Meet the President and CEO: A Conversation with Ray Washburn

11/24/2010

How have you settled in to life in Pittsburgh?

I first lived at Vincentian Villa. My wife, Norma, joined me in November since our house in Connecticut sold. We’re now living in an apartment and building a house north of the city.

Living on campus for three months gave me a really good feel of the Vincentian community because I was truly immersed in it. We’re very unique in what we’ve created. Vincentian Villa has that friendly neighborhood small town feel.

What are the top things you want to do in Pittsburgh?

Go hiking. In Connecticut we have rails to trails, but it’s pretty flat. Here there are hills and mountains, which makes the terrain interesting. I’m looking forward to outdoor activities whether exploring parks or walking through Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Both Norma and I really enjoy old city architecture.

We also look forward to visiting the museums. And in general, we look forward to being able to hop in a car and go into the city for something to eat, coffee, and enjoy the atmosphere.

How would you describe your management style?

Inclusive. I think that in an organization, individuals can have a huge impact, but teams can have a much greater impact. In this business it’s always a team of people that provides the service and results according to our mission. My job is to reach out to our talented staff, build teams and give them an enabled environment. Then I can step out of the way and see what they can do. It’s fun to see the results teams can achieve. Usually they vastly surpass expectations.

How has your faith influenced your work?

I’ve always believed that everyone has a purpose and there’s a reason for everything that happens in life. My work here is an example. For my entire childhood I wanted to be a priest. I went to seminary school for two years. Unfortunately, the seminary closed because the Diocese ran out of money. I was about 17 or 18 and had no idea where to go from there. I ended up attending a Catholic high school and went off to college. My life went in a different direction entirely. When Norma and I were talking about whether I should take this job, she said, “You know that’s why you went to seminary and why you didn’t finish, God wanted you to end up here.” God gave me the reason.

What do you see as the biggest challenge faced by VCS?

My main responsibility is to see Vincentian positioned so that the traditions and mission are here for a long time to come. The public, our residents, families and employees will value the impact and example that Vincentian sets in the community. The Sisters have always led by example. They gave up their entire lives to treat everyone the same. You see it every day in what they do. We need to ensure that example lives on through the mission.

We have a financial challenge in that we need to find the way in which we will balance mission with margin. We also have a market challenge. We need to be clear in what sets us apart and ensure our brand is consistent.

We have to do all of this maintaining the ministry that drives our mission. Everything we do is based on the values of this organization.

What is the biggest opportunity?

To create the brand awareness of who we really are. We’re based on our Catholic values rooted in a ministry of Catholic Sisters that set an example of how we’re supposed to treat one another. To reference the biblical story, we must take the lamp out from under the bushel basket and place it on a stand where it can give light to all.

What’s the one thing that people should know about you, but don’t?

I’m fascinated by Disney World: the brand image, the quality, the consistency of the quality, and the operational logistics it takes to pull it off day after day. I’m also fascinated by Disney’s culture. The willingness to embrace change takes courage by employees and decision makers. And Disney is constantly making changes to improve.

What is a favorite vacation you’ve taken?

When my kids were little we used to go to Virginia for long weekends. We were a young couple who didn’t have a lot of money to spend, and many things in Virginia were free – Civil War battlefields, museums. I’m a Civil War history buff. I would take along books for wherever we were going, and I’d read the stories with the kids. Then we would take the books and compare the photos to the sites as we visited them. It was so much fun to watch the kids when they could look at a picture, then look up and realize they were standing in the exact spot the camera was 100 years ago. Their reactions were great.

What are your favorite pastimes?

I enjoy all kinds of music: everything from rock to blues, country, gospel, classical... I’m also a voracious reader. Our library at home exceeds 2,000 covers on every topic you can imagine. I tend to read half a dozen books all at the same time. I enjoy reading a wide variety of topics.
 

  • Vincentian Collaborative System,
  • Marian Manor,
  • Marian Manor Child Development Center,
  • Vincentian Child Development Center,
  • Vincentian Charitable Foundation,
  • Vincentian de Marillac,
  • Vincentian Home,
  • Vincentian Rehabilitation Services,
  • Vincentian Villa
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