Cynthia Kwiatkowski Grow Inducted 2003 - Class of 1968
When one hears the term “VISIONARY", they may think: Walt Disney. Well. move over Walt. Our own Cynthia Kwiatkowski Grow, Visioneer and Vice President of the Creativity and lmagineering Division, is co-founder and co-owner of DEI, Incorporated, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. As one of the pre-eminent researchers in the financial industry, Cynthia is a visionary with a “master’s degree" in creativity and innovation. She is also one of tonight's inductees into the Woodward High School Hall of Fame.
Cynthia is a creative consultant behind the scenes at DEI incorporating unique retail merchandising concepts for clients across the United States and Canada. An accomplished speaker, she has presented keynote addresses, seminars and workshops across the United States on a variety of subjects. Her powerful and energetic delivery has "edutained" audiences of all ages.
Born the oldest of five children, Cynthia credits her mother, who encouraged her independence
and assertiveness, and her father, who was a strong disciplinarian. "I was grounded so much that I spent a lot of time by myself - no television, telephone or radio "… which left me with a lot of time to develop my imagination." The Kwiatkowski family moved away from "LaGrinka" in 1958, but returned to the neighborhood in 1965. "When I was 14, we moved to 537 Pearl Street, between Chestnut and Mulberry. I am very proud of my Polish heritage." Prior to coming to Woodward, Cynthia attended several schools ... St. Hedwig's, St. Jude' s and McTigue Junior High. She entered Woodward her sophomore year and “joined up" with Carolyn Lake Yenrick, a friend since kindergarten, who also came to WHS her sophomore year. Cynthia became friends with other grads from St. Hedwig, St. Vincent, and St. Adalbert's grade schools. Best buddies included Carolyn, Betty Hafner Hunt, Sherry Foster Sullivan, Carol Duszynski Farmer, Cindy Hudecek Sherette, Sandi Wright Banasiak, Sherry Hobbs Fitzpatrick and Marguerite Kuron. "We share many memories, which I still treasure today."
In high school,Cynthia was known as "CK" (her initials). "But 'The St. Adalbert Group', AKA Leon Pyzik and Moe Szczechowski, and Latin class guys like Bob David stuck a moniker on me, 'Chiquita'. It's along story." Cynthia reminisces about walking to and from school everyday (great exercise), walking from her home to "The Y" near Start High School on Fridays (more exercise), and getting home from school just in time to watch “Dark Shadows".
Cynthia's classmates still remember her as "a character". She once won an award for dressing up for WHS Blue & White Day in her pajamas! Her favorite memory was being auctioned off at the Junior Classical League slave auction. "My 'Master,' who made me do a lot of stupid things, was none other than Dave Simko. Coincidentally, Dave is also being inducted into the WHS Hall of Fame tonight! Cynthia also recalls Senior Week, pie-throwing contests, the Senior Olympics, and Mr. Traver's acting classes, especially the one where she dressed as a sexy weather girl. "We did it Laugh-In style. I can't believe that my lead-in song was 'The Stripper'. The Extravs were great fun. I wanted to be Electra in 'Gypsy' sooo badly. But that part went to someone else."
Cynthia's favorite teachers included Mrs. Pat Crawford. "She created quite a stir with her long blond hair and short skirts. I became close to our Senior Class Advisors . . .Mr.Cieslewski, Mr. Duvendack (Groovie Duvie), Mr. Bolduan, and Mrs. Wiseley. Mr. Glover, art teacher, was a great inspiration. Mr. Traver was fun. He'd let us sneak out to McDonald's during class and bring things back. I have fond memories of Mr. Geis and Mr. Laubenthal too! "Cynthia credits the ladies in the front office, especially Barbara Gantz, with being a source of guidance and encouragement.
Cynthia proudly claims that her family “bleeds polar blue." Her mother, Dorothy Jankowski-Kwiatkowski graduated in 1947. Her aunts and uncles, Joan Jankowski Pyzik (1957), Gene Pyzik (1955), and Pat Jankowski Cieniewski (1960), and brother Michael Kwiatkowski (1978), and sister Kimberly Kwiatkowski Duran, Homecoming Queen and 1983 grad, are all alumni. Other Woodwardites are cousins Mark Cieniewski (1982), Jeff (1983) and Crystal (1988). Look around... many of these family members are here tonight!
Though Cynthia learned a lot and played a lot at Woodward, she describes herself as being "one of the fortunate ones who has attended the School of Hard Knocks and greatly benefited from it It's a shame that the human brain doesn’t learn from others' mistakes - only by its own ...and believe me, I've had more than my share of mistakes .. .or should I say opportunities!" After graduation, Cynthia worked as a grocery cashier, bank teller and held various management positions in the banking, hotel, sales, marketing, and retail industries. Cynthia received her college education the hard way - as a mother, wife, and full-time bank executive. She attended night school and graduated "with honors from the Ohio School of Banking, Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio. "I did my thesis on what was then a new, controversial program in the banking industry. My work, The Secondary Mortgage Market and its Dramatic Impact on a Bank's Profitability Portfolio, was recognized as one of the leading papers in the banking industry. Shortly afterward, I was recognized as one of the top speakers in the American Bankers Association, in Dallas, Texas, for my speech on The Economic Impact of Competitors in the Banking Industry. Cynthia has served as an instructor for the American Institute of Banking and several universities. Cynthia is well versed in the retail industry, working for retailers JC Penney, KMart, Sheraton Hotels, and Holiday Inn Systems Worldwide. "When I was Sales & Marketing Manager at a Cleveland area Holiday Inn, I was privileged to meet and lunch with Milton Berle, Vincent Price, Roselyn Carter, Coretta Scott King and Barbara Bush. In the late 80's, I also had the opportunity to cook and exercise with Richard Simmons on his nationally televised show."
Cynthia married her soulmate, Richard Grow, in 1992. She has three stepchildren and three grandchildren from her stepchildren. Her son, Randy Lugenbeal, is 34 and lives in Lake Mary, Florida. He is married to Michelle, and they have two handsome boys, Zachary (age 9), and Nicholas (age 6). Randy is one of DEI's regional managers. Cynthia also brags about her three "grand-dogs", a pug, a lab, and a schnauzer.
Pooling their talent, creativity, and ambition, Cynthia and her husband Richard started an architectural design-build company, DEI, Inc., in 1985. "DEI stands for Dedication, Ethics, and Innovation...just as the name is unique, we positioned our company to be like no other. From what started out in a converted bedroom office in Toledo, with a staff of two (Richard and myself), we've grown the company to a $40 million sales organization that builds unique financial facilities throughout the United States. Our company employs over seventy people now. We've been recognized twice in Inc. Magazine for our creativity and our 'Think Tank Room', where banking executives attend a day-long brainstorming session on how to differentiate themselves in the marketplace."
Over the last several Years, Cynthia has presented keynote addresses, seminars, workshops, and speeches on various scripts, such as retail merchandising trends, psychographies, behavioral graphics, and demographics of today’s consumer. For the last five years, DEI has been recognized at the National Retailers Association’s Convention for creating brand images for its clients. DEI's projects have been featured in Retail Image Magazine, and on the front-page Business Section of newspapers in Monterey California; Lexington, Kentucky; Richmond, Virginia; Tampa, Florida; Denver, Colorado; and Cincinnati, Ohio. They have also received television coverage in Albany, New York: Denver, Colorado; and Chicago, Illinois. "Our company takes very good care of its employees. We designed our employee lounge to look like a French Bistro. We also provide a spa, where our employees receive manicures, pedicures, haircuts, and stress-relief massages, all in-house." Dale Dauten, a writer for the Kings Syndicate who is known as "The Corporate Curmudgeon", authored an article describing DEI's approach on how to encourage creativity in employees. This article, published in thirty-two newspapers last year, featured DEI exclusively. Ken Blanchard, author of "The One Minute Manager", recognized DEI in his "Best Practices" newsletter in 1998 for motivating employees. (Author's Note: Sounds like a great place to work. I wonder if they have any openings.) Visit the DEI website atwww.dei-eorp.com. It’s fascinating!
Recently, Cynthia was interviewed by Neil Cavuto, television host of "Your World" on Fox News Live, which is broadcast throughout the United States and twenty-one countries. They discussed which European countries are targets of Anti-Americanism. "I guess those years on the WHS auditorium stage prepared me for my 15 minutes of fame." A published author, Cynthia has written numerous articles on retailing for ABA Banking Journal, Credit Union Times, Credit Union Journal, and Credit Union Management magazines. She has been quoted in articles appearing in national newspapers and newspaper publications, including The Chicago Tribune, USA Todav, Buildings Magazine, Credit Union Journal, and Credit Union Times. Cynthia 's first book, "Retail Marketing for Credit Unions", was published by the National Association of Credit Unions in 1999, and is part of their Management Enrichment Training Program.
In addition to the resounding success of DEI, Cynthia has enjoyed other rewards and honors. She has won numerous public speaking awards, and was named Woman of the Year (1981) for the National Association of Bank Women. She also has served as President or Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Ohio School of Banking Alumni Association; YWCA in Elyria, Ohio; Lorain County March of Dimes; United Way of Greater Lorain County; and the City of Elyria Sesquicentennial.
When asked what she does for fun, Cynthia replies, "We LOVE our company (DEI) and concentrate on its success. Richard and I travel extensively - over 100 flights per year on business. We've visited great cities. My hobby is gourmet cooking and enjoying fine wines. We are now designing and building a new 10,000 square foot home, which takes up most of my time."
Cynthia was quite surprised and pleased when she was notified of her selection as a Hall of Fame inductee. "I would like to thank whomever nominated me for this prestigious award I am honored to be selected to be a part of a group, who, in my opinion, have been more successful than me!"
What an impressive list of accomplishments! We energetically welcome Cynthia into the Woodward High School Hall of Fame. Is it too trite to say YOU GO GIRL! Congratulations, Cynthia!