Great organizations are that way because of at least a few outstanding and impactful leaders. And those leaders are not necessarily the President & CEO.
COSI has been a great organization for a long time--known around the world for many achievements and innovations, one of the chief among them being our dedication to guest service. (My job in part, as CEO, is just not to screw up some of the key areas of achievement and positive culture we have at COSI ;-)
Part of what makes COSI great is the sense of family and the dedication to each other and to our guests. No one embodied that more than Betty Bryan, our devoted volunteer, who passed away last week.
Many of our visitors may recognize Betty’s photo as that wonderful lady who greeted and supported our guests every Wednesday. But Betty’s background and impact on COSI go way beyond the positive contributions our loyal volunteers make.
I'll share a few pieces of history about Betty. I hope these explain why she has been a unique individual spanning the entire history of COSI and having a deep and long lasting impact on COSI’s culture of excellence.
When COSI opened in 1964 Betty Bryan was here, managing the volunteers. One of them was a precocious 13 year old Roy Shafer. She not only helped guide Roy's personal growth to where he advanced to eventually serving as COSI's President for 13 years, but she worked for COSI during Roy's tenure in a variety of leadership roles. In those 30 plus years leading up to her retirement, Betty had served most notably as Vice President of Guest Services---establishing the foundation for our special attention to our guests. She hired many of the current leaders within COSI, and if she didn’t hire them she imbued the others with the culture of COSI’s brand of guest service.
She retired shortly after Roy Shafer left COSI in 1995 and then transitioned to the role many of our team and guests know her for –the dedicated volunteer who brought passion, wisdom, and the COSI way to guest service to those who interacted with her. She should certainly know guest service at COSI--she established it!
Betty was one of the first COSI leaders Roy introduced me to when I was first being exposed to COSI as an innovative institution in the late 1980's. Betty stood out in my mind then, and stands out in my mind today as I write this. I considered Betty the keeper of the COSI “DNA”. Since joining COSI, I spent many a conversation with Betty-- re-anchoring myself in the institutional history and the wisdom and spirit which first made COSI so special.
All of the COSI team feel her loss in one way or another---some very deeply. In many ways Betty was COSI. And why not, she is the one person who has been with COSI since its inception 48 years ago, seeing it through it’s early growth, transitions in leadership, and establishment of the special qualities which have helped make COSI the #1 ranked science center it is today.
We've lost someone very special when Betty Bryan died. But of any one of the leaders (in title or action) we have lost through the years, Betty is the individual whose spirit is probably most embedded throughout COSI. When you have a great COSI guest experience—just say a little thanks for Betty Bryan. I certainly will.
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