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Q&A with Dan Meyers

After 30 years with Al Sigl, former leader plans to enjoy gardening, volunteering and studying classical Greek

By Arn J. Albertini

After 30 years at the helm of Al Sigl, Dan Meyers stepped down as president in June. During his tenure, the agency tripled in size physically and expanded its reach to serve four times more adults and children with disabilities. Earlier this summer, Meyers sat down with 55 Plus to reflect on his time with Al Sigl and to share his plans for the future.

Q. Why retire now?

A. For the past five years, my board and I have been trying to put together a timetable for my retirement that was best for me and was most advantageous for the organization.

With the Celebrating Abilities campaign well underway, we agreed that June was a good time for me to step down.

For decades, the funding streams and the categories of funding available for programs for agencies have been relatively stable. But with the Medicare redesign, especially in New York state, those funding patterns are changing and there are new requirements for getting money to fund programs.

This changes the way we do business and it requires investing in new technology. We know this is going to continue to evolve as time goes on.

The Celebrating Abilities campaign is designed to meet these new needs by raising money to support renovations, for new technology and equipment, as well as supporting our endowments for future needs.

I think the campaign will all give Al Sigl and its partner agencies the platform for providing services for the next generation of people with special abilities and needs.

Q. What will you do now that you’ve retired?

A. I’m still working part-time for Al Sigl, which I’ll keep doing for a year. They’ve been very kind to give me an office and I’m helping out as best I can.

After 30 years in the nonprofit administrative arena, I’m looking for a hands-on volunteer experience, something that takes me away from Rochester for a little while. I just want to enjoy myself in a different environment from here and sort of exercise my volunteer muscles in a different way.

And I’ll still be an active member on the boards of Rochester Regional Health and the George Eastman House.

I’ll also have more time for hobbies and other interests.

I’m a passionate gardener and anybody who gardens knows that this summer we’ve been doing a great deal of watering.

I’m looking for an opportunity to study classical Greek. In high school and college, I took a lot of Latin classes and now I want to add classical Greek the menu. Then, I can read more classical texts in their original language and hopefully get the flavor better. That’s why you read the original language, to get the flavor. We’ll see how I do. I hear it’s pretty tough to learn classical Greek.

Also, I’ve got a stack of unread books on my bedside table. And my goal is to read The New Yorker the week that it arrives. I’ve got a bit of a backlog.

Q. Any travel planned?

A. This fall, I have a river cruise from Budapest to Prague. And I’m planning a trip to London. My hope is that the freedom of being retired will create opportunities to do something I couldn’t do before.

Q. Anything on your bucket list?

A. I’ve always wanted to see Easter Island; it’s just not near anywhere, which is part of the adventure.

Q. What will you miss the most about Al Sigl?

A. The people who rely on our agencies are incredible. I think they’re role models for all of us. There’s a naturalness, there’s a determination that is very refreshing and very encouraging to the spirit. Every one of them has climbed their own Mount Everest or has reached the next breathing stop along the way. That determination, strength, endurance, stamina; that’s what we’re all trying to do here on earth and these people are knocking it out of the park.

I’ve cherished the many friendships I’ve been able to develop at work.

Plus, we work with a terrific professional staff and dedicated volunteers. It’s a pretty rich mix of goodness. That’s not PR, that’s really the truth.

Q. What are you most proud of?

A. I guess I would say it’s that we’ve found a way to grow and change and still honor the founding principles.

Our vision is that we can achieve more together. It’s work to sustain that and we could have easily dropped the ball and we didn’t.

We’ve changed but in lots of way I think we are stronger and better as a result of the change.

We all share a strong commitment to the dignity and independence of the people that we served. That sort of deep, blue flame of the mission of serving people with disabilities is what propels all of us.

I’m proud of the fact that I’m leaving Al Sigl in really excellent shape. We will continue to grow, change and evolve to expand commitment to people of all abilities.

Q. What will you miss the least?

A. Meetings. It’s a big, complex organization, it’s collaborative, it’s very volunteer-driven and people are really engaged so there’s a lot to talk about.

There’s a lot of meetings and they’re a good thing. It’s not that they’re a bad thing, but I don’t have to do them anymore.

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