SAU president honored with leadership award

Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, president of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, displays her 2011 ATHENA Award Recipient statue. Sr. Lescinski received the Athena Business Women’s top award March 22 during a ceremony in Rock Island, Ill.

By Anne Marie Amacher

For the past six years, women across the Quad-City area have been honored for their time, energy and resources in leadership with the ATHENA Award.

To her amazement Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, president of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is the award’s 2011 recipient. She accepted the award March 22 during a program at Jumers Casino and Hotel in Rock Island, Ill.

“I was stunned,” Sr. Lescinski said March 24 during an interview in her office on campus. She knew she was one of six women named Athena Award honorees, but didn’t think she would be named award recipient.


“I had just gotten back from a trip to India on Monday. As I sat there Tuesday I never would have thought I would have been selected.”

She saw a number of St. Ambrose staffers at the ceremony, but that didn’t strike her as a surprise — not until the presenter began reading the essay of the top winner.

All six women had to write an essay on “What is your philosophy, and what ideas do you have about empowering and inspiring women to lead?”

In her essay, Sr. Lescinski said “some people believe that leaders ‘are born, not made.’ I happen to believe it’s much more complicated than that, and, for me that’s a very hopeful point of view. I believe that leadership can be fostered and nourished, and I believe that women have been an untapped resource for leadership that we can empower.”

She said she credits her mother with telling her and her siblings that they could do anything if they worked hard at it. She also noted that her dad often asked her “and what did you learn from that” when she complained about something. She learned that she could do things differently to make a difference.

“Our parents encouraged us to be leaders,” Sr. Lescinski said.

Having previously served as president of another university, she said when she sought her second presidency — at St. Ambrose — she wanted to work at a university where the faculty and staff serve the students. “That’s what we do here at St. Ambrose.”

Leaders often get credit, but they couldn’t get things done without help, she noted. “I am blessed with the wonderful faculty, staff and board of directors here at St. Ambrose that allows me to exercise leadership.”

Women in leadership should not worry about doing things perfectly, however. “Many women suffer from the ‘disease’ of perfectionism and this can stymie leadership efforts,” she said in her essay. “Rather, set your goals, pursue them with confidence and good advice and counsel and don’t worry about the results.

“You can achieve more than you ever dreamed and you’ll not only have the satisfaction of leading, you’ll also see the good that can be accomplished by a single individual: YOU!”

About Athena International

Athena International’s mission is to support, develop and honor women leaders, inspire women to achieve their full potential and create balance in leadership worldwide.

ATHENA Award Recip­ients are individuals who demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession. They provide valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community. They actively assist women in realizing their full leadership potential.

The Women’s Connection and Quad Cities Chamber established the local organization six years ago.

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