said Joe Vich, CEO of Community National Bank and longtime Leighty friend. “Ike enjoyed a wonderful career building his company to a dominant market share in his industry. When you think of the word legacy Ike has written the definition and set the example in the Cedar Valley and beyond.”
Leighty, who spends his winters in Florida, said a conflict will prevent him from accepting the award in person, but he said he, too, was humbled.
“It’s a real honor and it’s most humbling that my peers picked my name out of all they could have had to join that prestigious list,” said Leighty, who turned 3 years old the day the armistice was signed that ended World War I.
Business of Year Award
Mudd Advertising in Cedar Falls will receive the Business of the Year Award, which recognizes the efforts of an Alliance & Chamber investor in promoting the quality of life and offering leadership in the Cedar Valley, achieving a major business accomplishment or making an outstanding contribution to the community’s economy and citizens.
“We’re very pleased to have that honor; it tells us that we’re being recognized by leaders in the community as being one of the best in its class,” said Frank Seng, chief financial officer at Mudd, which has 191 employees.
Harold Brock Innovation Award
The Harold Brock Innovation Award will go to John Deere Waterloo Works, the largest employer in the Cedar Valley, which is in the midst of a modernization of its 40-year-old foundry and has invested $1.1 billion in its Waterloo operations since 2000.
Thad Nevitt, factory manager in Waterloo, declined to comment, other than to say the company appreciated the honor.
Cedar Valley Partner Award
The Build Our Ballpark Initiative, spearheaded by self-described baseball fanatic Bob Hellman, CEO of the Waterloo-based ad agency Hellman, will receive the Cedar Valley Partner Award.
“It meant a great deal, actually,” Hellman said of the honor. “I think it just gives our organization and board and everybody involved with us a big boost, just a very positive accomplishment for Build Our Ballpark.”
Treating Capital Well Award
The John Deere Treating Capital Well Award will go to Waverly-based manufacturer GMT Corp., which expanded with an additional facility in 2012.
“This facility deploys innovative technology to improve processes and provides the ability to succeed in today’s competitive environment,” said Darcy Graening-Knights, vice president. “We are positioning our company to be recognized by existing and new customers as the global leader in large part machining and inspection capabilities.”
Diversity and Inclusion Awards
For the first time, the Alliance & Chamber will present Diversity and Inclusion Awards. The inaugural winners are Em’s Coffee Shop in Independence, in the small-business category, with up to 150 employees; Wartburg College, for medium-sized businesses, or 150-500 employees; and Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa, in the large category, or more than 500 employees.
Diversity/Inclusion Awards are designed to honor employers in the Cedar Valley who “have made significant achievements in championing inclusion and diversity in their businesses and organizations,” according to the Alliance.
Five members of the Alliance’s Diversity/Inclusion Task Force served as the selection committee, having reviewed applications, monitored progress through numerous phases of the application process and conducted interviews with nominees.
An owner and namesake of Em’s is 24-year-old Emilea Hillman, who was born with a congenital abnormality called agenesis of the corpus callosum, which means that the structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, the corpus callosum, is either partially or completely absent.
“Basically it interferes with everything she does,” said Tami Fenner, Hillman’s mother who also serves as a job coach at the coffee shop. “When she was born, the doctors told us she wouldn’t be able to walk, talk, sit up, maintain bodily function. However, they were wrong.”
The business also employs two other workers with disabilities, Fenner said.
“They came to a site visit, and Em did it on her own; she did the interview all by herself,” Fenner said.
It was not a new experience for Hillman, who has spoken about her experience across the U.S., Fenner said.
Wartburg won its honor for an array of inclusion-focused initiatives that begin in the classroom, said Gloria Campbell, associate professor of business administration at the college.
“There are a wide range of sophomore-level courses in diversity, and each has a different theme — it could be aging, poverty,” she said. “Then, a second course could be at the third- or fourth-year level that also focuses on an element of diversity.”
All Wartburg students take at least two such courses, plus a foreign language, said Campbell, who has taught a Working in a Diverse World class for more than a decade.
The other winner, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, also boasts of a multi-pronged diversity/inclusion program, CEO Jack Dusenberry said.
“For us, it’s a matter of helping others in our community,” Dusenberry said. “There’s so many different religions, beliefs, etc., so it’s communication with families and our patients. We have lunch hours where different doctors speak about their upbringings.”