In Memoriam: Ken Christensen

From Left: Ken Christensen, Libby Hubbard, Craig Riger, Dianne Parker, Lou Giordano at a Leadership Huntignton Founders Dinner in 2014

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” ~Google tells me this quote is attributed to Nelson Henderson but to me it belongs to Ken Christensen, who spoke those words often and took them deeply to heart.

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Grateful Thanks, Trudy

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” Shakespeare

I have an announcement! Many, actually, but this comes first: After 10 years as Vice President of Laible & Fitzsimmons Inc, Trudy is retiring.  I feel a bit like Dumbo without his feather. Even more, I am grateful for Trudy’s friendship, support and more as we’ve worked together in one capacity and another for over 20 years “to serve and celebrate folks who care for Art, Science and the Common Good on LI and Beyond.”

As Founder Emeritus of the Synchronicity Network Newsletter, Trudy will be the first member of an honorary advisory board that we look forward to inviting others into soon. For now, though, let us focus on Trudy.

She will tell you that since coming into this world in 1952 she “has done every crazy job that was legal and moral.” In the last 20 years I’ve known her to serve as a field manager, a seamstress, an architectural assistant, interior designer, bus driver, snowplow operator, cleaning lady, and a receptionist. She has worked with microchips and in product testing. She often serves as a poll worker during election season. In 2009, she informed me that she “wanted to volunteer somewhere she was really appreciated.” She then proceeded to become a nanny that gave Mary Poppins a run for her money, magic carpet bag and all. It was around then that she also became my business partner.

That story actually begins in 1997, three years before I met her when Charles Agius of Cablevision went through Long Island’s only community leadership program, Leadership Huntington. As he was her employer, Trudy ended up learning a lot as she assisted his participation. The nine-month intensive program was designed to Develop, Connect and Engage diverse community leaders using the Town of Huntington as a living laboratory, fostering stewardship across diverse perspectives. Once graduated, Charlie came back to Trudy – who was already an entrenched volunteer in her church, for local theater and in organizations surrounding her children — and said he would nominate her to go through the young program.

She did it, while at the same time fighting cancer.

Trudy became an ardent volunteer for Leadership. She attended in her own way to every class, save a few when she was caring for her mother and after completing her service in 2014. She was a board member for years. In 2010, when Leadership was suffering the Great Recession, she found herself almost single-handedly coordinating the program. She and Dianne Parker pulled me in. Trudy and I quickly ended up becoming Program and Acting Director together. She got to know many graduates of classes she’d missed and for a long time also volunteered in diverse capacities for the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce whose Chamber Foundation founded the organization. In 2015 the Chamber bestowed upon Trudy its prestigious “Klaber Award” to honor her deep and enduring service to the Town.

Through Leadership, Trudy became involved in Vision Long Island, a regional force for Smart Growth with a particular focus on down towns and local endeavors, and a champion of education and relationship development across interests. One of her Class of 1999 fellows, Ron Stein, was planting the seeds of this organization that first germinated as Vision Huntington. As a founding Vision Board Member, Trudy tended to every Board and Huntington Smart Growth Steering Committee meeting and did a lot of the organization’s early videography. I myself became involved when they hired me in 2000. Trudy played a meaningful role in early community planning processes and provided thoughtful, practical support to the development of the Smart Growth Awards and Summit. Since Vision’s maturation as a regional force for smart growth planning and policy, Trudy has served Vice President, Treasurer, and now Co-Chair. The role she really plays, tho, and probably always will, is deeper…

Trudy also served as Chair of the Ladies Auxiliary of both the Huntington and Suffolk County VFWs. In addition to much basic support to both bodies, she played a key but quiet role in securing State funding for much needed roof, electrical and other repairs to her local VFW Hall. She then served on the board of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, as well as the Huntington Housing Authority. She was also an early board member of The Moonjumpers Charitable Foundation, which was founded by Larry Kushnick, Robert Benson and Peter Mazzeo.

In the worst of circumstances, Trudy has been there for her community with soup, a blanket and informed guidance. FEMA certified, she served Suffolk Country Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), acting as both a trainer and a support provider in times of local crisis, as well as assisting in the creation of the organization’s Standard Operating Procedures. While Superstorm Sandy came the same day as her latest grandchild, she still did not hesitate to also lend a hand to that monumental cleanup effort.

Trudy Fitzsimmons is a loving mother, grandmother and an extraordinary friend. She has been a dearly appreciated sounding board and guide to countless folks who have endeavored to make a positive difference on Long Island. I am grateful for this opportunity to celebrate her, and look forward to great things going forward. I love you, Trudy.

The Adventures of Craig & Trudy Chapter 3: Lesson in Community Trusteeship, The Huntington Township Chamber Foundation

Libby Hubbard and Arthur Goldstein, two extraordinary community trustees of the Town of Huntington. Photo by Katheryn Laible

The Early History of the Huntington Township Chamber Foundation

Leadership Huntington was founded by members of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce. Longtime Board Member. Ken Christensen attributes the very beginning of any mention of a leadership program to Dick Bornstein a fellow chamber board member. Dick traveled to a national chamber training program every year. He brought home news of a leadership program he thought they should consider. No one took up the idea until sometime later, although The Chamber did run a one-time program called “Practical Politics.”

At that time, The Chamber’s board included a number of members who were passionate about serving the community. One big idea they had was to start a childcare center. In order to do this and other things, they needed a mechanism by which they could accept donations, essentially a 501(c)3. So, the Chamber created “The Chamber Foundation.” It was chaired by Libby Hubbard, assisted by Ken Christensen, Jill Tane and others. While Libby was forming the foundation, Dick Bornstein suggested applying for a state grant to help get the childcare center started. The grant application needed a total list of everything a child care center would need to start operation and a budget.. Libby contacted Katie Roach, a local child care center owner, who was able to give them all the details for the grant in very short order. That contributed to the success of the grant.

With receipt of the grant the Foundation hired an Executive Director, Dianne Parker, to put together this child care center, as well as a health care facility for the community and other work. At that time Arthur Goldstein, a local attorney was the Chamber Board President. For the Health care facility Arthur and Dianne were looking at a warehouse on Pulaski Road used by Huntington Hospital for storage. Long story short, Arthur negotiated a variance for a bathroom which helped make the space suitable.  He was so successful in selling the idea that, next thing you know, they were ordering an MRI machine. He also found a state grant and county money to move this along, and convinced two people from Huntington Hospital to be on the new health care facility’s Board of Directors. This is how what is now known as the “Northwell Health Dolan Family Health Center” came to be. 

To say Arthur was a catalyst for good is an understatement. I wish I had more interaction with him. What a wonderful human.

To say Arthur was a catalyst for good is an understatement. I wish I had more interaction with him. What a wonderful human.

The Power of Community Trustees

This group of people, some whose names I have mentioned, some I haven’t and never met, had a vision for their community. These people were and are Servant Leaders, or Community Trustees.
By that I mean they took seriously the notion that community leadership is:

  • Fundamentally an act of service to the common good
  • About first endeavoring in cooperation with others to understand the big picture, the components and how they work together
  • About then empowering those served to envision their preferred future, and to realize their own unique roles in achieving it.

This approach reflects a life-transforming attitude for both the individuals and communities that embrace it. With the advent of the over 1000 Community Leadership programs it has inspired, it has strengthened and transformed communities nationwide by encouraging lifelong learning across interests and perspectives, and by actively strengthening relationships throughout communities.

Community Trusteeship has changed attitudes and helped participants become more effective local leaders. By focusing on exploring the deepest values of participants, it improves both sense of self and empathy for others. It advances clarity of purpose, deepening and broadening awareness, respect for diversity on multiple levels, and both the desire and ability to serve the community for the common good.

The Importance of Trust

The phrase “Community Trusteeship” identifies a key ingredient that is fundamental to a healthy community, and is too often lacking today: TRUST.

Greed, dishonesty, divisiveness, corruption, and acting exclusively in one’s own self-interest without regard to others destroys trust. Even without theses being actively perpetrated, lack of human connection fosters disbelief, skepticism, and suspicion. Lack of trust destroys relationships, undermines institutions and makes it difficult if not impossible to bring about effective solutions and public goods.

Trust requires honesty, mutual understanding, faith, predictability, and integrity. Earning trust is an act of the heart. Giving trust is an offering of vulnerability in good faith that it will be honored. When demonstrated by individuals who act in an unselfish manner to consider each other’s interests as fundamental to their own, it is a powerful benefit to society.

Community leaders who hold their communities in trust model commitment and caring competence. They recognize that each of our self interests is bound up in the health and well being of the whole. In this, Trustees provide deep service and leadership to individuals and organizations. At the same time, they empower the development of these people and organizations who comprise the communities they serve.

Trust requires honesty, mutual understanding, faith, predictability, and integrity. Earning trust is an act of the heart. Giving trust is an offering of vulnerability in good faith that it will be honored. When demonstrated by individuals who act in an unselfish manner to consider each other’s interests as fundamental to their own, it is a powerful benefit to society.

Community Trusteeship is an act of caring commitment that transcends narrow self interest to serve the whole community; taking responsibility for and acting on behalf of the common good, and endeavoring to help individual interests find a healthy place as part of the whole.

The concept reminds us that leadership is not about us; that our communities are complex organizations that existed before us and will continue long after we have moved on. It honors those who came before, endeavoring to understand their triumphs and tribulations, and the issues overcome and still before us. It recognizes the contributions that created and preserved the amenities we value today. It recognizes our duty to protect and enhance these resources effectively holding them in trust for those who will follow.

Community Trusteeship is more about personal commitment than specific skills, even as its execution is much about identifying strengths and then coordinating and putting them to good use. In this, it is at least as much about interaction as it is about individual action; a commitment to continued learning, relationship development, and endeavoring in service to the whole.  

I am grateful that those who formed the Huntington Chamber Foundation and participated in all its good works took these concepts to heart. I hope that you will, too.

Adventures of Craig & Trudy in Community Leadership, Chapter 2: Touching on Temperament.

Some notes on a few of the temperament styles. Photo by Trudy Fitzsimmons

What would you do with an extra $300? Pat and Craig Rider used it to make a dream come true. During their honeymoon on a sailboat they discussed starting a business. Within a year they had established a consulting company with $300 bucks Craig earned teaching an extra college course. The Riders’ personal and professional journey now spans more than three decades.
Craig and Pat Rider are co-founders of The Rider Group, Inc. which specializes in team building, leadership development and retreat facilitation for organizations throughout North America. Their work with city, county and state-wide community leadership programs has earned state and international awards of excellence.  

Craig holds an MS in Counseling and Guidance and a BA in Psychology. Pat has a BS in Political Science. Active community advocates, both have chaired major fundraisers. Pat’s extensive volunteer work earned her recognition as a YWCA Woman of Influence and as one of Dayton’s Top Ten Women. What a dynamic duo. The preceding excerpt was taken from the book they wrote entitled “300 bucks and a dream,” which you can purchase online. Permission was given.

Thank you Craig. 

Remembering Where we Started

“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are.”   ~ The Talmud

By 2014, both the Rider Group and I had been involved in Huntington’s Leadership program for almost 20 years. I thought the history should be told, or at least recorded somewhere. In my desire to capture the history of Leadership Huntington, I arranged a dinner to include Ken Christensen, Libby Hubbard, Dianne Parker, Lou Giordano, Craig Rider, Kate Laible and myself.
During the course of the dinner Ken piped up saying “This needs to be on the record.” So this story goes: 

Craig was hired to conduct the first class retreat for Leadership Huntington in 1994. Everyone was nervous and wanted to make sure the retreat would go smoothly. Ken, feeling responsible for the program asked Craig, “What are you going to do?” 

Craig replied, “Stuff.”

Ken immediately became concerned and exclaimed “STUFF!?!” He then said, “I am not a stuff guy. I don’t do stuff! I want to know what you are going to do in detail. I am not going to trust you to do ‘STUFF.’”

Craig calmly replied, “As I evaluate the class and see what they are doing I will adapt. I need to know who the class is, what their collective personality is and their situation. I will accommodate whatever it is they are doing.” 

Ken said that didn’t make him feel much better but he did go to all the retreats because, “Craig’s STUFF WAS GOOD STUFF!”

At those retreats, Ken learned that he is a Beaver. To understand what that means, keep reading.

The Chairman of Leadership Huntington, the unflappable Lou Giordano also spent time speaking with Craig at the retreat. Craig commented “I don’t know if you knew I was a native, but it means so much to be in my hometown working with Leadership”

Lou replied, “Don’t you think I checked your references?” 

Craig replies, “You mean my Aunt Neeta and Cousin John?” 

Lou’s eyes opened wide. That was a gotcha moment. Craig has a keen sense of humor and, fortunately, so does Lou. 

Lou is an Owl. If you have been through the program with either of them you may get the humor of the situation. 

The main purpose to these little pieces of information is to introduce you to some examples of Temperament. When Craig evaluated the class, he used an instrument called the “Myers- Briggs” assessment tool.* Later, he replaced this with something he felt was simpler for folks to understand, called “Temperament.”    


“Temperament identifies the basic needs and core values that drive our behavior and our choices. It is an interdependent, self-supporting system”     ~Linda Berens

The class would take the assessment to bring them to an understanding of how different each of us is, and what our learning styles are according to the Temperament Summary. I will share just the basics with you.**

Understanding temperament patterns is a crucial part of developing key leadership skills. Having an awareness of why and how you and others communicate and perceive information opens the door to more effective relationships and productivity.

During the retreats, Craig would offer many exercises — “STUFF” — to help understand how all this works. The following short descriptions, while not complete, provide an initial understanding of the patterns of behaviors, values, talents and needs. We are each a mix of temperament types, typically with one type as our preferred, or dominant type. Temperament is a language of how we are wired; the “deck of cards” we have been dealt.

Basic Characteristics of the 4 Temperaments:

“No one temperament can be said to be better than another. Each one contains strengths and richness, yet each one is fraught with its own weakness and dangers.”  ~ Tim LayHaye

The Beaver values being part of a group; having membership. Beavers are the cornerstone of society, establishing and maintaining standard operating procedures. They tend to protect, serve, stand guard and warn. Looking to the past and tradition, they may focus on the conventional. They pride themselves on being dependable and hardworking. They are generally serious, concerned and often fatalistic. Often they are skilled at getting everything in the right place- information, people and objects. 

Time Orientation: Past 

For those familiar with Meyers-Briggs, Beavers fall under ESTJ ISTJ ESFJ ISFJ

The Owl exhibits knowledge and competency. As the problem solvers, they tend to focus on complex systems of the world. They analyze how something works and then how to make it better. Seeing everything as conditional and relative, they trust logic and reason. Driven to accomplish their goals, they work tirelessly to complete projects. They are often fiercely independent leading some to think they are cold or distant. However, they are more likely simply immersed in the problems they are currently solving. 

Time Orientation: Infinite 

Meyers-Briggs Profiles: ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP, INTP

The Dolphin tends to be authentic, kind and empathetic. This is the self-improvement temperament. As a visionary and idealist, the Dolphin wants to make the world a better place, searching for identity, meaning and significance. They focus on similarities as a way to find integration. In whatever field they are in, they work well with people and groups of people. Their drive for self-knowledge, along with their general loving demeanor is inspiring to those around them.  

Time Orientation: Future

Associated Meyers-Briggs profiles: ENFJ INFJ ENFP INFP 

The Fox has an innate ability to excel in the art of their choice, whether it is business, athletics, military, or industrial. They trust their impulses, and seek to have an impact and get results. They are optimistic yet realistic, unconventional yet focused on the here and now, often getting absorbed in the action of the moment. They want freedom to move, seeking adventure and stimulation, and seizing opportunities that come to them. They will often take the road others feel is too risky, doing whatever it takes rules or no rules. 

Time Orientation: Present

Associated Meyers-Briggs Profiles: ESTP ISTP ESFP ISFP

* Myers–Briggs typology as categorized by David Keirsey. This document is a summary of the four temperaments based upon the following sources: Berens, Linda V.,”Understanding Yourself and Others: An Introduction 4.0” Radiance House, West Hollywood, Ca., 2010; Keirsey, David, Please Understand  Me II, Temperament Character Intelligence, Prometheus Book Company, Del Mar, CA, 1998.

** Please understand Myers-Briggs is a complicated instrument. It is not intended in this short writing to evaluate anyone, only to produce an awareness and understanding that people have many ways of processing information.     

Next month:  Leadership and Community Trusteeship

The Adventures of Craig & Trudy Chapter 1: Community Leadership, How We Got Here

Photo of Trudy & Craig

My name is Trudy Fitzsimmons and, as Kate Laible said, “Craig Rider and I are up to something,”

So, here we will give a little history of Leadership Huntington and what it has meant to us and the community as we experienced it.  Craig and I have not been directly involved with the Leadership Huntington program for a number of years, but have fond memories of our time contributing to the program. We would love to share the experiences, including some firsthand stories recounted as we remember them.

Sit back and relax because this may take a while.

In the late 80’s early 1990’s, the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce started to develop a Leadership program because several of the board members had been to multiple meetings that week and had started to remark to each other, ”Who will follow in our footsteps when we are no longer available?”

The Chamber developed a not-for-profit arm, “The Huntington Chamber Foundation,” with the help of board member Ken Christiansen and Dianne Parker, who had been hired as its Executive Director. Together with other community leaders, they developed a number of programs. One, was a community leadership program that was designed to produce well informed, motivated leaders who are willing and capable of working together for the good of the community. The Chamber Foundation had, early in its development, over 100 volunteers contributing their talents to creating this leadership program. Ken, who was deeply impressed by how much even a person like him who had been deeply involved in the community learned through the process, often remarked that this group was “in many ways, really, the actual first class of Leadership Huntington.”

This is where Craig Rider gets involved. Craig grew up in Huntington. In an effort to stay in touch with his home town, he had continued to subscribe to The Long Islander. There he read about the Foundation starting a leadership program and called to offer any assistance he could. Being a master facilitator, he had developed a leadership program in Dayton Ohio and worked with many companies all across the United States. We’ll tell you more about Craig’s education and experience later.

So let me continue……

What is Leadership Huntington you ask? Well, I will tell you.  It is an experiential program that later became its own independent 501C3. It has turned out about 15 to 20 graduates per year for the last 20 + years, giving these folks a 360 degree view of the 100 square miles of the Township of Huntington. Leadership serves those open to learning about getting involved in our town and across Long Island as trustees and servant leaders. They believe this program is a best practice for community leadership on Long Island and in the country. It is the only program of its kind on Long Island and one of nearly 1000 across the nation.

Yes, there are other leadership programs offered by universities and such but none that are strictly local or experiential. We believe every Town should have a leadership program to help educate the willing. Leadership builds networks of people who develop skills and learn how their communities work, while providing them with tools to plan a future of their own. One of the things that makes this experience unique is the diversity of the participants. It includes people from business, government, not for profits, arts, science, medical and energy sectors. The young, old, women, men…whoever has an interest.

A number of local businesses, corporations, not for profits, and local government offices have used Leadership as a teaching tool for their employees. For me, over the last 20+ years it has been a privilege to meet some of the most dynamic, talented and generous people who, each in their own way, continue the good work. We will share some of their stories as we go.

Huntington Klaber Award Given for First Time Since 2015. Congratulations, Sheila Pariser!

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash
2018 Klaber Award recipient Sheila Pariser
2018 Klaber Award recipient Sheila Pariser

Trudy here! I want folks to know about The Klaber Award and its latest recipient, Sheila Pariser. The award is given by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce. It honors long term dedication to the Town of Huntington, NY and is bestowed upon an individual, age 60 or older, who has spent more than 15 years building a record of distinguished and exceptional voluntary service to the community, including key leadership positions with diverse town-wide organizations. The award is not given every year. It was recently given for the first time since 2015, when I was honored to be selected!

The honor itself memorializes a prominent local architect named John Klaber. Born in 1884, Klaber did not make his home in Huntington until 1945. Despite the late start, he had a profound impact, endeavoring to both improve the quality of life and preserve the existing beauty and charm of his adopted community. In his 26 years as a Town resident, John served as Vice President of the Old Village Green and Vice President of the local chapter of the NAACP. He was a member of the Huntington Historical Society, Historical Sites Preservation Committee, Huntington Lions Club and the American Legion. Mr. Klaber continued to be an active member of the community until his passing in 1971 at the age of 87. At that time he was serving on the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce’s Planning and Zoning, Human Resources, and Town and County Affairs Committees. Throughout, Klaber maintained a fascinating scrap book that was donated to the archives of the Town of Huntington in 2014.

This past August, I was pleased to join the Huntington Chamber of Commerce in celebrating the organization’s latest Klaber Award recipient, Sheila Pariser, who has been a volunteer on Long Island for 40 years. Sheila’s community endeavors began with becoming a Board Member of the Huntington Chapter of the American Red Cross in the late 1970s, where she served for five years. Since 1980 Ms. Pariser has been a member of Soroptimist International of Huntington (now Soroptimist International of Suffolk County), with roles including President, Vice President and Director. The organization has also honored her as a Woman of the Year.

In the 1980’s and 90’s Sheila served the Huntington Freedom Center (now Head Start), and volunteered at Huntington Hospital on Sundays.  From 2006-2011 she served on the Board of Managers of the Greens at Half Hollow, then as Secretary of the Homeowners Association in 2011. From 2012-2014, Pariser was Vice President of the Homeowners Association of the Greens in Melville. In 2013, she was appointed Chair of the Special Needs Committee for the Community. From 2016 to present, Ms. Pariser has been member of Condo 3 Board of the Greens in Melville. She has also been appointed Government Liaison for its Government Affairs and Public Relations Committee.

Since 2010 Ms. Pariser has volunteered for the Visiting Nurse Service and Hospice Center of Suffolk. Since 2015, she has been a Board Member of the Friends of Oheka, serving on their artistic scholarship selections committee.

Previous honorees of this award honoring Klaber’s spirit include:

Clayton F. Mugridge – 1973
Bryon Sammis – 1974
John Ficker – 1975
Richard E. Allen – 1976
Honorable Fred Munder – 1977
Jack Lee – 1979 Jane M. Sullivan – 1981
Robert Mitchell – 1984
Ruth F. Concoran – 1986
John Jazombek – 1988
John Staib – 1989
Quentin Sammis – 1991
Anthony Mastroianni – 1992
Walter Spilsbury – 1997
Arthur Goldstein – 1998
Vaughan Spilsbury – 1999
Mary C. Cary – 2000
Libby Hubbard – 2001
Clifford Starkins & Joy Squires – 2002
Duncan Elder – 2003
Kenneth A. Christensen & Eleanor Casey – 2004
Dolores Thompson – 2010
Robert Scheiner – 2014
Trudy Fitzsimmons – 2015
If you know someone who should be considered for this award in the future, please contact the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce at 631-423-6100,