Five Questions for Leonard Dinegar

Vice President for Administration and Chief of Staff, CU Office of the President
At his award presentation, Leonard Dinegar is joined by his wife, Christina, right, and Wynn Pericak, special assistant to the senior vice president and chief of staff. [Photo/Leonid Balaban]
At his award presentation, Leonard Dinegar is joined by his wife, Christina, right, and Wynn Pericak,
special assistant to the senior vice president and chief of staff. [Photo/Leonid Balaban]

At his award presentation, Leonard Dinegar is joined by his wife, Christina, right, and Wynn Pericak,special assistant to the senior vice president and chief of staff. [Photo/Leonid Balaban]

As chief of staff, Leonard Dinegar lends assistance to President Bruce D. Benson whenever it's needed, whether it's a personnel issue, in negotiations, or working with the Board of Regents. As a senior vice president of the university, he oversees numerous departments: University Information Systems (UIS), System Human Resources, University Relations, Information Security and the Office of Policy and Efficiency (OPE).

Then there's that little matter of the university's budget. And you think your job is difficult.

Yes, he has lots of help from a team of managers who he says make his work easier, and it helps that he loves working with people and clearly loves the university. But there must be days when he reflects fondly on some earlier employment gigs, when he was a busboy in an Italian restaurant in New York or when he was a bouncer in an Irish bar in Washington, D.C.

The passage of Senate Bill 10-003 helped by providing the university with some much-needed flexibility concerning how it operates, but Dinegar doesn't think the university will "grow out of" budget problems as it has in past years. He believes there will have to be a new agreement with the state and its citizens as to how higher education is funded, and that is what Benson spends much of his time trying to figure out.

Dinegar grew up in Queens, N.Y., and spent many years working in Washington, D.C. Two of his brothers live in New York and three live in Washington, D.C. While he misses family and the history and culture of the cities where he lived for many years, he's become a Colorado convert. "There is no place I'd rather live and raise a family than Colorado," he says. "It offers so many more opportunities for our family than the East Coast. Just don't tell my brothers that."

At its meeting last week, the systemwide Faculty Council honored Dinegar as Administrator of the Year.

— Cynthia Pasquale

1. You have served in several positions at the university, and before then, in the White House, and in several public affairs roles. How did you choose this career path and what attracted you to the university?

I didn't exactly choose my career path. It was a combination of having outstanding mentors and taking advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves that got me to where I am today. In Washington, D.C., I worked for the same woman for eight years and four jobs, starting out as her secretary/scheduler and ending as her chief of staff in the White House Drug Policy Office. During those years I developed a set of skills that served me well in my career and they happened to be a good fit for working in government relations, my first job at CU. I started out on a six-month contract at CU and that turned into a full-time position. After working at CU just a short time, I realized how lucky I was. It's a tremendous place to work and the people are terrific.

2. You received the Faculty Council Administrator of the Year award partly because you were adamant about obtaining input from the faculty concerning ways to make CU more efficient. How do you feel about receiving this award and how does it reflect your philosophy of leadership?

I joke that being selected as the Administrator of the Year by Faculty Council is a lot like asking my children to select their favorite vegetable; there aren't many good ones, but once in a while you need to pick one. Seriously though, I am humbled by the recognition and I hope it shows that this president and his team are serious about wanting to help solve the problems of our faculty and staff and he knows that to do so, we have to listen to them and then make sure they play a key part in formulating the solutions to those problems. That is why he created the Task Force on Efficiency and why he was so adamant that we include faculty and the end-users as we try to solve the problems that cause headaches for the faculty and staff.

3. During your tenure at the university, what was one of the hardest decisions you had to make or a setback you faced? What decisions or accomplishments gave you the most gratification?

Without a doubt, the hardest decisions I've had to make have to do with personnel, especially laying off staff. Any decisions that impact people's lives and their families should be taken most seriously. Recommending to the president that we eliminate the Silver & Gold Record was extremely difficult, not only because of the paper's history at CU, but because I was longtime friends with many of the staff members.

The decisions or accomplishments that are most gratifying are when I have the opportunity to hire great staff members. I always aim to hire folks who are smarter than me and I work hard to support them. I also enjoy the opportunity to support the president and help him achieve his goals on behalf of CU. That is very satisfying.

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4. Last year, you were given "bystander CPR" by Lindsey Phelps, who will be honored at the end of this month. How has the event changed you and what kind of a relationship do you have with Lindsey?

Clearly, Lindsey saved my life after I collapsed at the airport and she gave me CPR. I look back now and am more confident than before that I have a great life with wonderful friends, family and colleagues. Following the event, the outpouring of support for my family is what I will remember most. I don't take that for granted.

I've spoken with Lindsey on the phone, but will meet her for the first time when she and her mother visit Colorado later this month to receive an award at the Anschutz Medical Campus commencement. Lindsey was the only one who stepped forward at the airport to do the right thing during a frightening moment. That type of action should be recognized, we believe, and my family was very happy when President Benson nominated her for the award.

5. How do you spend your time away from the office?

I enjoy running, hiking, skiing and other outdoor sports with my family. On weekends I'm very content to stay home and do work around the house, whether it be painting a room or cleaning the yard. After working all week at the office, it's nice to complete a project at home that has tangible results and doesn't involve meetings or paperwork or e-mail.

My goal each day is to simply improve myself in some small way as a father, husband, friend and employee. Some days I'm more successful than others, though. In my office, I have framed birth announcements of my three children. They are individual drawings by my sister showing each of our children – daughter Sarah and sons Charles and Sandy – doing all the activities we hoped they would do as children: reading, skiing, fishing, etc. It's a daily reminder for my wife, Christina, and me about why we do what we do each day.

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