Why Would You Partner with Him?

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I love stories of unlikely allegiances that lead not only to triumph, but to a “win” for the greater good. Recently I heard two such tales.


First, my husband and I (finally!) finished watching Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which took us several weeks to complete as we had to watch each movie spread out over multiple sittings. (Who has time to watch a three-hour movie, much less three of them?)


Unlikely and trepidatious alliances between elves and dwarves, hobbits and humans served to collectively triumph over evil and provide all with the opportunity to prosper in peace.


The second was connected to this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast.


My guest was Dave Rowan, CEO of BLOCS, i.e. Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools. And BLOCS, as I learned, though not combatting the dark lord Sauron, did begin with an unlikely alliance in the effort to combat a most formidable foe: the combination of urban poverty, underperforming schools, and the need for a qualified labor force.


In 1980, then-Cardinal Krol, head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, approached William Fishman, the Jewish businessman who had been CEO of what is now Aramark, to lead a coalition of business leaders to support the Catholic school system in the city.


Why would a Catholic Cardinal want a Jewish CEO in this role?


As the website explains, at the time, the Philadelphia Archdiocesan schools constituted the eighth largest school system in the U.S., providing a higher quality education than the public system was able to provide for thousands of children in the poorest neighborhoods who would ultimately become the city’s labor force.


Fishman polled his employees and discovered that, indeed, more than 50 percent of the workforce at Aramark had attended Philadelphia Catholic grade schools, regardless of their religious affiliation.


Kroll and Fishman joined forces and a fundraising campaign was launched among the city’s industry leaders of all sects and sectors to help support the extraordinary financial burden of the city’s Catholic education system (which was, incidentally, alleviating an equally enormous tax burden off the public schools) in order to keep the city’s future economy strong for years to come.


Today, BLOCS provides need-based scholarships for students in underperforming school areas to attend ANY private tuition-based school, Catholic or otherwise, through the Pennsylvania State Tax credit program.


During our conversation, Dave not only told some great stories about his “former life” in the world of professional sports, but he also:


  • threw down a particularly inspiring 24-hour Influence Challenge in the context of the onset of the holiday season this week
  • discovered a perfect “escape” button for the horrible moments when you find yourself wishing you could put the words back in your mouth or frantically trying to unsend the email. (Or more seasonally, you can’t uncook the turkey!)
  • revealed how he fired someone with such empathy that the (former) employee later invited Dave to his wedding!


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.




If you want to take Dave up on his 24-hour Influence Challenge and are looking for a charity to support, consider supporting one of our prior Speaking to Influence podcast guests:


But above all, Dave shared that his favorite part of the day is waking up every day knowing through their donors and schools that they’re helping provide these kids a brighter future, i.e. not unlike the Lord of the Rings, providing all constituents with the opportunity to prosper in peace.


And in the spirit of Thanksgiving this Thursday, I give thanks to all of YOU for your readership, feedback, input, comments, event attendance, invitations to speak at your events, and in general for putting your trust in me. It is an honor I don’t take for granted, and for which I am continually grateful.


Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, and joyful Thanksgiving!

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