Thursday, February 1, 2007

Letter from the Editor

Joseph W. Norman
The Notable and Newsworthy: VIP Profiles, Issue 2, January 28, 2007
Note: Welcome Geneseo Alumni, Faculty, and Administration.

Dear Loyal Readers,

This is the second week of the newsletter, "The Notable and Newsworthy: VIP Profiles". We have learned much in the last week and our vision has also changed. I can assure you that the quality will only improve as we continue to refine ourselves and our newsletter's structure.

We are starting to expand our team this week in order to conduct more interviews with VIPs and write more essays about them for our readers. We are excited to get some fresh minds to work with us in creating our newsletter and facilitating our other services.

It has been an exciting experience working with the VIPs our newsletters wax so eloquently about. In the last week we have tried to solve a few technical issues including being labeled as "SPAM" by a few e-mail services and protecting the anonymity of our readers. Doubting the complete resolution of the first issue we included "NOT SPAM" in the subject line this week as reinforcement. In terms of my current influences, my English background has me reading much Ralph Waldo Emerson. The philosophies integrated within his text about creative energy and originality has me constantly thinking about how to improve the "VIP Profiles" e-newsletter. On the other hand, my business interests have had me constantly referencing a book I read recently which I now recommend to you, our readers. It is Jeffrey Gitomer's Little Black Book of Connections: 6.5 Assets for Networking Your Way to RICH Relationships. This is an incredible book about interacting and connecting with people; a skill we all can constantly improve. Thank you again for your time and I look forward to our future interactions.

This week's edition contains two very interesting people; Dr Anthony Yangxiang Gu, a disciplined, celebrated Professor of Finance, and Cynthia Oswald, the high powered President of the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce. You can look at their respective ways of life, one very Spartan, one very "go, go, go," and see that great success has many forms.

Thank you again for your time. Enjoy!

Joseph W. Norman

Note: All issues and VIP essays will be available online in the near future. Stay tuned!

Joseph W. Norman
Notable and Newsworthy
President, Editor in Chief

Cynthia Oswald

Cynthia Oswald: “Go For It!”

By: Joseph W. Norman

For more from Bigger Impact co-founder, Joseph Norman, visit
Enjoy the read about...Cynthia Oswald...below! Thanks for your readership!

The first thing that a person recognizes about Cynthia (Cindy) Oswald in casual conversation is probably how fast she talks. This is most likely in direct correlation to her brain function because she is always thinking about what she can do next after her current task (or two, or three…) are finished.

Cindy is no stranger to hard work as she has accomplished much in her life already while raising a few children with all the love and care they deserve. She lives her life with a fundamental belief in fate, and the right place at the right time principle. In fact, she describes her selection to be President of the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce as this type of occurrence. One could argue that fate favors the hard working and the perseverant though.

Therefore, in Cynthia’s case, one can expect much more to come from this motivated woman. A quote she uses most often is, “Many a false step is made by standing still.” She says it is so easy to stand still because we think standing still is a neutral position, but in our society it becomes a negative. After reading Cynthia’s story, one will realize that standing still has never been an issue.

It seems necessary to first outline Cindy’s professional life before tackling the underlying motivations for her success and trials she has faced. She started going to school at SUNY Brockport to study art because she had already sold some of her work in high school. While at Brockport she sold shoes full time and then after only a year got married, had her first child, and then was forced to attend school part time. At Brockport she studied a variety of subjects including Sociology, Early Childhood Education, and the aforementioned, Art.

At this point she had her second child and had not yet completed her degree. This is when things got really interesting for Oswald because her second child was born chronically ill, so she “spent a lot of time managing his health.” It took up much of her time but it “taught me a lot about communicating and about how to get what I needed for him and for her” both in the medical sense and in general, out of life.

Her advocating and influence on the medical field led her into a part time job working for Rochester General Hospital. Here she used her art background to create an illustrated story book for the Sibling’s class which is still in use by ViaHealth hospitals today.

Meanwhile, she continued her part time education and worked countless jobs where she was frequently “under-employed” because she did not have the piece of paper to land her in a job she belonged in. This was difficult for her because she knew she was meant for so much more. She even started her own wood working business at one point; with this she could stay at home with her children while working. What really seemed to interest her from all of her endeavors though was politics.

In her efforts she worked with a group to get asbestos removed from a school that was closed in Rochester which was a huge campaign. As the up-front person in the group she worked with media and political figures. She describes the experience like so; “I was really young and I got beat up, but we were successful. The school is open to this day.” Mind you, this is all while still pursuing her education. It took her twenty five years to get her bachelors degree which she finished at Empire State College, after tenure at both Brockport and Roberts Wesleyan. She was invited to be the speaker at her graduation, “I think they felt sorry for me,” she proclaims.

Teaching came into the picture for a while and then she finally started to send out hundreds of resumes to whatever seemed interesting. From this she landed a job with Genesee Valley BOCES as a business and education liaison. Her success in this capacity got her clout within the chamber she worked in and eventually got her into her current position as President of the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce.

In her first year as president she took over and completed a building project which had gone awry. This is the present Chamber building on Millennium Drive in Geneseo, NY. In the last few years she has helped create and run fourteen programs while bringing in more membership from county business owners.

It is necessary to toil through this long list of achievements and activities because it provides a clearer picture of who Cynthia Oswald really is. She is an extremely motivated individual who is the greatest advocate for her people and for herself. Her employees are the most important part of her day. In fact, she makes an effort to go out of her way for them to the point that she often has to take her own work home to complete it; which she does with the highest quality. She feels that this support keeps her Chamber running smooth and successfully.

This new type of advocacy is of utmost importance, but another person she sponsors with great persistence is herself. During her second year at the Chamber she got herself onto the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Council on Small Business. Many people ask her how she got appointed to that council. Her answer is, she wrote a letter and told Giovanni Coratolo, Director of Small Business Policy, about her county and her desire to serve. Soon after, he called her and invited her on board.

This is representative of an integral part of Cynthia Oswald, her character. “Amazing things happen when you are confident. You can be humble and confident at the same time, but people often do not make the effort. People in their heads believe that the better people are out there and the better people get these positions.” In reflection on this fact she describes her theory about each and every one of us. “It is people like us that are needed to run the country.” One must not doubt themselves because if one believes, they will be able to achieve. “In a nutshell,” this is who Cynthia is.

This entire story, with a few more details, was deliberated in approximately ten minutes; efficiency at its finest. “When I am sleeping, I’m thinking; and when I’m not sleeping, I’m out making contacts with people who can help me.” In fact, when asked how she relaxed, she quipped, “I don’t.” She is working on it though. In her free time she reads books on leadership, politics, and business. Her ultra-competitiveness has led to her success and will carry her on to much more.

Despite this attitude, she says that a key thing for her is to be able to shut it off immediately. That generally only happens once a day though before she gets her eight hours of sleep. She always wants to be the first to do something and she feeds off the fear and challenge of new ideas. When asked about her strengths, she replied that “strengths are also weaknesses.” Her ability to focus is what she described as her strength, but she also recognized her weaknesses as a result of that focus.

Often times in meetings, she sits on the edge of her seat and is asked to sit back because it makes people nervous. That is her “focus” working against her but it is the essence of who she is. Her excitement and energy makes her great at what she does. It also makes her an inspiration to be around and talk to.

Cynthia's office

Now, one must move to the little things that round out the life of Cynthia Oswald. She lives in a home that is straight out of the 1950’s, literally. All of the furniture, decorations, artwork, etcetera, are from that era. She describes it as a Barbie Dream House from that time period. People she would like to have met or would like to meet are Eleanor Roosevelt, whose quote “Do one thing everyday that scares you” is on her giant coffee mug, George Washington, not because he was the first President but rather because he knew how to spin the “media” in his favor which got him his presidency, and Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourner’s magazine whose writings on faith have influenced her.

She despises tardiness, because it is disrespectful. In fact, she does not even like the word “tardiness.” Her favorite movie is Thirteen Ghosts, the original which was shown in theatres with 3D glasses. If you try to show her one of the remakes, she will not be happy and will most likely leave to do more productive things.

The book that is currently her favorite is Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, because he was the underdog. From her nursery background, she says everybody should read, Blueberries for Sale by Robert McCloskey and her current book on leadership is The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner.

To sum up Cindy in a few words, the last statement she said in her interview is the most fitting. “Go for it.” It was quick, to the point, and had a passion and sincerity that could motivate the most complacent of souls. That is Cynthia Oswald.

P.S. Fresh content at Check it out! <<<--- i="i">

Cynthia Oswald
Livingston County Chamber of Commerce
4635 Millennium Drive
Geneseo, NY 14454
Phone: 585-243-2222
Fax: 585-243-4824
Message from President:
Chamber Home:

Notable and Newsworthy Objectives

Dear Friends, Associates, VIPs and Students of the World,

Benjamin W. DeGeorge (Business Administration) and Joseph W. Norman (English / Business) of the State University of New York at Geneseo are going to enlighten and inspire you through "The Notable and Newsworthy: VIP Profiles." This weekly newsletter is made up of profiles of people who have experienced success. What these people hold in common is that they have a story to tell that can be educational, entertaining and a good tool for your walk through life. We will interview and profile two new people every week, and send out a newsletter every Sunday for your reading pleasure.

Some may wonder exactly what success means to us or who "VIPs" are. We think that success is happiness or fulfillment and everyone with a story to tell is a VIP. The homemaker is successful if she is able to raise her children with the same values that her parents instilled in her while the CEO is successful if he has added value to his company. In addition, the small business owner is successful if she is able to create a loyal customer base and strengthen her ties to the community while the mayor is successful if he is able to rally the town around a cause such as helping out a family that experienced a house fire. In other words, success is what we make of it.

There are two main objectives to our newsletter; providing a motivational message and creating a networking medium. In each issue we will include both profiles and contact information of the VIPs. Upon being interviewed each VIP has given us the right to market them in this newsletter and they have generously opened themselves up to you, our readers. If you so desire, you can contact each and every one of them if you feel a relationship will be of mutual benefit. We ask that if you value our service, then please spread the word and send our newsletter to those you think could also benefit. If they enjoy it then have them contact us at so we can put them on our list. We would also love your constructive input into our service and the work we create. Your criticisms can also be sent to the VIProfile address. We will be constantly refining the structure of our e-newsletter and our practices based on your feedback. This is our chance to create meaningful relationships with those we profile and pass these relationships on to you. These profiles will contain leadership theories, personal mantras, themes, stories of the path to success and our interpretation of what makes these people great.

Thank you very much for your time. We know that if you take a few minutes and read over these profiles of VIPs you can benefit in innumerable ways. We hope all is well with you and yours and enjoy!


Benjamin and Joseph

Benjamin W. DeGeorge
Notable and Newsworthy
SUNY Geneseo '09

Joseph W. Norman
Notable and Newsworthy
SUNY Geneseo '08

Michael Woods

Coach Michael Woods: A Life of Service

By: Joseph W. Norman

“Only that day dawns to which you are awake.” This quote of Henry David Thoreau’s moves Coach Michael Woods on a daily basis. To him this profound statement says, “There is an incredible world out there and you can be a meaningful part of it, if you just wake up to that fact.” His life has been a quest involving many challenges and accolades fueled by a passion for life, education, and helping others. As a sci-fi fan, one of his favorite movies is “Journey to the Center of the Earth” which is fitting as his life, metaphorically, has been similar; The “journey” being his life and the “earth” being the search for his way to be a meaningful part of this world. As a lover of this world with a diverse knowledge base, his heaven would involve the ability to travel through time and see moments of great influence. “I would have loved to have been there when the dinosaurs walked the earth, I would have loved to have been there during the Civil War and seen what that was like, and I would have loved to have been in Baltimore when Edgar Allen Poe was walking the streets.” He is a man with many interests as referenced here, but one that is the most important to him has resounded through this entire journey, helping people.

Coach Woods’ life has been one of service through a variety of roles as a father, teacher, coach, and camp director to name a few. Growing up near Oneonta, New York, he developed a passion for running which has stayed with him his entire life. It was here that he began a constant quest for bettering himself. His training seemed mundane to him as it lacked variety so he felt that there must be a better way. Through a multitude of readings such as books by Arthur Lydiard, and a collection of training notes from a camp in Olympia, Washington, Woods was inspired. “There was way more to coaching distance runners then I was exposed to.” He seems to have found the knack throughout his career as a coach recently winning the first National Championship the State University of New York at Geneseo with his 2005 women’s cross country team. This is by all means not the limit of his success because along the way he has produced countless All-Americans, double digit SUNYAC titles between the men’s and women’s squads, and a tremendous record as a high school coach at York High School, where he also taught English. One could call this success, which in turn leads to the next fundamental piece of Coach Woods’ story, his definition for success.

“I think successful people have plans. A successful person defines what success is for him or her and then makes a plan to achieve it. I don’t think you can just say, success just hit me, it doesn’t work.” To Coach Woods success has been giving of himself for the people around him. The first thing he thinks about in the morning is the team he coaches and what he can do to help them better themselves and enjoy what they are doing. He has found great fulfillment in coaching because of how he defines success for himself. “I wanted to produce a national champion, I have several times over. I wanted to win a National Championship as a team, we did. So now my goal is to repeat.” Some of his fondest memories have been from his coaching success but this has not been the only medium of fulfillment for Coach Woods. Being good to his family, especially his two children, has been of utmost importance.

In fact, one of his greatest memories of success was watching his son and daughter graduate from college. After going through a challenging divorce, he was determined to be a good father to his children and give them what they deserved. “Ultimately, when I got divorced, it helped me become a better human being and it certainly made me become a better father. It made me realize how much my children meant to me.” He has taken this thought to heart and has been a good role model for his children. Both are now coaches and have budding careers in their respective positions. This is a good example of how the challenging moments in our lives are often the most fulfilling. The divorce made him more introspective and woke him up to relating better with other people’s needs and in general, being a better person.

Proof of Woods success as a Coach

Another challenge Woods has endured that he marks as one of the worst and best moments of his life is the day he was diagnosed with cancer. “All of my dreams of invincibility went up in the air.” He said he drove around for a couple of hours and just thought about life, but he never got down on himself. This positive attitude and determination propelled him through this time and helped him beat the disease. This challenge reinforced what he learned earlier about relationships and taking care of the people around you. Woods feels that he is here on this Earth to help people. That has led him into the jobs he has taken, as teacher, coach, and camp director.

His teaching career was fueled by a passion for literature of all kinds, but most prominently early American literature like that of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, and many others. In fact, one of his favorite books is Twain’s, Huckleberry Finn. During his tenure at York as an English teacher he was blessed with the opportunity to teach this book and many of his other favorites. He feels that as an educator, if you love what you are doing it is going to come across to your students. The objective in his classroom was to get the students to enjoy reading and develop a passion for life long learning. Although he is retired from the education field after a thirty five year career, he still considers himself an English teacher because of how much it means to him. The medium he uses now is everyday life rather than the classroom.

Besides teaching and coaching, another role Woods has served is as the Camp Director of a Rotary Camp for children with disabilities. He worked the camp for over twenty years and his experiences have changed his outlook on the world. In fact, he goes out of his way to get the people he likes (“and even the ones I don’t like”) to work there because of what it meant to him. It helped him appreciate his own life more and was fulfilled by what he could do for these children. Although he is not involved with the camp anymore, his children still are which means much to him.

Although Coach Woods has experienced many ups and downs he has always stayed true to himself. He followed his passions and achieved great success in them, but it did not come easily. Hard work, a positive attitude, and much determination were the constants that made his story what it is today. Besides his teaching and coaching, Woods enjoys golfing, gardening, and fishing in his spare time. The latter he does not do enough he says, but he hopes to get to more often when he retires. However, that day may be a long ways away because he still enjoys what he does and has even more that he wants to accomplish.

It is fitting to end this tribute to Coach Michael Woods’ life and success the way it began, with the quote that inspires him daily; “Only that day dawns to which you are awake.”

Michael Woods

Coach, Cross Country / Track and Field

SUNY Geneseo