Being CFO and vice president of finance and business at Seattle University “plays into my whole love of education,” says Connie Kanter, who started her new post this past May. She’s in charge of finance and facilities, among other things, and oversees an almost $200 million budget.
The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School graduate (1979) and University of Chicago MBA came to Seattle in 1983 to work for Hewlett Packard. She held her first CFO position at Physio-Control and worked at a variety of startups before marrying Chuck Broches, spending the next seven years raising her two children and volunteering. That led her into the education world, and she became development director for Seattle Hebrew Academy, her kids’ school.
Kanter, who is also a Samis Foundation trustee, returned to the corporate world as controller of Pacific Bioscience Laboratories, makers of Clarisonic, working there through a successful sale to L’Oréal. Around the time the sale wrapped up, she became aware of the job at Seattle U. After a long interview process (made longer by January’s crippling snowstorm), she was offered the position.
“I had a need to be in a strong mission-based organization,” Kanter reflects. She was drawn to the Jesuit university’s “strong focus on educating the whole human being,” and the roles of social justice and community service at the institution. “Of any job I’ve been in…I feel most integrated between my interest in community service and my interest in finance.”
Kanter was pleased to see that Seattle U’s “mission statement is remarkably similar to SHA’s mission statement” — without the Catholic content, of course.
She further notes that “our graduation rates are better than national averages,” and that the school is one of the most diverse in the region, working to attract and graduate underrepresented minorities. “The notion of educating the first generation…is immense for us.”
That certainly resonates for Kanter. Her father was the first in his family to go to college and spoke often of how going two miles from his poor immigrant neighborhood in South Philadelphia to the ivied halls of UPenn “changed his life.” Kanter’s mom, a high school guidance counselor, worked to get low-income students into college.
It might seem challenging for an Orthodox Jew to work at a Jesuit institution, but the Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath member says, on the contrary, her religious observance is respected there. “They want to know about all my holidays,” she says of her colleagues, and notes the Jewish student union had a sukkah “in front of the chapel of St. Ignatius.” Even her need to take seven holidays off in the last two months was valued and respected.
One distinction of this job is driven home at the president’s cabinet meeting Kanter attends every two weeks. Meetings start with a reflection or prayer led by each member in turn, and Kanter admits she was “really stressed out” about what she would say for her first try. Ultimately she chose Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) 2:13, where Rabbi Elazar says a good heart is to be cherished most in a person.
“I ended with, ‘we go into the budget deliberations with a good heart,’ and everyone said, ‘amen.’”