Nicole S. Rowe
Administrative Assistant, Public Relations
320 DuPont Highway
New Castle, DE 19720
Dr. Betty Caffo, Wilmington University Provost, is Key Speaker at Women in Business Luncheon
Delaware Today Hosts Event
Hundreds gathered at the Chase Center on Wilmington’s Riverfront yesterday to attend Delaware Today’s Women in Business Luncheon. The luncheon is held annually to highlight the accomplishments of female leaders across the state, encourage networking and showcase the work of female-owned businesses. This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Betty Caffo, the first woman to hold the title of Provost at Wilmington University. Dr. Caffo’s fearless leadership style, extensive career and compassionate manner made her the perfect choice to headline this year’s luncheon.
Jill Quale, a deejay on WJBR 99.5, welcomed guests and thanked Delaware Today for continuing to host the event. She then turned the microphone over to Delaware Today’s Executive Editor (and Wilmington University alumna) Maria Hess who introduced the thirty-four honorees. Each year, Delaware Today features a group of women who “know how to inspire, when to empower, what to delegate and whom to nurture.” Among the honorees were Ginny Burke Marino, CEO of the YWCA Delaware, Patrice Gilliam-Johnson, Chair of the Organizational Dynamics program at Wilmington University, and S. Renee Smith, President of SRS Productions. Hess asked each of the honorees to stand and be recognized for their great achievements. She encouraged the women to continue to “break the glass ceiling” and work towards gender equality.
Dr. Betty Caffo was then welcomed to the stage by Jill Quale. “Dr. Caffo’s leadership at Wilmington University has been key to the continued growth and success of the institution,” she said. As Dr. Caffo took the stage she thanked Delaware Today and the numerous sponsors for the hard work involved in putting this event together. She congratulated all the honorees and commended them for being assets to the community.
In her speech, Dr. Caffo, who will be retiring in under two weeks, spoke about reflections. She reminisced about moments in her life where she had to make tough decisions, on moments she had to learn patience, and how humility has always guided her decision-making. “I have learned the importance of seeing the big picture-- a leadership trait called strategic agility,” said Dr. Caffo. “This...is one of the leadership attributes that I believe is essential to cultivate. It’s taking the specific situation and looking beyond it. It is being strategic instead of overly tactical. A leader has to spend some quality time in the weeds, but she can’t set up residence there.” She stressed that agility was essential to health of an organization in the current economic climate and encouraged leaders to make bold decisions or change direction if need be.
In a career spanning from nurse to administrator to professor to vice president, Dr. Caffo says she will always have a place in her heart for nursing. “ It’s a career that has deep meaning for me,” she commented. “Nearly 45 years after becoming a nurse, I still retain that identify. My skills are rusty, but the spirit of care giving is part of who I am.” As a nurse Dr. Caffo learned the importance of compassion. Through nursing wounds, assisting patients with Alzheimer’s, and handing out Thanksgiving pies to homebound patients, Dr. Caffo really learned to love her job. Loving what you do is vital to personal success she says. “One author, Karasu, suggested that if you define success by a full commitment to and love of your work, you will gain a sense of wholeness and peace. Satisfaction comes when you are wholly engaged, completely focused on your work and do it enthusiastically, everyday.”
Finally, Dr. Caffo thanked Wilmington University for allowing her to be a part of such a great institution. She said the University has been a major factor in her own growth and development. “Being part of this amazing story has been the epitome of my professional life,” she said, noting all the great people she has worked with. “Credit goes to two presidents –two really good leaders--who set the stage for a success story par excellence.” At the University Dr. Caffo’s philosophy on humility was always revered. “Wilmington University had such humble beginnings, it is a perfect fit for people like me. Indeed, many of our staff [members] are first generation college graduates, we grew up in families where hard work was the norm. As a university, we have had to work hard to gain respect in the community.”
As she prepares for retirement (and her favorite hobby: sailing), Dr. Caffo says she will never forget her roots. She encourages women to continue to strive for success and never give up. “As Mary Lou Quinlan says, ‘there are times in a woman's working life when the best place to be is out on a limb.’ And sometimes courage is taking a risk by speaking the truth.”
For now Dr. Caffo is going to enjoy this new stage in her life. “I think it will be most interesting to see what perspectives I have when there is no job,” she says. “And when I exchange my high heels for flip flops.”
To see the full list of Women in Business honorees visit http://www.delawaretoday.com/Delaware-Today/December-2011/Women-in-Business/.
To see more photos from this event visit http://www.wilmu.edu/photos/slideshow.aspx?pSetID=72157628251061425.