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Barry Cesafsky Receives Distinguished Alumni Service Award from Xavier University

Barry Cesafsky, Class of 1980, proudly holds the Xavier University Graduate Program Health Services Administration 2010 Distinguished Alumni Service Award, presented to him by Chad Wiggins, Class of 1996, President of the Alumni Board.

During the 2010 America College of Healthcare Executive Congress many University Programs in Health Administration held dinners for their alumni.  Xavier University was among them and the event held special interest for the CES Partners team.  Barry Cesafsky, a member of the 1980 Class at Xavier was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award.  Barry is the first recipient in the 52-year history of the prestigious award to have not served as CEO of a hospital or health system.

Anyone who has had any exposure to Barry knows of his love of life, his enthusiasm, his generosity, and his never-ceasing optimism. They would know well his unbounded commitment to his family, to his faith, to Xavier University and to the healthcare industry.  They also know to expect some very long and drawn out jokes—a few of which are funny and most that are groaners.  Barry has never forgotten a name or a face, which is a remarkable feat, given the thousands of people he meets every year.

He has spent untold hours counseling Xavier MHSA alumni and early careerists. He has very high standards and holds others to a high standard as well. A student of history with a special interest in Chicago, one of Barry’s favorite quotes, and one that he demonstrates every day, is from Daniel Burnham, an early Chicago architect. “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir the blood.”

Following is Barry’s acceptance speech given at the Xavier University Graduate Program in Health Services Administration on March 23, 2010 at the Union League Club of Chicago:

Thank You, Chad, Officers of the Alumni Association, fellow Alumni, distinguished faculty, guests of the Program, and family and friends:

The first time that I attended this annual Alumni Association dinner was in 1978, when I was a graduate student in my second semester at Xavier. It was held at the now long closed Armando’s Restaurant, located at Rush and Superior Streets, in an old mansion on the near North side.  Just like Dr. Schick did this evening, our Program Director, who we called Professor—Ed Arlinghaus, provided us with a brief update of campus activities.  First, he took his wrist watch off, and placed it on the podium, like so.  Then he began to tell us his report.  He began: “The forsythias are in full bloom at Becker House,” [for those of you who don’t know, Becker House was the home of the MHSA Program in the 1970’s.  Its former location at Victory Parkway and Dana Avenue has since been replaced with apartments.]  Anyway, I remember that evening like it was yesterday.  Some of you were probably there with me--Tom Rozek, Don Hutton, John Keimig…..but I never could have imagined being here tonight, with you, in this very special setting.

I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that, as Alumni of the Xavier University Graduate Program in Health Services Administration speaks to our highest aspirations – that for all the transitional change and dynamic excitement going on right now in our healthcare field such as with Healthcare Reform, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and that with true leadership, we can make a difference.

And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated among my closest friends. Some of them have suggested that I am receiving this award because for the last several years here at the Union League Club of Chicago I have always bought the drinks at the after dinner bar.  Compared with some of the giants of our industry who've received this prize –Dan Rissing and Don Hutton, Tony Armada, Doug French; Sr. Nancy Linenkugel, Tom Urban and the names go on– my accomplishments are relatively slight.  In fact, all of the alumni who have received this award since it was first presented in 1982, have been accomplished hospital or health system CEOs.   And then there are the scores men and women who have graduated from the Program and made great contributions to the field, to their organizations and in their communities; There are those graduates who are up-and-comers and dedicated to our profession; Dare I suggest that many of you in the room this evening are deserving of this recognition.  I couldn’t argue with any of you who might find many others to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

Nevertheless, now that I have this lovely iconic symbol with d'Artagnan’s image on it in my hand, I assure you that I am not giving it back.  I’ll tell what I will do, however—I’ll consider this award to be a mandate.  I will strive to be deserving—to live the life expected of someone worthy of the Distinguished Alumni Service Award.  I’ll earn it.  And to all of you who might aspire to this high honor—Here’s my advice on how to earn the award:

Don’t lose your sense of possibility. If you do, you’ll lose your moral compass.   Be comforted that we represent the preeminent healthcare graduate Program in the Country with over 50 years of being the leading Catholic MHSA Program in the United States.  You know, our healthcare field is especially well-suited to fulfill our University President Fr. Michael Graham’s vision of Xavier University and its students and graduates as Citizens.  In our world, we as healthcare leaders are stewards for the health in our respective communities.

Let us live and lead by example. We can acknowledge that challenges will always be with us in the healthcare field, yet still strive to be great leaders. Despite the intractability of external forces and yet to be seen obstacles, still strive for dignity. Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be change, and still strive for stability.  Work to become “Servant-leaders” as Tony Armada described to some of us earlier this afternoon.  If we can do that –together; we’ll earn this award.

Oh, and by the way, if you wear your Xavier name badge on the Fourth Floor this evening, the drinks are on me!

Thank you very much.


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CES Partners, Ltd. is a premier retained executive search firm that specializes in serving healthcare provider organizations with tailored, personalized, senior level consulting services. With a national reach throughout the United States, CES Partners serves health systems, hospitals, group medical practices, and senior living communities. CES Partners’ main office is located at 1314 Kensington Road, #5195, Oak Brook, IL 60522-5195.