Dianne Auger ‘83, MBA ‘86, the newly appointed senior vice president of St. Vincent's Medical Center/St. Vincent's Health Services and president/CEO of the Medical Center Foundation. Previously, Dianne served in an interim capacity as Regional CEO of the Greater New York Region of the American Red Cross, has a long history with Sacred Heart University. Not only did she earn her bachelor’s and master’s degree here, but she also spent a year as SHU’s director of Corporate Relations.
When Auger attended SHU it was a commuter school. She lived at home and helped pay her tuition by working as a teller at People’s Bank whenever she wasn’t in classes. She began working in the Marketing Department when she was a senior in college and then went through the bank’s management training program as soon as she graduated. She quickly worked her way up through the ranks to the position of vice president, Market Segmentation.
Dianne had her second son in 1991, and it was a complicated delivery. She needed blood transfusions and was seriously ill. When she went back to the bank after an extended recovery, she led the bank’s employee giving campaign and shared her story and the work of the Red Cross as a platform for giving. At that time, the financial industry was experiencing a downturn, and based on a desire to move into a career more focused on service and mission, Auger decided to leave the bank.
Her next stop was Sacred Heart University. She had already been volunteering for two years raising money for the annual fund, and when the president suggested she join the Advancement team full time, she jumped at the chance. “I had been with the bank for 13 years, and the idea of development and fundraising sparked something in me. I thought I could do something more meaningful,” she said.
At that same time, she had joined the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross and was also on the Board of the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport. Her role on the museum board led her to her next position as development director there where she spent two years raising money and raising her two boys. She then moved on to Bridgeport Hospital in June 1995 to work at the rehabilitation center as director of development. “Working with the president, a dynamic and talented leader, offered me the chance to work with an excellent mentor. I also wanted to experience a development job that was a little more corporate, a little bit bigger than what I had been doing,” she said. That turned out to be a great decision. When Dianne left four years later to become executive director of the Southeastern Fairfield County chapter of the American Red Cross, she was director of Business Administration at the rehab center – a job that encompassed Development and Operations.
Auger has seen a lot of changes at the Red Cross since 1999 – in her own role, at the local level and at the national level. She began her Red Cross career managing a five-town chapter with a budget of $1M. Now the chapter encompasses all of Connecticut and Rhode Island and has a budget of $10M. “It’s a totally different organization than in 1999,” she said. “The structure is different; the way we raise money is different. We used to have various chapters competing for the same money. Now we function as ‘One Red Cross’ and have a structure that is more efficient and, as a result, we are more effective at fulfilling our mission to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.”
Auger has thrived in the new structure, and she attributes that in part to skills she learned at Sacred Heart and at People’s Bank. After attending a national meeting where the national President of the Red Cross described her vision of a seamless organization and One Red Cross, Auger decided to get ahead of the curve with her own organization. She met with the chapter executives in Connecticut, and together they decided to begin to operate as one state chapter with each of the executives taking various roles on the leadership team. They formed one board of directors, merged operations, created more efficient back office processes, cut costs and reorganized to be more effective. Rhode Island joined the region in January 2011.
In October 2011, Auger won the prestigious American Red Cross Presidential Award for Excellence for her forward thinking and focus on service delivery. And in September 2011, she was asked to take on the role of interim Regional CEO for the Greater New York City region – the top strategic region for the American Red Cross. Once she got the green light from her family (the job requires her to leave her Connecticut home and be in NYC during the work week), Auger did not hesitate. “I knew I could do the work, because I had done it in Connecticut. It was a similar challenge, but on a bigger scale,” she said. “They had just started regionalizing in July. I have been able to step in, share the best practices we developed from our experience in Connecticut, work with the very talented and dedicated staff and board, engage our committed volunteers and help lead fundraising and outreach.” She has also experienced Red Cross service delivery in a whole new way. “Unfortunately, there are eight major incidents that require our help in the Greater New York region every day. We’ve made a lot of progress in just a few months, and that is because of the commitment of our entire team to be as strong a region as possible. People rely on the Red Cross, and we can’t let them down.”
In addition to teaching her the skills she needed to go out into the workplace, her experiences as a student at Sacred Heart taught her to be independent and to have a strong work ethic. “At the time, Sacred Heart was a commuter school. I came from a working-class family. I was the first generation to go to college. I took out student loans and worked at the bank in the afternoon after going to morning classes,” she said. “Sacred Heart was the right size, and it was accessible, friendly and flexible.”
She has enjoyed seeing Sacred Heart grow and expand and is proud of its success. “From my point of view, continued growth at Sacred Heart means more students can receive the kind of education that helped prepare me for the career opportunities I have had so far in my life,” she said.