Meet Three Arizonans Elevating the State

Some people casually invest in the human condition by donating their time, money or influence to elevate their fellow citizens. Others shoulder a bigger responsibility, committing themselves in profound ways to affect change. These are the power lifters, an elite class of civic “athletes” who help raise our community to new heights. Here, we profile a few:

DR. RUFUS GLASPER

Chancellor, Maricopa Community Colleges

The potential to lose more state funding doesn’t rattle a trained numbers guy like Rufus Glasper, Ph.D., CPA, CGFM, and chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges (MCC). As the chief executive officer of one of the largest community college systems in the U.S. for the last 13 years, he’s fixed on the educational big picture.

“I manage and maintain a view of the whole, and make sure we maintain partnerships and a seamless transition across the P20 continuum,” says Dr. Glasper, who prior to being chancellor was executive vice chancellor for human resources and administration, and vice chancellor for business services/CFO at MCC.

That’s a monumental task given that MCC serves 262,000 credit and non-credit students in 700 degree programs across 11 colleges. Helping MCC students effectively transfer to state universities and private colleges is a passion of Dr. Glasper’s, who served from 2005 to 2009 as co-chair of the P-20 Council, a collaborative K12-gradauate school initiative to develop a sustainable statewide system of quality education and support that enhances delivery and value in the education pipeline.

And based on MCC numbers, the student-success approach is working. Approximately 13,000 MCC students have participated in partnerships that allow for a smooth transition into bachelor programs.

“It saves parents and students money, and stu¬dents stay on track,” he says.

Glasper, who serves on many national boards to advance higher education goals, also is determined to extinguish the negative “junior college” perception by branding MCC in a different light.

“I want people to think of MCC as a comprehensive community college system with an important role in building economic strength,” he says. “We’re the largest provider of workforce training in the state and have been the answer to the recession. We’re helping to rebuild economy by putting people to work.”

MCC also remains invested in economic development and entrepreneurial endeavors through the Maricopa Small Business Development Center Network, Arizona’s largest and most accessible statewide resource for small businesses. In 2014, it bolstered that commitment with the launch of the Maricopa Corporate College at GateWay Community College, which provides customized technical training to local employers. A division of the corporate college is the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation, an 18,000-square-foot, mixed-used incubator for startups including those in biotech and manufacturing.

“We need to find sustainable funding sources,” says Dr. Glasper. “This helps us look and act more like a business.”

HOPE OZER

Chair Emeritus, Valley Youth Theatre

The last time Hope Ozer performed on stage was as the lead in her high school production of “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Her acting career was short-lived, but it didn’t stop Ozer’s passion for theatre—or for becoming one of the biggest supporters of the arts in Arizona.

In 1989, when her young daughter was performing in a local fledgling production group called Valley Youth Theatre (VYT), it didn’t have a permanent home, a board or a budget. Ozer made some suggestions and was eventually running the show.

As a volunteer, she built stages, sent letters to everyone she knew and “accosted strangers in the supermarket checkout line” to drum up money and interest in the youth theatre. Eventually, Ozer helped secure a facility, a board and staff for VYT, all while recovering from breast cancer.

“I tend to be a rescuer. I find a need and I fill it,” says Ozer, whose eclectic background includes finance, marketing and public relations.

Today, VYT is recognized as one of the premiere youth arts programs in the country, launching many famous hometown careers, among them Emma Stone and Jordin Sparks. With VYT in sound shape, Ozer embraced a new challenge in 2002 and became the founder and publisher of the free, local community newspaper TheTatumSunTimes, now the CITYSunTimes. She knew nothing about publishing, yet had a successful 12-year run.

Though she sold the newspaper in 2013, she continues to be involved as publisher emeritus and writes a regular column called “Musings of a Distractible Mind.”

While the newspaper was a 24/7 venture, the irrepressible philanthropist had time to pursue competitive power lifting, winning medals at age 64. Ozer still lifts for strength, sits on several boards, runs a consulting business for small businesses and non-profits, and makes frequent trips to NYC to visit her granddaughter, who just happens to love the theatre.

And, as chair emeritus of VYT, she is still asking people for money as the organization’s No. 1 fan and fundraiser.

“I have a strong belief in the value of theatre and am dedicated to the development of youth—whether it’s on stage, in the audience or behind the curtain,” says Ozer. “Children come out of VYT with a sense of self and are better prepared, no matter what they choose to be in life.”

EDMUNDO HIDALGO

CEO & President, Chicanos Por La Causa Inc.

When you get a 30-minute notice that the President of the United States wants to visit one of your community projects, the commander-in-chief’s only local stop, you clear your calendar.

“It was the highlight,” says Edmundo Hidalgo, CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa Inc. (CPLC), of Barack Obama’s request to visit Nuevo Villas, CPLC’s affordable housing development in south Phoenix in January. The presidential attention is no coincidence: CPLC is the lead applicant in a national consortium of high-capacity, nonprofit affordable housing developers awarded a federal grant to revitalize 15 urban and rural markets in eight states.

CPLC, which started 42 years ago to address Latino needs, now serves disadvantaged citizens regardless of ethnic origin through education, economic development, housing, and integrated health and human services programs. Under Hidalgo’s leadership the regional community development corporation has experienced double-digit growth in the last eight years.

A native of San Luis, Ariz., Hidalgo started as an intern at CPLC then left to pursue a career in banking. He returned to the nonprofit agency as the chief financial officer before becoming the CEO in 2008.

“We look at ourselves as a small business,” he says of the 700 employees that address social and economic issues in urban and rural areas. “We try to match problems with community opportunities. Our key to success is establishing networks and referring to others who can help. The ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of a job. ”

Solving complex community issues, however, goes beyond a calendar date, according to Hidalgo. “We’re invested in a long-term relationship with the community. It’s a triple bottom-line: Chicanos Por La Causa, our partner and those we serve, “ he says. An ability to connect need with resources in that equation has earned Hidalgo, who sits on several boards and commissions, tremendous recognition including being named as one of 25 Most Influential Minority Business Leaders in 2014 by AZ Business magazine.

With a finance background, it took time for Hidalgo to feel comfortable with his role and title, especially the need to balance the emotions associated with providing assistance to low-income and under-served citizens.

“I had to learn an extra strategy working at CPLC,” he says. “We tend to fall in love with the enterprises and programs that we create. We’re fixers but we also need discipline to know that some things don’t work out.”

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