Creating a Legacy

The past couple years have been enormously challenging, but these young leaders were never going to be stopped by COVID.

by Jan Wright, Publisher

With another November, we celebrate the 28th year recognizing the tremendous talent in our community through the 40 Leaders Under Forty program. I still remember that very first year in 1994—when I, too, was under the age of 40! Today, the nominations we receive (more than 110 superb and dynamic individuals in 2021) include those young enough to be my children. Truly, this has been an intergenerational program with a long-lasting legacy.

Over the years, I have been privileged to witness these generations of leaders grow and amplify their commitment to our community—that’s why we expanded the program to create the 40 Leaders Alumnus of the Year Award. This year we acknowledge the incomparable John Morris (40 Leaders Class of 1995), whose charismatic leadership has transformed not only the Peoria Riverfront Museum, but our entire community. John has been a longtime friend and strong supporter, and his continued leadership is a model for his fellow alumni. 

The past couple years have been enormously challenging, to say the least, but these young leaders were never going to be stopped by COVID. They have not only carried on; they have led the way. We should pause, however, to recognize the collateral damage of all the stress and uncertainty. They, too, have lost loved ones and struggled with burnout and depression. 

Today’s world is far different than it was 28 years ago, yet the lessons of leadership remain timeless. “The building blocks of successful teams start with a strong foundation of trust,” writes Heart of Illinois United Way President Jennifer Zammuto in this issue, but warns that “our trust in one another has been put to the test” over the past year. Whether leading teams in the workplace or larger initiatives in the community, “we must work together to invest in our people, addressing root causes in order to create lasting and sustainable impact,” she continues. “And the way to start all of this begins with trust.” 

The 2021 class of 40 Leaders Under Forty is rising to the occasion, leaping over the hurdles in their way, and ushering us into a new era. They are building trust within our community, carrying on the mantle of leadership at a time when it is needed most And we should be especially proud. Congratulations to this impressive group of leaders—you deserve this recognition. And to our sponsors and partners who continue to support this program, we are grateful. PM

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