RVNAhealth is extremely proud of our President and CEO, Theresa Santoro, who most deservedly earned the 2020 Judith Hriceniak award. And we are also proud of how graciously she handled the surprise presentation. Because behind every great story, there’s a great backstory. Read on.
November 6, 2020: Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, CHCA, President and CEO of RVNAhealth was officially awarded the 2020 Judith Hriceniak Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership today by the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home (CAHCH). The prestigious annual award recognizes a nursing leader who serves as a visionary role model, inspires others through development and life-long learning, incorporates technology into the practice of nursing and patient education; and consistently displays strong communication and collaboration. Santoro was nominated by her RVNAhealth team, the beneficiaries of her talents and vision.
Tracy Wodatch, president and CEO of CAHCH, and Kim Hriceniak, daughter of the award namesake, Judith Hriceniak, presented the award, sharing elements and excerpts from the nomination, which highlighted Theresa’s vision and energy, especially in a year such as 2020.
While many companies and organizations have focused on maintaining and preserving this year, Theresa’s leadership at RVNAhealth rang strong – guiding the team through the unknowns of a global pandemic with our mission as a guiding principle; leading RVNAhealth to an agency merger with the Bethel Visiting Nurse Association and New Milford Visiting Nurse & Hospice to enable all three agencies to better serve our patients and communities for generations to come; and – for the 8th time since 2011 – steering RVNAhealth to a Top Workplaces Award by Hearst Media, a recognition earned through staff surveys, a true sign of organizational health, respect, and engagement.
The following tribute from RVNAhealth Chief Clinical Officer, Keri Linardi, is representative of what decades of Theresa’s colleagues and collaborators, all know about her:
Nurses are inherent leaders from the bedside, facilitating, providing, and promoting best practices and care for their patients. This clinical leadership often translates into excellence in nursing leadership as evidenced by mentoring, scholarship, commitment to excellent care, and the ability to respond to challenges with innovation. RVNAhealth and I are fortunate to have someone who embodies true ‘Excellence in Nursing Leadership’ at the helm for us all.
Theresa is a powerhouse with innovative ideas and tenacity in getting things done. Since joining Theresa’s team, I have had the privilege of working closely with her and having her as my mentor. She leads with integrity and a dedication to excellence in all she does.
Each year, the annual CAHCH awards are presented on the second day of their annual conference. It’s a highlight of the day and received with great enthusiasm. Early on, it was determined that the 2020 CAHCH Annual Conference would be held virtually, of course, but it was also clear that the award presentations could not wholly follow suit. Where’s the fun in that!?
So in late October, with video camera and awards in hand, Tracy Wodatch, CAHCH President & CEO, and colleague, Courtney Verissimo, took the show on the road, presenting the annual awards to their recipients … in person … in advance of the conference and … in some cases, by surprise. “It was great!,” says Wodatch. “We mapped our course, traversed the state, and left joy and pride in our wake. Our annual awards are very meaningful to us and to the recipients, so it was important to us to present them with the distinction they deserve. Plus, it’s always fun to have a surprise.”
Indeed. At RVNAhealth, the plan had been hatched: Board Chair, Eileen Walker, would serve as the decoy, occupying Theresa before leading her to the Board Room; close agency friends and family would enter the building stealthily, respecting distancing and limit requirements, and keeping noise to a minimum; and award presenter, Kim Hriceniak — remote for the occasion — would wait patiently on the Board Room screen, ready to do her part. The RVNAhealth team would celebrate following the official announcement.
And so it went. Theresa, believing she was doing a Board Room walk-through for a future ‘event,’ entered respectfully, wary of interrupting an ongoing meeting. Eileen encouraged her on and Theresa was quick to notice — not all was as it seemed. Ever poised, she said nothing, looked about, and then exclaimed her first words, “Tracy Wodatch! What are you doing in Ridgefield?!”
See the Play-by-Play
Theresa Santoro in Action
The photos below share a brief glimpse of Theresa Santoro in recent months. They tell just a small fraction of her overall story, but they do demonstrate that, in addition to being an extraordinary leader, Theresa is also the consummate team player.
The annual CAHCH Judith Hriceniak Award for Nursing Leadership award, presented to Theresa Santoro in 2020, is a true tribute to both its recipient and its namesake. Here is a little bit about Dr. Judith Hriceniak.
Throughout her life and career, Dr. Judith Hriceniak (1938-2000) was widely recognized for her achievements as an administrator and nursing educator. She began her career as a registered nurse and director of Home Care Services at Bristol Hospital. In 1973, she joined the Central Connecticut State University faculty, coordinating the Nurse Teacher Education Program and subsequently developing, implementing and gaining accreditation for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program.
Dr. Hriceniak served as a mentor and role model for students and faculty through her extensive participation in professional organizations at the local, state and national levels. She was also the recipient of various awards and recognitions, including the Connecticut Nurses Association, 1990 Diamond Jubilarian, Josephine A. Dolan Award for Outstanding Contributions to Nursing Education, and the 1991 Phi Lambda Theta Outstanding Educator Award. Dr. Hriceniak received her Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Connecticut, where she also earned a M.S. in nursing, she held an M.S., in education from CCSU and a B.S.N. from Boston University.
As Central Connecticut State University’s (CCSU) chairperson of the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Hriceniak was honored with CCSU’s Prestigious Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her exemplary service; exceptional performance in academic disciplines, dedicated service to students, the community and her professional field, as well the public and professional recognition of her research and scholarship achievements.
Above: Three generations of support. Left: Jeff (seated with wife, Laurie) and Gus (standing) Ryer at the RVNAhealth Spring Breakfast. Right: Mike Ryer with RVNAhealth President & CEO Theresa Santoro.
This month, we caught up with father and son, Jeff and Gus Ryer of Ryer Associates. Jeff, president, and Gus, vice president, were introduced to RVNAhealth through Mike and Lynn, their parents and grandparents respectively, dear friends and supporters of the organization for many years. Jeff and Gus are keeping the family legacy and impact alive and thriving, all the while keeping that coffee flowing…
Q: Tell us a little about Ryer Associates.
Jeff: Ryer Associates was founded in 1972 by my father, Mike Ryer. Over the years, it’s evolved into a boutique commercial real estate brokerage and advisory firm. We primarily serve northern Fairfield and New Haven Counties, but are licensed in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, and have worked with clients on a regional and national level.
We have participated in many of the area’s more significant transactions, but we also work with local clients seeking commercial space or investment properties. Our affiliations with national/international professional organizations, like CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) and SIOR (Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS®) allow us to serve a broad spectrum of clients, providing exceptional customer service paired with strong analytic and demographic tools.
Q: What appealed to you both about the business?
Jeff: After college, I worked in the banking sector where I trained in a broad spectrum of disciplines including commercial lending. I joined Ryer in the ’80s then took a brief vacation back into banking – this time handling foreclosed commercial real estate resulting from the early ’90s’ recession. I returned and have been running Ryer since 1997.
Gus: I graduated college in 2011 and saw joining the family firm as a great opportunity. I’ve always been a curious person – not only could I learn brokerage under both Jeff and Mike, but I could also learn about the various businesses I was serving. I jumped in with both feet, quickly earning a CCIM designation and serving with various commercial real estate groups and the Connecticut Association of REALTORS®.
Q: How big is your team?
Jeff: We currently have four associates, though we’re always looking to grow.
Gus: Give us a call if you (or someone you know) want to talk about joining!
Q: What is your business philosophy?
Jeff: We believe in providing the highest quality, most responsive service possible with the strictest level of personal and professional ethics. We devote significant effort to education and staying on top of current and anticipated commercial real estate issues.
Gus: It’s also important to us that we give back, volunteering in professional and community organizations whenever possible. Real estate is local, so being involved in our community is vital.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
Jeff: COVID-19 has profoundly changed the commercial real estate industry, and we’re still trying to sort out the long-term impacts. Smaller office, restaurant and some retail occupants have shuttered their doors and won’t re-open. Large companies aren’t immune as they try to balance COVID-reduced occupancy, profit margins, employee/customer health, and shifts in consumer spending behaviors.
Gus: From a day-to-day brokerage standpoint, we’ve had to shift our practices to keep everyone safe while we do business. We now have a higher emphasis on digital services, focusing on video and 3D tours, remote showings, and socially distant in-person meetings.
Q: What type of services do you provide?
Jeff: We provide commercial real estate brokerage and advisory services. We market commercial real estate and also represent buyers and tenants looking for properties or space. Recently, we’ve done a lot of advising with respect to COVID; for example, early on, landlords wanted to know if they should charge restaurant tenants for the use of outside areas for dining (no) or how they should handle tenant requests for rent relief (be kind).
Gus: We’re also well equipped to provide market reports and consulting services, including demographics analyses, market rates, lease reviews, and comparative site studies. If what you need is beyond our scope, we’ll know who can help.
Q: Any trends consumers should be aware of?
Jeff: COVID has added a lot of uncertainty to the commercial real estate market, but there are opportunities to prosper. For example, there’s a line of thought that corporate relocations from urban to suburban areas may occur, as crowded cities, public transportation, elevators, and shared air handling systems seem risky compared to direct/low rise stair access, operating windows, and dedicated heating/cooling. Properties like that are more easily found in the suburbs and have the added bonus of being closer to the homes of many executives. While that’s a nice theory, we’re still waiting to see it happen.
Gus: That being said, we’ve seen a tenuous uptick of businesses searching in CT from out of state. So far it seems like a response to the state’s coronavirus response, but we’re hoping it’s the start of a lasting trend. The residential market is booming, and commercial real estate tends to follow suit.
Q: Remind Us How We Met? 😊
Jeff: I was introduced to RVNAhealth through my parents. Lynn and Mike Ryer were passionate supporters of several community organizations and they were particularly fond of RVNAhealth. Prior to his death, Dad had been a long-time board member of the agency and co-chaired the Campaign for Tomorrow with Eileen Walker to build the RVNAhealth Center for Exceptional Care. I stepped in after he passed and was impressed with your scope of services and leadership’s long-range vision.
Q: How has the relationship evolved and what are the key elements of Ryer Associates’ relationship with RVNAhealth?
Jeff: While Dad was pretty much limited to well-care services like flu shots, health screening, etc., my mom depended on RVNAhealth extensively for many years prior to her death. RVNAhealth team members were integral to her well-being. You provided frequent visits to her home at Meadow Ridge, accompanied her to medical appointments, and provided guidance to me on the state of her medical care. She also received hospice care, and I am so grateful to Laura for all the aid and comfort she was able to provide.
Since getting involved with RVNAhealth, Ryer Associates and I have supported the agency financially, and we’ve been proud to participate in several events like your annual Spring Breakfasts in Danbury and Southbury, in addition to helping with your Campaign for Tomorrow.
Professionally, Ryer Associates was honored to assist RVNAhealth in evaluating, marketing, and selling your property on Catoonah Street, where you and the Thrift Shop operated together for twenty years, 1960-1980, before outgrowing the space.
Q: Any Ryer Associates/RVNAhealth stories to share?
Jeff: I started this interview saying my involvement with RVNAhealth began with the Campaign for Tomorrow and to build your Center for Exceptional Care, because I feel very strongly about the agency’s serious and enduring impact to the community. However, my actual involvement really started when Dad asked me to host a Spring Breakfast table for him. Dad typically filled two tables, and I was called upon to host the extra table, meaning I became quickly adept at pouring the coffee—a table host requirement. In fact, I’ve become so well trained that I often find myself jumping up to serve the coffee at other breakfast events. After Dad’s passing, I strived to fill his shoes and Gus took my spot as second table host. I’ve also seen him try to resist the urge to pour the coffee at other events, too.
Gus: Join us at our table when all this is over – I’ll keep the coffee flowing (and maybe try to snag some extra pastries for you)!