The following is a guest blog entry from Dana Perrino, CMP, one of MPI’s chapter business managers. It’s about an MPI member who has inspired her and continues to inspire her family, friends and fellow chapter members.
Inspiration is defined by Jennifer Leech, current vice president of finance and previous vice president of education for the MPI Pittsburgh Chapter. Jen was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer in March 2011. While balancing her full-time career—as well as being a wife and mother of three beautiful girls—she has never missed a board meeting or retreat while she continues on a road to beat cancer. Her commitment to contribute to the meetings and events community in Pittsburgh is truly astonishing. This level of commitment was displayed the times her husband was required to drive her to the MPI meetings because she was too weak from her chemotherapy sessions.
Though the Pittsburgh board has endured certain challenges, she has made an impact serving in the position of vice president of education. Her goal is to one day serve as this chapter’s president, but her current focus remains on elevating the chapter regardless of her role.
While attending the Pittsburgh Mid-Year Retreat in January, Jen told me her cancer had returned. It is because of Jen’s impressive personal fortitude that I wish to share her level of determination to continue being involved, engaged and invested in our business and in attendance at chapter events and meetings. Jen surrounds herself with the components of life important to keep her moving forward and leave the challenges she faces behind as best she can with a positive attitude and spirit.
I have always been in awe of Jen, but at January’s retreat she once again inspired me with her message to Pittsburgh’s board of directors. She told us the road ahead would be rough, and she may not be able to continue in her current capacity. The idea of this broke her heart. She communicated her passion for MPI, which was absolutely contagious. She also expressed that there would be no more excuses. If she could step up based on her personal situation, then they could also remain focused to strengthen the chapter. Since the retreat, she continues to engage the chapter at the same level. She admits to being stubborn and fiercely determined in everything she does and refuses to allow cancer to be her legacy. Instead, it is her desire that her family, her love for education and MPI will be her legacy.
Jen has not allowed her battle with cancer to slow her down, and she continues to perform her MPI and director of catering role with the Sheraton Station Square Hotel well. In 2011, she was honored as the Greater Pittsburgh Hotel Association Manager of the Year. She was recently promoted to director of catering, a position she has worked hard the past 10 years to achieve.
“I know that you already know how absolutely amazing and inspiring she is,” said Danielle Himes, president-elect for the Pittsburgh Chapter. “I first met Jen at our May 2010 Gala. She attended the Gala after receiving a chemo treatment that day, sporting a beautiful wig that she fussed over half the night. Needless to say, she still looked gorgeous, and I wouldn’t have known that she was even sick if she hadn’t asked me to check her wig for her. I was instantly amazed at her stamina and focus on succeeding in her oncoming role as vice president of education. Jen joined the board in July 2010. She inherited an incomplete calendar with no programs booked. Within her first year on the board, she was able to complete a successful education calendar that brought the focus of monthly programming back to event and planning topics.”
“I first met Jen at our annual retreat in June 2010,” said Becky McMillen, chapter president. “She came to the overnight retreat in her words ‘bald as a cue ball.’ She had just finished a chemo treatment. She was unable to drive, so her husband drove her and stayed overnight. Any other person would excuse themselves from the retreat, but Jen came and was focused the entire time. She did inherit a position that lacked direction and structure but despite the position she was given, she has held a passion for MPI Pittsburgh that was and continues to be inspiring.
“Since the retreat, Jen and I have worked alongside to ‘discover’ MPI,” McMillen continued. “Not only does Jen get the job done, she does it with such a passion and drive for the industry. We have shared in personal moments after surgeries and doctors’ appointments and even celebrated the news of her being cancer free. Now, we sit with the news of the unknown and more questions. Except Jen seems to be the only person not sitting! She is up and working, sending RFPs to secure venues for our fall 2013 calendar, emailing, holding committee meetings and mentoring her director of monthly programs. She is truly an inspiration and a selfless volunteer for MPI Pittsburgh.”
Jen Leech continues to be an inspiration to me. She is the model for my other chapter leaders who also have the courage to leap forward and lead, versus those that take more of a back seat. Whatever challenges you may encounter, I know my strongest board leaders have the same personal fire and professional savvy to push forward.
Did I mention that inspiration is defined by Jennifer Leech?