Leadership and what makes leaders was the underlying theme at the 78th CYO Club of Champions Tribute at the Waldorf Astoria June 5.
Each of the three honorees at the gala, Francis Rooney, recipient of the Terence Cardinal Cooke Humanitarian Award; Leonard Elmore, winner of the John V. Mara Sportsman of the Year Award; and Timothy Rooney, Sr., recipient of the Gold Medal, touched on the topic in their acceptance speeches. The three were being honored for their lifetime achievements and their “dedication, compassion and generosity to the young people of the Archdiocese of New York.”
All three knew what they were talking about. Francis and Tim Rooney have been business and philanthropic leaders, and Elmore is a former NBA star who has gone on to enjoy success in the fields of law and broadcasting.
“Leaders exist at all levels of an organization,” noted Francis Rooney, former chairman of the H.H. Brown Shoe Company. In 1991 the company was sold to Berkshire, Hathaway Inc. Rooney continued as CEO, reporting to business magnate, investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett. Rooney was instrumental in establishing the archdiocese’s Inner-City Scholarship Fund.
“All institutions need effective leadership. I asked Warren Buffett the other day, ‘What are the characteristics of a good leader? He said, intelligence, energy and integrity. If they don’t have the third, forget the other two.’ Over the past 75 years, Catholic Youth Organization has been developing this third, essential quality of integrity child by child,” he said.
Elmore was a former standout player at Power Memorial Academy in Manhattan, the University of Maryland, and then for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, Kansas City Kings, Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks. He subsequently graduated from Harvard University with a law degree and went on to serve as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn. He said what is most important in life, as in sports, is to show up.
“You have to commit,” he told the audience of 450, which included CYO basketball players and their coaches. “If you don’t commit, it’s not worth the effort, and it’s the same thing in life. You’ve got to commit because you are only going to have that one chance to go around.”
Timothy Rooney, president of the Empire City Casino in Yonkers, added a note of levity to the evening when in accepting his Gold Medal he said, “This is a big honor for me and for my entire family. For the last 70 years the Gold Medal award has been given to the Who’s Who of prominent Americans. I’m afraid after tonight it’s going to be a who’s who and a who?
“Regardless I do appreciate the honor, and I want to thank all of you for your support of the CYO, which is one of the most important charities of the Archdiocese of New York.”
The gala raised $618,000 to support CYO endeavors. Some 25,000 youngsters participated in CYO programs in the last year in parish-based athletic, cultural, volunteer and scouting programs and other activities. More than 4,000 volunteers supported them. Christopher Gallagher, president of the CYO board of directors, said CYO is a grassroots organization. “Our children, trees that grow strong into adulthood, are nurtured and strengthened by the strong roots and values that CYO encourages and facilitates,” he said. “CYO in an antidote to a society that often drives religion from the public square and denigrates and tries to marginalize the beautiful Christian-Judeo values that are the bedrock for this extraordinary country that we are so privileged to live in. Our children need us, and we need them now more than ever.”
Cardinal Dolan agreed, saying, “That’s what CYO is about, God and our kids, our faith and our children. CYO does it beautifully and has done for almost a century. And they couldn’t do it without you. They couldn’t do it without our distinguished awardees. They couldn’t do it without our benefactors. They couldn’t do it without our leadership, parents and parishes. And I love you for it.
“Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me.’ and we’re able to do that in the Church through CYO. Thank you for helping our kids. God bless you.”