A Thank You to Someone Who Never Wanted the Spotlight

There are people in the lives of organizations who make all the difference. I am talking about individuals who help catapult an entity from one stage of development to another by bringing both skills and perspectives that are sorely lacking and desperately needed – and often just in time.

For CEP, Paul Heggarty has been such a person. He joined us in 2007, when we were a much smaller organization and just six years old – during the first few of which we had less than a half dozen staff and a whole lot of uncertainty.

After seven years serving as a vice president responsible for finance, during the bulk of which he also oversaw administration and human resources, Paul is leaving CEP at the end of September. We are a very different place today, thanks in no small part to him.

I wrote this to the CEP Board of Directors and staff after Paul announced last month that he will be leaving us:

“Paul’s contributions to CEP would be difficult to overstate. He brought us to a new level of sophistication in our financial management; created budgeting processes that have served us extremely well and supported us in managing, year in and year out, to generate surpluses; oversaw for a number of years our HR and administration functions; worked closely and very well with the Board and especially the Finance Committee; did the projections and scenario planning that have allowed us to steer through both still and rough waters – for example in 2009’s downturn …; served as a close colleague and advisor to me and a crucial member of the leadership and senior staff; … been a sounding board and confidante to so many on the staff; and helped us all to appreciate the finer things in life – such as Abba and a good Cabernet.

I have often said … because it’s true, that we have been lucky to have Paul because he could be working in a similar role at a much larger organization if he wanted to – and because his skills and experience are so significant.

I have known for some time now that the moment would come when Paul was ready for the next challenge – and indeed we’re lucky he’s been with us as long as he has. At the time we hired him, I hoped we’d be able to keep Paul at CEP for five years because I knew he wasn’t someone who stays for decades in the same place – and because he made that clear coming in. We are lucky to have had him at CEP for nearly seven years.”

Paul and I have been talking for some time about his interest in pursuing another challenge, and I have great respect for his desire to take some time to be thoughtful about what that will be. I think through sheer, stubborn relentlessness I have persuaded him to stay at CEP much longer than he ever intended. I am grateful that he did.

Paul is someone who never looks for the spotlight. I think he enjoys being the person who quietly makes it all go for everyone else. But he has meant too much to CEP – he helped us go from start-up and all the accompanying operational challenges to an incredibly smooth running organization – to let his departure go without some public recognition.

You deserve it, Paul – whether you like it or not.  We thank you.

Phil Buchanan is President of CEP and a regular columnist in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. You can find him on Twitter @PhilCEP.

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