On Wednesday, over 125 educators, administrators, business and non-profit leaders participated in the Vision Coalition’s Eighth Annual Conference on Education at Clayton Hall at the University of Delaware. The conference focused on how to best implement the recommendations Vision Coalition of Delaware’s Student Success 2025 – a 10-year plan to advance Delaware’s schools and education outcomes. Student Success 2025 is a multi-tiered plan developed through public collaboration and extensive state-wide engagement of community, student, business, nonprofit, and government stakeholders. The Student Success 2025 approach focuses on exploring personalizing learning for more students and improving career prep.
The conference also concentrated on how to address Delaware’s decades-old education funding model to integrate funding for schools that have high concentrations of poverty and provide additional resources for school districts at the state level for English Language Learners.
In addition to looking at funding, the conference looked at how to coordinate programs like the Success Pathways and Roads to Careers (SPaRC) initiative (a program spearheaded by United Way and the Delaware Business Roundtable’s Education Committee) with other school to career programs. Integrating programs like SPaRC into the Delaware education system will bring valuable workplace experiences to students in an effort to keep them engaged and to fully prepare them for work at Delaware businesses.
Fred Sears is a familiar name among members of the Delaware business community, most recently known for his 13 year tenure with the Delaware Community Foundation (DCF), Sears has accomplished a lot for the state of Delaware. Under his watch, the DCF has tripled its long-term charitable funds and increased assets under management to $285 million.
Sears is also a familiar face in the banking world where he worked for 38 years, most notably as President of Commerce Bank in Delaware.
Regardless of his intentions to retire at the end of the calendar year, Fred Sears will continue in his most comfortable role, serving the state he loves. He was recently appointed Chair of the Expenditure Review Commission by Governor Jack Markell and will continue to serve on at least nine or ten of the current boards and commissions he is currently on.
Delaware Business (DB) had the chance to catch up with Mr. Sears with a few questions and a trip back in time for a look at his illustrious career.
DB: Where are you from?
FS: I was born in Delaware in what used to be known as Wilmington Hospital, now a part of Christiana Care Health System. My family lived across the river from the Brandywine Zoo; my mother walked home with me from the hospital. My father was in the military in WWII so he was not around at the time. My education was through Mt. Pleasant elementary school, Alfred I. DuPont junior high and Wilmington Friends for high school. I continued at the University of Delaware for my under graduate and graduate degrees so I never ventured far from Wilmington.
In the 1800s my mother’s family had livery stores selling horse and carriage and agriculture supplies at the corner of Front and Orange, now Martin Luther King and Orange. We had one of the first car dealerships in the area on N. Market Street in the 1920s
My great uncle was a city councilman. I did not find that out until I became a councilman in Wilmington 1976. My wife was born in Delaware and both of our parents were born in Delaware. I can actually trace my mother’s side of the family in Delaware back to the mid 1700’s.
DB: How did your career start?
FS: I majored in business at the University of Delaware. I didn’t have a job when I graduated in 1964, but my father encouraged me to apply to the local banks.
Fortunately, Delaware Trust was looking to hire a management trainee with a business degree and I applied at the right time. After 18 years with Delaware Trust and becoming the bank’s first VP of Business Development, I moved to Wilmington Trust in a similar position, and then vice president of customer service-related products at Beneficial National Bank. My banking career culminated with my job at Commerce Bank as Delaware Market President.
DB: What kind of work were you involved with when you worked for the city of Wilmington?
FS: My good friend, Mayor Tom Maloney, asked me to take a leave of absence from the bank to serve as Director of Finance and later as Director of Economic Development from 1973-76. I followed up by running for City Council and served two terms from 1976 to 1984.
I continued working with the City on a volunteer basis after I left Council serving as chair of the Downtown Wilmington Improvement Corporation, the Wilmington Economic Development Corporation and the Wilmington Waterways Commission. I continue to serve today as chair of the Wilmington Economic Financial Advisory Council and as treasurer of the Wilmington Housing Partnership.
DB: How did you transition into the nonprofit world?
FS: Jim Gilliam Jr. called me while I was sitting in my office and said “I have a job for you.” I said “Jim, I already have a job, you are calling me at my office and you are a customer of mine.” He asked me to run the Delaware Community Foundation. I was hesitant at the time but accepted it after some serious contemplation. I called my good friend Peter Morrow, he said “Do it, Fred.” Jim teamed up with other DCF board leaders, Judy Hoopes and Don Kirtley and they convinced me to make the move.
What’s so great about working at the Delaware Community Foundation is that I am still able to do all the volunteer work I enjoy. In addition to the Expenditure Review Commission I also serve on the State Council for Development and the Port of Wilmington boards along with Christiana Care, Leadership Delaware, United Way, Rodel Foundation, Beau Biden Foundation and DANA boards of directors and as an advisor to TD Bank and Fraunhofer USA.
I’m privileged to work with a great staff and outstanding committed board of directors at the DCF.
DB: What would you say was your favorite project?
FS: It really is difficult to pick, but one of my favorites was starting the Next Generation Board. We had some young adults in their early to mid-thirties, they wanted to get involved with the community but did not know how to do it. The Board has about 35-40 members, they have their own fundraisers and their own grant making. They really know how to run their own foundation. One of them left to become head of Saint Michael’s, another is on the board of the Opera House and one of them is on the Girls on the Run Board. They do site visits with the applicants and have had the opportunity to learn about Delaware. They said “Wow Mr. Sears, we went to this orphanage in Delaware, we didn’t even know there was one here.”
Every three years they pick a different funding focus. In past years they have focused on infant mortality, after school programs for kids at risk, childhood obesity but currently their focus is on STEM programs. We are on our fourth chair, his name is David Arthur. Dave works at the University of Delaware.
Keep an open mind, always look for opportunities.
DB: As I’m sure you know, there are many young professionals out there that look up to you. What kind of advice would you give?
FS: Keep an open mind, always look for opportunities. Part of what I’ve accomplished has happened because I’ve been out there involved in the community. Running golf tournaments, dinners and breakfasts, you can see who’s committed and who you can count on. You can pick and choose what you really want to do, what makes you feel good about life. I loved being a banker for many years but this job is unbelievable. I’ve found the secret that so many people look for. That secret is really enjoying work, not being dragged to work, but waking up looking forward to going to work.
Sometimes it is hard on the home front because I pretty much start every day with an 8am breakfast meeting and my day is not usually over until 7p.m. or 8 pm.
DB: Anything else?
FS: It was 1976 when I was elected to city council and we got married in 1977. Those first eight years of our marriage I served on council. We met every Thursday from 7 p.m. to 10 .p.m . The reporters would call me at home after the meetings and ask for comments. IT wasn’t the best way to start a marriage and raise young children but Jo Ann has always been supportive. I have to say it does help that we have the same political persuasion.
DB: What are grateful to have more time for during retirement?
FS: No real plans. Maybe take a few weeks off and do some soul searching about how much and where I want to continue to be involved in the community. I’m definitely not going anywhere and I intend to stay involved with the community at a level where I can be most helpful while still making more time for my wife and grandchildren.
Fred C. Sears II has been President and CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation since December 2002. Through his work with the Foundation, he encourages individuals, businesses and organizations to engage in long-term charitable giving to improve the statewide community, now and in the future. Fred has served as a community leader in the greater Wilmington area and with organizations serving residents throughout Delaware for over forty-five years.
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s affiliate, the Small Business Alliance, is now accepting nominations for an award of distinction to an individual – not an organization – who has made outstanding contributions to the small businesses and nonprofit organizations of Delaware. The prestigious Marvin S. Gilman Bowl will be presented at the annual Superstars in Business Awards luncheon on November 10, 2015.
Note: The Marvin S. Gilman Bowl is NOT the Superstars in Business award.
Past Marvin S. Gilman Bowl recipients:
2008 Albert A. Morris
2009 Barry A. Crozier
2010 The Levin Family
2011 Michael S. Uffner
2012 Fred C. Sears, II
2013 Donald T. Fulton
2014 Julian “Pete” H. Booker
By: Heather Gries
There’s an outbreak of fitness fever popping up in our communities and Delaware is not immune to the cause. There’s an ongoing, innovative campaign called “Motivate the First State” that launched on June 1.
Governor Markell is challenging Delawareans to achieve one million miles of physical activity between June 1st and December 31st. “Join me on the trails, sidewalks and bike paths.” he said. “Together, we can log one million miles of physical activity and make each step, each pedal stroke count for Delaware charities that help our kids, our families and our citizens with special needs.”
The statewide campaign is aimed to encourage Delawareans to participate in regular physical activity and will reward participants with contributions to three Delaware charitable organizations – Special Olympics Delaware, Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware, and The YMCA of Delaware.
All Delaware residents are invited to participate in the campaign. Track your movement through the easy to use online community powered by Plus3.com, the campaigns technology platform. Logging your activities on the website can be done manually, by hand (using the honor system), uploaded from compatible trackers like Garmin and Fitbit, or with the Plus3 app, available for Apple and Android devices. The website gives option to share your postings on other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Contributions can be made by completing activities such as walking, cycling, by choosing water over soda and eating fruits and vegetables. Each healthy choice earns a specified amount of kudos determined by Plus3, one “kudos” will earn you one penny. Don’t worry if you forget to log something that day because you can log your activity completed up to one week previous.
The online community allows you to connect with other participants, add “Friends” and share your activity. Motivate the First State is the Plus3 designed Clubhouse and within the clubhouse Delawareans can log, publicly or privately, as individuals, or participate as a team. Additionally, participants can join an ongoing team and incorporate their contributions.
Jason Danner, Regional Vice President, Market Leader, Kelly Benefit Strategies Group, says this campaign is a “win, win, win” for all parties involved “Make every time your active count for charity”. Jason, who serves as a representative for Motivate the First State says the goal is to have 5,000 people logging their efforts consistently. This will serve as a baseline for the coming 2016 year.
Motivate the First State is hosted by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Kelly Benefit Strategies Group, Inc. Other partnerships for the campaign include Delaware Division of Public Health, Sussex County Government, Sussex Outdoors, Healthier Sussex County, Sussex County Health Promotion Coalition, Bike Delaware, Kent Kids, and Races2Run.
(You can sign up for FREE at www.motivatethefirststate.com to join the campaign.)
Our Superstars in Business awards application deadline is about a month away and we would like to open the application process to a wider variety of businesses across the state. Marvin S. Gilman Superstars in Business Awards program, now in its 17th year. As the Chamber’s most visible and important tribute to small business, the Superstars in Business program is seeking outstanding small businesses to award.
The application form is now available and can be completed online at ssb.dscc.com. Printed copies are also available by emailing Kelly Wetzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (302) 576-6564. Winners will be judged in four different categories: companies with 1-24 employees, 25-59 employees, 60-150 employees and nonprofit organizations. Awards of excellence will also be given to deserving companies.
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce launched the Marvin S. Gilman Superstars in Business Awards program in 1998 to recognize extraordinary small businesses and nonprofit organizations in the state. The winning Superstars in Business companies have been heralded as models of small business excellence, commended for their first-rate performance in such areas as strategic marketing, customer service, quality control and financial performance. They also excel as good stewards of the community, giving back and paying forward through leadership and employee involvement.
This year’s winners will be awarded during a luncheon ceremony on November 10th at the Hotel du Pont’s Gold Ballroom. The keynote speaker will be Hal Real, a seasoned entrepreneur with a passion for new ideas and a history of transforming those ideas into successful businesses. In October 2004, Hal delivered the first installment of that promise by opening World Cafe Live, a nationally-acclaimed live music venue, restaurant and events complex in Philadelphia. In 2011, Hal and his WCL team opened World Cafe Live at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware.
Global Delaware team members meet with Bank of China to explore opportunities for Delaware businesses
By Meg Campbell
Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock recently met with executives from the Bank of China to discuss ways that companies from China and Delaware can work together.
Secretary Bullock and team members from Global Delaware, the State’s initiative for promoting Delaware abroad, talked to bank executives and Chinese entrepreneurs about opportunities for collaboration, from a distributor looking for food safety products to sell in China to a manufacturer seeking advanced training opportunities in the U.S.
“There are so many opportunities for both sides,” Bullock noted. “Delaware companies can leverage their industry expertise by partnering with Chinese investors; they can develop distribution networks to sell their products and services in China; they can meet with Chinese companies looking to come to the U.S. and need distribution and support here. Forging a special relationship with the Bank of China makes so many options possible.”
Over the last several months, Global Delaware has developed a strong working relationship with the Bank of China, one of the country’s largest and most important banks. As a result of these efforts, the State has been selected to showcase Delaware businesses at the Sino-US SME Forum in New York City on September 28, 2015. This is the first event of its kind in the U.S., and Delaware is one of only a few states invited to participate.
The forum is an opportunity for Delaware companies to explore how to grow their business through collaboration with Chinese trading and/investment partners who are clients of the Bank of China. Chinese investment into the U.S. totaled nearly $50 billion in 2014 and could reach $200 billion by the end of the decade.
More than 40 Chinese business partners and investors will be at the event and available to meet with Delaware companies. After initial pre-qualification discussions, the Bank of China will set up one-on-one partnering meetings. Professional translation services and free consulting will be provided. There is no cost to participate for qualifying companies from Delaware.
“This event is a tremendous opportunity for Delaware companies and organizations of all kinds, from traditional manufacturers and service companies to entrepreneurs, nonprofits and educational institutions,” explained Secretary Bullock, noting that the Bank of China has already had great success with these events in Europe. “New York City is so close. We are so pleased that Bank of China has invited our businesses to be included in this important event.”
Global Delaware plans to charter a bus and escort the group up to NYC for this event, and lunch and dinner will be included.
Interested companies should contact a Global Delaware team member at email@example.com as soon as possible, as spaces will fill quickly.