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Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

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Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Women of 3 Influence

Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Publisher Chad Beatty

General Manager Robin Mitchell Creative Director Richard Hale Writers Helen Susan Edelman Katrina Lucas Patricia Older Nikki Roche Graphic Designers Eric Havens Jessica Kane Account Executives Chris Bushee Jim Daley Cindy Durfey Photographers Mark Bolles Deborah Neary Printing Leader Herald Sponsored by:

Saratoga County’s 2013


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Women of 5 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Joanne DiMarco

By Nikki Roche Photos courtesy Deborah Neary

You Can Accomplish Anything “Think like a man, but look like a woman.” Those are words Joanne DiMarco lives by. As the highest ranked woman in her company, Select Sotheby’s International Realty, Joanne is an inspiration to all women, proving that with hard work, dedication, and strong will, one can accomplish anything. It all started with a fundraiser for Hanna’s Hope Fund and a chance introduction to John Burke, head of Select Sotheby’s, which was the start to her professional destiny. A graduate of Paul Smith’s College with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Joanne was working at the Desmond Hotel doing marketing and public relations. She was not looking for a change, but continued to run into Burke at various social events and fundraisers. Finally, he was able to

convince Joanne to come on board and work for his company. By November 2010, she was named the vice president of marketing, the first woman in the company to earn that designation. Then, in December 2011, Joanne was promoted to executive vice president. She is in charge of staff and agents for the company, strategic planning, hiring personnel, branding the franchise, recruiting new agents, overseeing special project marketing, new business development and assisting the president in meeting company standards. Joanne has a simple strategy for success—Think outside the box. She said that in order to market successfully, a company needs to be different—chase me, don’t chase. That is how Joanne developed the concepts of Portfolio Magazine, Video Strategy and Experiential

Marketing for Select Sotheby’s. As a well-known expert in the field throughout the Capital Region, Joanne has used these strategies to help increase the sales of Select Sotheby’s International Realty from 28 million to 90 million in two years. She is well respected and admired for her drive, expertise and experience. As a single mom of three children for nine years (two of which currently work with Joanne at Select Sotheby’s International Realty,) Joanne found ways to combine family time with giving back to the community. Joanne and


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

her children would volunteer for organizations such as The Special Olympics, Ballston Spa Pop Warner, March of Dimes and Hand Rolled and Neat. “If I couldn’t bring the kids, I wouldn’t do it,” she said. Being a single mom, Joanne relied on a lot of people and wanted to give back in some way and began volunteering. She believes that a person can’t just take but must give back as well. With an event planning background, Joanne is the perfect fit for fundraising committees, able to brainstorm ideas and find ways to promote organizations in ways that may not have been done before. Ask anyone on these committees and they will say that Joanne does things 110 percent. Joanne was part of the Special Olympics New York, Silks and Stars Gala from January 1998 to July 2011. She served as co-chair for this event for 13 years planning, executing and overseeing volunteers as well as the event itself. In one night, she was able to help raise $180,000. From August 2000 to January 2007, Joanne was an active part of the Ballston Spa Pop Warner Organization. She was the

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 fundraising coordinator, team mom, team medic, ran the concession stand, and even coached cheerleading. During this time, Joanne brought the challenger program to Ballston Spa. This program helps differently able children to have an opportunity to play football or cheerlead. Joanne is also actively involved with the March of Dimes of Northeastern New York. Since January 2008, she has served many roles in the organization. For five years, she served as chairperson of the Signature Chef ’s Auction. In 2010, she was chosen as Volunteer of the Year for Northeastern New York. Then, in 2011, was appointed to the Board of Directors for Northeastern New York and has served as Board Chair since December 2012, also serving on the New York State Board for the March of Dimes. In addition to these organizations, since 2012 Joanne has been co-creator and co-chair for Hand Rolled and Neat: A Night of Wicked Indulgence, raising money for Pancreatic Cancer Research. Joanne has an inspirational philosophy on life—Savor and

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Enjoy. She has a passion for food, wine and cigars, even writing restaurant reviews for Her Life Magazine. Joanne explained her fascination with cigars, noting that her father smoked cigars and as a result, she became fascinated with them. She noted that she discovered she was doing business in a man’s world and needed to find a way to break in and since much of business is done on the golf course or smoking cigars, she continued that since she didn’t golf she chose to learn instead about cigars. Joanne explains cigar smoking as “relaxing” and when a person smokes cigars; they smoke because they want to not because they have to. She noted that a cigar must be

Women of 7 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

“savored and enjoyed.” True to her statement “think like a man, but look like a woman,” Joanne uses a punch and not a cutter on her cigars, so that her lipstick doesn’t smear, even carrying one on her key chain. She noted that she prefers quality over quantity; fewer things that are a better quality over more things that are cheap. In her downtime, there is nothing better than a good cigar, nice red wine and chocolate. She uses her knowledge and affection of cigars to further network by attending cigar events all over the country. It is a perfect description of how Joanne lives her life and why she is so successful in every aspect of it.


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Cynthia Hollowood

By Nikki Roche Photos courtesy of

Cindy Hollowood’s theory of living is a “blending of life;” family, friends, community, fundraising. To her, it is a continuous circle, with all aspects affecting one another, and it is this circle that has helped Ciny become successful in all areas of her life. With a Criminal Justice Degree from Hudson Valley Community College and a BA in Sociology from the University of Albany, Cindy began working for the Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs in 1981 as the director of sales and marketing. By 1985, at just 28 years old, she was promoted to general manager. At a general managers meeting in 1986, Cindy was one of only three women out of 1000 general managers attending. But things have changed—presently, 40 percent of the hotel chain’s general managers are now women. Cindy took her responsibilities to the hotel seriously and with a vision and worked tirelessly to re-establish

the hotel’s original role as the “community hotel.” To accomplish this, she began marketing the hotel through the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Chamber of Commerce and Saratoga Race Course. In her first year as general manager, Cindy raised the hotel’s occupancy rate by 10 percent. In 1998, she added 24 units and even served as the construction manager for the project. Through her efforts, the Holiday Inn has become a key component for many of Saratoga’s events and fundraisers—she contributes various donations from the hotel such as a place of venue, food, gift certificates and money. By doing so, she has expanded relationships all over the community with various businesses and organizations, thus building the hotel’s success. Networking has been a huge aspect of Cindy’s success. She noted that “learning what makes a community tick” is extremely important

in any business. Cindy was also among the first class in 1986 of Leadership Saratoga, through the Chamber of Commerce. It was through the Chamber that Cindy met her husband, Brien Hollowood, whom she shares two children with. In 1990, Cindy was named as Leadership Saratoga’s Distinguished Alumni and received an Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2008 from the American Hotel and Lodging Association for her work with the NYS Hospitality Tourism Association. She has been a Board Member to the NYSHTA—a trade association for the hospitality and attraction industry—since 1996 and is the current chairwoman of the Board of Directors. The NYSHTA is responsible for lobbing state legislature for tourism funding, highway signage and agritourism product development and against a minimum wage increase

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Women of 9 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

and expensive regulatory issues at the state and federal level. She was also the foundation chair, offering scholarships to hospitality students. Cindy’s hard work and promotion of the hotel paid off when the hotel was awarded the Intercontinental Hotel Group Quality Excellence Award in 2002, 2003 and 2005. As for the quality of life in Saratoga Springs, Cindy describes says there is nothing else like it in the world. “What we enjoy here is second to none,” she noted. But her dedication goes beyond community involvement. It’s about giving back. Cindy’s attributes much of her success in the hotel to her team of employees and she explained that having a strong support system is important in any business. As a result, she has established 401k benefits, hosts an annual employee recognition luncheon, and makes efforts to find affordable health insurance, among other things. When promotions are available, if possible, she likes to promote within. She noted that creating a sense of family within the work environment helps make everyone more successful, including the business. Cindy is a founding board

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 member of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau and served as the board’s first secretary. She also has held positions as treasurer and chairman of the board. In order to fund the organization, Cindy helped develop an occupancy tax with support from area lodging establishments and the city council. She has served on the board since 1984, when it was first founded. Cindy’s involvement in the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce has been essential since joining the Holiday Inn. She has served as a board member and vice chairman of communication from 1988-1994, and was a top member sales producer in 1988. She also has served six years (1986-1992) on the Board of Directors for the Saratoga Chapter of the American Red Cross. During this time, she helped raise funds to move the organization to its own house on Rowland Street in Ballston Spa. Cindy’s role with the Saratoga Springs Figure Skating Club was elemental as the organization was recovering from financial hardship. In her eight years on the board of directors, she was able to help develop a reserve fund and develop funding programs to make the

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 sport available to those not able to afford it. Membership grew from 70 to 120 from 2000 to 2008 thanks to Cindy’s dedication to the project. She was the travel secretary to the Saratoga Thunder Girls Softball Team from 2004-2009 while the team competed all over the nation including Alabama, Nevada, Virginia and throughout the Northeast. In addition, Cindy has been involved on mayoral-appointed committees such as Saratoga Downtown Redevelopment, the Zoning Board of Appeals, Special Assessment Board, Saratoga Community Race Course Advisory Board, All American Celebration, Saratoga Economic Development Corporation and Saratoga Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution. She has also been a leader in fundraisers such as the annual Saratoga Hospital Summer Gala, Yaddo Summer Event Corporate Sponsorship Committee, YMCA Winter Gala and St. Clements School Equestrian Festival. Cindy is an inspiration to working women everywhere. She founded the Upstate New York Women in Lodging Group and served as the first key note speaker. This organization encourages

Women of 11 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

women in the lodging industry and gives scholarships to those entering the field. She has also had a 10 year relationship with Saratoga BOCES School to Work Program. This program gives students the opportunity to further the job skills in the hospitality field. Many of these students have developmental disabilities and 20 percent of the students are hired at the end of the program. Though in the beginning of her professional career there were not many women as general managers, Cindy said she “never felt not listened to or discriminated against.” With a strong presence, knowledge and passion for family, community and success, she has been able to prove that women can do anything. She makes it a practice to hire women in every department of the hotel, even those jobs traditionally held by men. Unlike some general managers, Cindy never felt the need to move on to another hotel. The benefits of the Saratoga community were more important to her than moving up. Rather, she said, she stays fresh by taking on new roles. She has managed to create the perfect blend of accomplishment through her circle of life; her role as mother, wife, professional and community leader.


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Meg Kelly

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

By Katrina Lucas Photos courtesy of

Helping Children Swing for the Stars Meg Kelly may have just been named one of this year’s “Women of Influence,” but she has been affecting lives in Saratoga for almost four decades. First, encouraging an active, healthy lifestyle through golf, and more recently, nurturing children’s love of the performing arts. Kelly’s family moved to Saratoga Springs from Westchester County in 1974. Spending days at McGregor Links Country Club with her father, she honed her swing and developed a passion for golf that stayed with her through college at SUNY Brockport and beyond. Touring wasn’t for her, though. “I like my nest, my home. Living out of a suitcase was not at

all appealing to me,” states Kelly. Instead, she became an LPGA Teaching Professional and began instructing men, women and children at Saratoga Spa Golf in the State Park. Over the years, Kelly has taught thousands of Saratogians proper swings, putting techniques and more. And she helped advance the sport for women in the area. “When Meg came on the golf scene, women were thrilled to have someone who understood women, women’s bodies and women’s needs,” wrote Mary Laskey when nominating Kelly. “Women in the ‘80s were just beginning to have the ‘privilege’ of playing golf on many courses. Meg captivated the women in Saratoga Springs, allowing them to enjoy the sport, while

developing business and personal relationships.” For most of the ‘90s, Kelly also co-owned and operated Exit 17 Golf in Gansevoort. There, she combined her golf lessons with a driving range and miniature golf course, and later, a retail shop. She also hosted Women’s Golf Days, bringing other LPGA professionals in for day-long clinics. Still an instructor after 28 years, there is no doubt that Kelly loves golf, but to see her eyes brightest, simply mention the Saratoga Children’s Theatre. With a young daughter who loved to perform, Kelly searched for ways to cultivate those talents. She soon realized there were limited opportunities for children interested in

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 singing, dancing and acting. So, in her quiet, can-do way, Kelly filled the void by founding a non-profit theatre group. With only 12 children, Kelly started Saratoga Children’s Theatre in the basement of the Saratoga Arts Center in 2008. In just five years, the organization has grown to include four program levels, with more than 300 students registered for this summer’s camps. “It’s overwhelming,” remarks Kelly, a bit amazed. “We had 190 participate last year, and to date, there are 350 enrolled for this summer. We added a couple of sessions to the schedule, with extra performances, and I was still closing registration in March for some of the programs.” In addition to expanded sessions for Kids (ages 7-11), Juniors (ages 9-13) and Teens (12-18), SCT created the “Rising Stars,” a new level for 2013, introducing children ages 4-6 to the stage. “Saratoga Children’s Theatre is changing lives,” says Kelly with pride. “We see kids arrive in tears, with parents distraught at leaving them. But the program transforms these young boys and girls. At the end of the session, they are on stage, laughing and singing and dancing.”

Women of 13 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

“And now, in our sixth summer, it’s heartening to see how so many have grown. Some of our earliest students have graduated from high school already and moved on to Theatre Arts in college.” Kelly has been fortunate to find outstanding professionals to lead the summer camps, directing, choreographing and instructing the students in all aspects of the theatre. Each staff member embraces SCT’s mission to enrich, educate and inspire children, capturing their artistic qualities. They strive to not only provide a forum for creating theatre, but also to build a future audience with a lifelong love of the performing arts. As participation increased exponentially, SCT quickly outgrew the Arts Center and now holds the summer camps and final performances at St. Clement’s School, with the exception of the Teen Troupe that takes the stage at Skidmore College. Things aren’t quiet during the ‘off-season’

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 anymore either. Kelly and SCT host workshops in New York City for students ages 11-18, with casting directors, actors and dancers providing enriched learning opportunities. It may seem a bit surprising, with Kelly’s athletic background, that she recognizes SCT fills another need for children. “It offers an option for students who aren’t into sports. They can build confidence and develop skills that will carry them on the stage of life.” Saratoga Children’s Theatre is also unique because it is allinclusive. Several autistic children participate in the programs, mainstreamed seamlessly by the dedicated, caring staff. This is an important piece of the program for Kelly, whose youngest sister, Katie, is developmentally disabled. Kelly works closely with the staff at Living Resources to encourage Katie’s independence, and several of their groups come

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 to the SCT shows. So, to what does Kelly attribute the success of Saratoga Children’s Theatre? “My golfers,” she states emphatically. “When I started, I sent the initial registrations to my golfing list. That’s where the first students came from in 2008. From there, it became word-of-mouth.” “My golfers have supported me through everything, even as my life has shifted and golf becomes parttime next to the full-time theatre. They are my network. Between my career and my husband’s (former City Court Judge Douglas Mills), we know most of Saratoga. That certainly helps when starting a non-profit organization.” “I’m also lucky,” she adds modestly. “I have a lot of great people around me. I’ve surrounded myself with professionals who quickly enhance any effort I’ve started.”

Women of 15 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

It takes a determined leader to motivate others, however, and Kelly is that. “She radiates strength and ability and is not stingy with her gifts,” wrote Laskey in her nomination. Kelly has certainly shared those gifts and talents many times over, from the golf course to the stage and countless places in between. She is passionate about Saratoga and is happy to contribute whatever she can to foster the city’s sense of community. She is currently active with the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, the Saratoga Chamber Players and SaratogaArtsFest. “Meg gets up every day and makes (Saratoga) a better place to live, not only for women, but for all of us,” Laskey continued. That is why, today, it’s Meg Kelly’s turn to stand in the spotlight.


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Michele Riggi

By Katrina Lucas Photos courtesy of

Dancing for Saratoga Fresh-faced and exhilarated from her morning workout, Michele Riggi runs up the stairs to her kitchen. Many have an office area in the kitchen, a spot where the calendar is hung, papers collect and maybe the laptop or iPad sits. But for Riggi, the kitchen is her office. It’s a room, approximately 16-feet wide and twice as long, completely overtaken by the business of running a family and more significantly, managing numerous charitable efforts. “Saying ‘no’ to anyone is hard with so many worthy

causes,” Riggi remarks. “But it can be overwhelming.” This Woman of Influence juggles it well, though. Sitting at the counter, her knees pulled up to her chin, she continues, “I’m touched and moved by this honor, but it feels a little odd to be recognized for doing all of this,” sweeping her hand across the paper piles. “It’s just part of me.” Riggi’s nomination was based on her remarkable work at the National Museum of Dance. While many Saratoga nonprofits can boast of Riggi’s support, few can show the same impressive

effects. The former dancer first joined the board of the flailing museum in 2006. When she was named president the following year, museum finances were in despair, the exhibits hadn’t been changed in at least a decade and the School of the Arts had only 30 students taking classes in the dance studios. Riggi had no choice but to clean house. She hired all new employees, carefully appointing professionals who shared her vision of a thriving, interactive National Museum of Dance. The team, with Riggi at the helm, has worked tirelessly over the past

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 seven years to bring the museum to the national stature it deserves. New exhibits, dance memorabilia, art and children’s programs fill the foyer and galleries. The museum now offers countless monthly events, hosts an annual antique show and a bridal event, and celebrates National Dance Day in July, bringing dancers of all ages together for lectures and free dance classes. Recognizing the outstanding facility for instruction adjacent to the museum, Riggi also focused on developing and promoting the School of the Arts. Today, enrollment is over 400, more than twelve times what it was in 2007. She implemented memberships to add thousands in revenue each year, and turned the annual gala into one of the soldout events of the summer season, even with the $400 per seat price. It is a fabulous, must-attend celebration raising over $300,000 each year thanks to Riggi’s personal commitment and the incredible volunteers she recruits. “I’m so proud of what I’ve done with the museum,” Riggi admits, beaming. A highlight of the gala is now the pre-event induction of a noted star into the Mr. and Mrs.

Women of 17 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame. In recent years, the celebration has honored Michael Jackson, Ann Margaret and Ben Vereen for their invaluable contributions to the world of dance. This has not only shone a spotlight on the museum within Saratoga Springs, but also on the national, and even international, stage. In fact, everything Riggi has initiated underscores the significance of the National Museum of Dance, and the vital role culture and dance play in Saratoga. None of this came easily, however. Riggi’s efforts have been met with skepticism, criticism, and in some cases, flat-out nastiness, both in the community and the media. As hard as it’s been, she has held her head high and kept true to her heart. Leslie LaGuardia, Riggi’s colleague on the museum board, nominated her as a Woman of Influence, writing “Her determination and spirit, love for the dance, and dream of giving something to the world of dance…are evident in all she has contributed.” LaGuardia continued, “I nominate Michele Riggi for her brave heart.” And that heart knows no bounds. Beyond the dance

museum, Riggi shares her time, talent and treasure with numerous organizations including the Double H Ranch, Saratoga Hospital and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The kitchen island holds a library of binders that store event details for Riggi’s many commitments, and a master binder containing invitations and guest lists for every event and occasion in the air at any given moment. Her meticulous charts note who she invited, who has replied, and whether or not the person can join her in support of a favorite cause. Among the piles of paperwork are photos of Riggi and her pup, Queenie, taken the night before at “Tails by Twilight,” a benefit for the Animal Protective Foundation. Riggi served as the event’s ‘pet lover extraordinaire’ because of her passion for animals, and in that role, donated time for a private meet and greet with VIP supporters. She leads the American Cancer Society’s “Dogs & Divas” each year, combining her love of dogs and sense of fun to fight the disease that touches every life. Riggi has also donated the proceeds of her book, “Palazzo Pups”

to canine oncology research and treatment, and helped build a local 24-hour animal hospital. Speaking of those famous pups, just how many are there now? “I have 35, and there are two grand-pups here too,” calculates Riggi. “I’m caring for (son) Christopher’s dogs while he’s on location for a new film.” Of hers, 13 are ‘saves,’ rescued from various places. Some were abandoned, others abused, a few from a puppy mill. Giving them a good home is very important to Riggi. She advocates for spaying and neutering too, so no dog will be unwanted or unloved. Practicing what she preaches, Riggi bid $10,000 at “Tails by Twilight” to provide 100 procedures at the APF Community Spay/Neuter Clinic. “That is the kind of auction item I like to bid on,” added Riggi, “One that will truly make a difference.” Of course, every once in a while, it can be fun to bid on something a little different. Like the package that introduced Riggi and her husband, Ron, to Mariano Rivera. For their generous donation at a benefit last summer, the couple ‘won’ lunch with the NY


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Yankees pitcher. “But we never had lunch,” Riggi recalls. “He was the nicest man and we got caught up talking. We spent the afternoon with him in the dugout.” Now the three are friends, and Rivera quickly learned what much of Saratoga knows. If you want something done, and done right, with style and elegance, ask Michele Riggi. “He’s asked me to be the Honorary Chair for his fundraiser this summer,” Riggi exclaims, almost giddy at being able to help Rivera. “It’s August 19, though, so we have a lot of work to do.” That’s Riggi. She won’t be an Honorary Chair in name only. She has to get involved and make sure the fundraiser is a success. “If I agree to be part of an event, in any way, I need to give my energy and effort too. I won’t just put my name on something. I need to put me into it.” She’ll do just that for Rivera’s foundation, as she does for every other charity she holds dear. She doesn’t do it alone, however. At home and on the town, Ron Riggi stands beside his wife of 35 years. Their four grown children, Rochele, Roslyn, Vincent and Christopher, are always close in heart and support too. (Trickor-treaters may know them as Disney characters flanking their Cinderella mom at the Palazzo

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 Riggi community Halloween Extravaganza!) On this particular day, Riggi was awaiting her kids’ arrival. The whole family was going to be together for Mother’s Day weekend, and taking advantage of this, an early birthday celebration for Riggi at one of Roslyn’s restaurants, Boca Bistro. “I am so excited to have them all home for the weekend,” Riggi said, her role as ‘mom’ taking over the philanthropist. “Of course, we’re also filming this weekend, so I’m glad they can be here.” Yes, it’s true. The reality show “Palazzo Riggi” is in development with E!, and while much can’t be discussed, Riggi is able to share her motivation for the project. “I want to showcase Saratoga Springs. The show is about Palazzo Riggi and our place in town. It’s about what we do here and I hope it will cast yet another spotlight on this unique city.” “We have an extraordinary home in Saratoga. Not just the house, but the town and its history, culture and people. I will do whatever I can to support that.” To that end, Riggi intends to donate all income from the show to Saratoga Springs charities. “I want to do this for Saratoga.” And she will. Riggi’s generous, kind, brave heart will always dance for this community.

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Women of 19 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Holly Schwarz-Lawton

By Helen Susan Edelman Photos courtesy of

“I’m a coalition builder.” If it’s up to Holly SchwarzLawton, every ‘i’ will be dotted and every ‘t’ will be crossed in her untiring drive to get things done right. “I have a vision,” she says, “but, I’m not just about ideas. I also figure out how to get there, usually as part of a team. I’m a coalition builder.” Well said by a woman who has elevated team play to an art form. In Saratoga Springs since 1975—first arriving as the wife of a Skidmore anthropology professor who has since moved on—SchwarzLawton has left her unique imprimatur as a volunteer on projects and organizations ranging

from United Way to Leadership Saratoga, from the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau to the League of Women Voters, from the YMCA to Soroptimists International of Saratoga County. And, in her several highprofile, high-stakes professional roles, the Boston native helped to change the face of arts in education in Saratoga Springs–as administrator and co-director of the innovative Beagle School, working with young children; administrator of the Summer SIX Art Program at Skidmore College, where she was charged with organization, development, recruitment, publicity and budget for a pioneering program for

high-school through graduate art students; and, most famously, as the long-time executive director of the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Program, where she was responsible for identifying, interpreting and promoting the natural, historic and cultural resources of the City of Saratoga Springs, and for managing the city’s visitors center, which right off the bat required her to implement a $680,000 grant to renovate the building, known as Drink Hall, on Broadway, directly across from the entrance to Congress Park. “I enjoy the role of working with boards and advisory councils to make recommendations,” she says. “I don’t mind jumping into

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 the breach.” She proved that almost immediately after coming to town, two young sons in tow, when she learned the Beagle School was about to close due to lack of enrollment. “I didn’t even know anybody yet, but I got on the phone and convinced people, somehow, to enroll their kids in the school. Sometimes I succeed through pure, dogged follow-through. I presented a hopeful, confident face and it worked,” she explained. She understates that. In fact, Schwarz-Lawton— who worked more than full time for virtually no pay as the small school struggled to meet its obligations—was instrumental in acquiring the building in which the school still operates in every phase. She located the property, convinced the board of its soundness, persuaded interested parents and friends of the school to lend money for a down payment, negotiated the mortgage and then made sure the walks were shoveled and the teachers were hired. During her tenure, both a summer program and a program for two-year-olds were established. Both are still running. “Every year we made an

Women of 21 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

incremental step forward until the school was strong enough to stand on its own,” she recalls. This credo is fundamental to how Schwarz-Lawton approaches projects, nurturing them along, ensuring they are steady and sustainable before she sets them free—or at least before she passes on the torch to a new group of enthusiasts and takes on the Next Big Thing. Now, for example, she is on a committee to restore the iconic Spirit of Life statue in Congress Park, from masonry to landscaping. The goal is for the work to be done by 2015, the centennial of the city. “This is a perfect culmination for me of what I’ve learned and contributed to this community,” she says. “It’s about symbolism, Saratoga, life, art and creativity. It was crumbling and now, under the auspices of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and with the city as a full partner, it will be repaired.” Fundraising is underway for the project. Schwarz-Lawton looks forward to the challenges of hard work, because a successful outcome is so enormously satisfying and “so much fun.” “Sometimes,” she said when she left her position at the Saratoga


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Springs Heritage Area Program, “eagerness, innocence and determination come in handy,” even when a lack of funds, experience, connections and staff present daunting obstacles. Friends, mentors and volunteers come to the rescue, she discovered. To extend her efforts, she relies on people’s innate sense of loyalty and commitment to service, which she understands because those qualities resonate with her own. Her tenacity as a volunteer has not gone unnoticed. In her scrapbook are letters from two Skidmore presidents: Joseph Palamountain congratulated her in 1987 for completing Leadership Saratoga (warning her that her new skills would be called on); and David Porter thanked her in 1989 for spearheading a drive that raised a record $192,376 on the college campus on behalf of United Way. Another citation SchwarzLawton received was from the Saratoga Springs Community Partners in Education Service as an “indispensable, irreplaceable, invaluable member of our educational community” in 1996 for her work at the Heritage Area Program, where she opened volunteer opportunities for high school Honor Society students, as well as paying jobs for those being served by Youth Services. Additionally, Schwarz-Lawton built bridges back into society for offenders who would otherwise have been incarcerated through the Alternatives in Sentencing Program; offered local history units to fourth graders; and sponsored events for elementaryschool-aged children. Also with the Heritage Area Program, Schwarz-Lawton enhanced the community with programs including Music in the Park, the Brown Bag Lecture Series and exhibits on Saratoga Springs’ rich history; and was key in securing a strong working relationship between the visitor center and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Collaborating comes naturally to me,” she notes. “My parents never volunteered for anything—it wasn’t a parent role model who shaped me. In fact, I was a non-confrontational child, always looking for the supporting role, being the summer nurse’s aide, one year washing dead bodies. I thought I would be a nurse or a teacher. It was a generational thing. I aimed to be kind, behind the scenes, a do-er.”

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 She actually became a science teacher, and had a classroom in Philadelphia before the fortuitous move to Saratoga Springs. “It was at Beagle School that I found out I had administrative skills that had not been allowed to flourish. When I went on to work at Skidmore, with Regis Brodie, the famous ceramic artist and professor at the college that I took on so many delegated responsibilities—as many as I was willing to take, that I found out what I could do. It was broadening, exciting and very wonderful.” Never shy about sharing her gifts once she realized she had the capacity to do so, SchwarzLawton became an expert guide on boards and sought after as an advisor. Planned Parenthood needed advice? Yes. The Saratoga County Arts Council needed advice? Yes. The city’s Next Steps Planning Committee needed advice? Yes. Ditto for the History Museum, Red Cross Blood Mobile, Saratoga Hospital, Economic Opportunity Council, Palamountain Scholarship Benefit, Saratoga Institute, Saratoga Sponsor-a-Scholar and Saratoga Open Space. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. The commitment to Saratoga Springs and its people is permeating, unwavering, palpable. “Every job, every involvement is like getting a master’s degree,” says Schwarz-Lawton, the eternal learner. “An MBA at the Beagle School, a degree in art from Summer SIX, a degree in public history at the Heritage Area Program. I have loved it all. My parents didn’t collect art—I grew up without art, as I had grown up without volunteerism as a core value, but I found myself making purchases of valuable original pieces and I found myself serving on boards. It all seemed to come naturally to me. With my former husband, I lived in other countries and I developed a sense of history and place that worked well for me. I learned to respect cultural systems and values, no matter how different, and I understood how the city needs to work, both preserve it and to open it for tourism, and I combine that with my facility for teambuilding. I look for experts, I respect them, I take their advice, and that’s how you benefit from a team.” Schwarz-Lawton is circumspect when she talks about the changes in Saratoga Springs, the growth and development, admitting that the city needs to be part of the new economy, but protective of “the city in the country” brand. She is never going to stop, it’s

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 clear. Schwarz-Lawton now 71, is always going to care about the food pantry and weatherization, about raising money for scholarships, working with youngsters who need encouragement to go to college, ensuring that flowers enhance the city and that curb cuts make it safe for the physically challenged. She is always going to talk about helping women who have been in shelters and need clothes to go back into the workforce and about the opportunities for literacy brought to the community by organizations such as Saratoga Reads!, which she also serves. “I see myself as a broker, people-to-people,” she says. “I never work with a hidden agenda.” But things are different now. Schwarz-Lawton views herself as retired and wants to spend time with her husband, Mark Lawton, her children and their children, and friends. She wants to travel. She wants to go to the library more. She wants to read. She has developed a fascination with

Women of 23 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Chinese culture (and has visited the country). She wants to play tennis, despite a little arthritis. “My goals are much more modest now,” she says, “but, still important. On my bucket list are visiting Havana, taking a steamboat down the Amazon River from Peru and a motorboat down the Rideau Canal. I want to join Global Volunteers or Trees, Water, People Project for a two-week community effort.” She doesn’t look back and see a legacy, she just sees that she’s left things better than she’s found them. “I think you should tread the earth as lightly as you can and promote consciousness and do right,” she summarizes. “For me now, the goal is balance. I stay centered and live as fully as possible in the moment and not in the past, except for what I have learned. Experience changes you. I just continue to put one foot in front of the other and read a good book.”


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Theresa Skaine

By Patricia Older Photos courtesy of Deborah Neary

Theresa Skaine does it all— corporate lawyer, community volunteer, advocate for women, mom, and most recently named one of 2013’s Women of Influence—and all, seemingly effortless. Balancing all those roles for Skaine is not a matter of putting one ahead of the other, or making one area more important than the other, it is, she says, understanding her priorities. “I have often said there is not a balance,” said Skaine. “You just do not ignore one part of your life for too long—if my kids need me, I need to be there for them—they come first. At the same time, if work has big projects before us, it needs to be

just as important as well.” Skaine is one of three managing members of Lemery Greisler, LLC, and one of eight of its owners. She is also the first woman in the original company’s (Lemery Reed) history to stay on after having a child. “Before me, when a woman had a baby, she did not come back,” said Skaine, the mother of two. She also wrote the company’s maternity policy while pregnant with her first child. “I got pregnant a year before they merged and while the company had a policy for staff, they did not have one for attorneys, so they asked me if I would write one,” said Skaine. Skaine started on this journey as a young child. “When I was maybe 10 or 11, I remember my mom cutting

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 out a cartoon of a little girl telling her dad, ‘I’m not a lady, I’m a lawyer,’” said Skaine. “She said it was so me—I do not know how I knew, but I did—I wanted to be a lawyer.” As a corporate and real estate lawyer, Skaine says figuring out what a client needs and fitting all the pieces together, “like a giant puzzle,” is fascinating and what she loves to do. “It is so much fun,” said Skaine, who was part of the team that helped during the planning of Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Water Park and Luther Forest Technology Park. “Six Flags—that was so interesting,” said Skaine. “There were four partners and putting together what they needed to work together was challenging and exciting.” Skaine graduated from Boston Law School almost 20 years ago. She moved to Clifton Park with her husband, Lincoln, at the time—he worked in Albany and she worked for Lemery Reed in Glens Falls. Looking for a good place to

Women of 25 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

settle and raise a family, the couple moved to Saratoga Springs the following year. After Lemery Reed relocated to the Spa City, the company merged with another firm and became Lemery Greisler, LLC. She became a member of the firm 10 years ago and is one of eight owners. Lemery Greisler has 21 lawyers and 18 staff members. “Becoming a managing member at the firm is one of my most memorable accomplishments,” said Skaine. Noting that she never felt it was a “fight” to get where she was, she also says that she recognized that at times, she had to speak up in order to be noticed. “Early on, it was not necessarily a fight, but I did experience the same sort of discrimination as many other women and I had to state my case, sometimes quite loudly, so people understood who I was and what I was going through,” she said. “We all need to be reminded of gender diversity.”


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Skaine also is involved in several community causes and organizations. In addition to being a trustee for Saratoga Hospital, including service on the executive, finance, quality review and audit committees, as well as on the corporate compliance committees, Skaine is also a board member of the Wesley Foundation and the Saratoga Regional YMCA. In addition to being a graduate of Leadership Saratoga, Skaine has co-facilitated the organization’s strategic planning session and participated in a hands-on advising of class members. Skaine is also devoted to helping other women—she used her expertise as a corporate lawyer to help other women outside the boardroom that may not have had the same opportunities as she did. As well as serving as a mentor for up and coming female law students, for six years, she was a board member for Domestic Violence Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County. She served as president of that board for three of those years. There she helped develop a strategic plan for the organization that had seemed to be in a holding pattern and not growing. “It was a long, long process,” said Skaine. “The agency needed the strategic plan to move forward.” She explained that for a while, she must have “sounded like a broken record,” but that the agency had reached a

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 plateau and was stagnant. “We had to do things like shifting our focus,” continued Skaine. “We had to go from being reactive to more pro-active, such as education in schools.” She also helped the agency recognize that they have outgrown their present location. The organization is presently looking for a new place, which will still be in Saratoga. “I have no personal experiences [with domestic violence or rape,] but I have always been a proponent of empowering women,” said Skaine, who says she admires the women who use the services and come out on the other side with better lives and better futures. “I think any woman who can come through that type of horrific scenario and make their lives better is special,” said Skaine. “That they have the opportunity to succeed now is wonderful.” Noting that she does not envision herself changing directions in her career, Skaine said she loves what she does too much. “I enjoy what I do every day— helping clients figure out what they need. I enjoy delving into people’s wants and helping them figure out what they need,” said Skaine.

Women of 27 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Robin Solomon

By Patricia Older Photos courtesy of Deborah Neary

Each Day is a Gift “This is the beginning of a new day. I have been given this day to use as I will. I will use it for good, because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something that I have traded for it. I want it to be gain and not loss; and not evil; success and not failure, in order that I shall rejoice in the price that I paid for it.” —Unknown For Dr. Robin Solomon, every day of life is a special gift and she strives to use that gift to give as much of herself as possible, personally and professionally, so that everyone benefits in one way or another. In addition to running her own audiology business and being voted one of the nation’s Best Hearing Care Providers by The Hearing

Review in 2012, she has, among many others, mentored young moms, been a volunteer for Saratoga County Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center, is a Hospice volunteer and an active member of Soroptimists International. “I consider myself hugely fortunate,” she said. Robin, who prides herself on the attention and care she gives her patients, opened her own practice—Hearing Care Resources in Wilton, a premier audiology and hearing care facility— three years ago. The road to her own business was not one she had initially considered as part of her life plan. After graduating from George Washington University with a Master’s degree in audiology, Robin went to work at Albany Medical Center as an audiologist and later, Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital. In 1998 she made the move to Saratoga Hospital where she was chief audiologist for over 10 years. When Saratoga Hospital phased out that portion

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Women of 29 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013


Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

of their services, Robin and her husband, Neal, began to discuss what direction her future could take her. “Robin liked working for the hospitals because she could focus totally on the patient and their needs,” said Neal. “And her choices were Albany or Schenectady—so we talked about her opening her own practice.” As a certified financial planner, Neal knew about business plans and how to crunch numbers, so he put together a business plan for his wife. “We wanted to allow Robin to be Robin,” said Neal of the business plan. “To take away any distractions so her entire focus could be on her patients.” But the transition from being an employee to an employer was not initially easy for Robin, who has earned a black belt in Karate and is a ballroom dancer. “It was challenging to learn a new skill set—going from employee to employer,” she confessed. His taking care of the businessside of the practice, Neal said, gave Robin the freedom to once again focus totally on patient care—an area she is extremely passionate about. So much so, that when planning the layout of the office she took special care to make it inviting, warm and comfortable. “We didn’t want it to look like a doctor’s office – we wanted patients to come in here and feel like they were at

home,” said Robin, adding that because she lives and works within the same community that the people she treats, she often meets up with them in the grocery store, at a restaurant, working out. “I live here [in Wilton]—the people I see here in the office are the people I see downtown or when I am out,” said Robin. She noted that she was led into the practice of audiology by her own life experiences—two of her grandparents had hearing issues as they aged and she saw how it not only affected their lives, but the lives of the family members around them. “If you can’t hear, who does it bother?” asked Robin. “It bothers the family members because they have to live with it and many times do not understand it—there for the race of God, go I.” In high school she did an internship with a speech pathologist, but it was the audiologist she found the most fascinating. “He was the most interesting person in that office,” said Robin, who is not only a state-certified audiologist, but licensed with the state as a hearing aid dispenser. But it is not just the way she cares for her patients, and the way they care for her, that reveals the depth of Robin’s compassion for others—she has been a mentor in the Mentors and Moms Program through Cornell Cooperative; a volunteer at Saratoga County Domestic Violence Rape Crisis Center; and a volunteer for Saratoga Race Course’s Back Stretch Employees health fairs where she screen employees for

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013 possible hearing loss. “I always wanted to give back,” said Robin, who was an Emergency Medical Technician early in her career. “I truly enjoy mentoring and helping out—it makes me feel good.” She also participated in the Hope and Power Program through the Soroptimists International of Saratoga County, of which she is a member. “It teaches women how to dress for success, to interview, to move on to a better place in their lives,” she said, adding that she still keeps in touch with one of the young moms she mentored in the Moms program. “She’s married now and has four children.” One of the toughest tasks she undertakes is as a hospice volunteer with Community Hospice. “It is much harder that I thought it was going to be,” she said, adding that she had to take a brief break from hospice, but was back at it. “But I do enjoy [volunteering.] People ask me how do I do it—to be with someone who is going to die— and I say they are still living until theyre gone. Even the non-responsive might enjoy holding someone’s hand—a quiet presence. It feels so good to give back.” Noting that she reads the quote, A Thought For Today, every day before beginning work, Robin said she does what she can to make the world a better place for everyone, including herself. “There are things I take for granted because it is what I do—I like being busy—I am thrilled to be in the place I am,” said Robin.

Week of May 25 – May 31, 2013

Women of 31 Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

2013 Women of Influence  

2013 Women of Influence

2013 Women of Influence  

2013 Women of Influence