Third Act Podcast

Your first act is school, your second act is work, but have you thought about what you’re going to do in your third act? Join host Liz Tinkham, a former Accenture Senior Managing Director, as she talks to guests who are happily “pretired” – enjoying their time, treasure, and talent to pursue their purpose and passion in the third act of their life.

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The Conscientious Giver with Steve Wilcox


Steve Wilcox: The Conscientious Giver

This episode of The Third Act Podcast features Steve Wilcox. We’ve titled this episode The Conscientious Giver, as Steve and his wife, Peg, have deliberately given to and worked for charitable causes while leading incredibly busy family and professional lives.

Steve retired from a hard-charging career as a Managing Director at Accenture and is now the Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Oakland; quite a pivot. In this episode he talks about his lifelong involvement in charitable giving, inspired by his mother, and how he’s adapted his style to religious nonprofit work. He’s also passed on his legacy of giving to his three sons, who now run a family foundation.

Host Liz Tinkham affectionately refers to Steve as the “compassionate hard-ass”. His is an inspiring story of how to be very successful at work while not forgetting what’s important – family and faith.

(01:40) Act 1: Stonehill College as a first generation college student
(03:32) Carnegie Mellon creating and analyzing public policy
(04:28) Think before you speak: lessons from the CIA
(06:11) Act 2: Arthur Anderson and a mini computer can make history
(09:23) Director of Technical services of the NYC Transit Authority
(13:11) Back to consulting for communication
(14:14) Extended family and the extent of its impact: there’s always another place at the table
(17:02) Covenant House: a charity for youth experiencing homelessness
(17:58) Tithing with checks and wine
(20:14) Making it work with teenage kids and traveling
(21:17) Act 3: building a family foundation
(21:40) When it’s time to pivot
(25:42) Bishop of the Archdiocese of Oakland and the start of Cristo Rey
(30:59) The Compassionate Hard-Ass hard at work
(31:28) Authority and power in a nonprofit, from the perspective of a nonreligious person in a religious organization
(33:27) Advice to high-charging people to religion: get involved

Listeners can get in touch with Steve on LinkedIn or by email here.

Liz Tinkham (00:18):
Hi. This is Liz Tinkham, and welcome to Third Act, a podcast about people embracing the third act of their lives with a new sense of purpose and direction. The third act begins when your script ends, but your show’s just not finished. On today’s episode, I’m talking with my friend, Steve Wilcox, who is the chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Oakland. I’m titling this episode The Conscientious Giver, as Steve and his wife, Peg, made a deliberate giving part of their lives from earlier in their marriage. Steve enjoyed a 30 year career with Accenture, which afforded him virtually no time to volunteer. Yet, he managed to stay involved with the organizations supported by the Catholic church and those dedicated to youth, like the YMCA. Today, Steve also runs a family foundation with his three boys as directors, passing on his legacy of giving. So Steve, welcome to Third Act.

Steve Wilcox (01:13):
Thank you, Liz. I’m excited to be here.

Liz Tinkham (01:16):
We’re excited to have you. So I was laughing because writing the intro feels a little bit weird because I thought it was a bit soft when I thought about you since you’re also, and I mean this in the most complimentary way, kind of the compassionate hard ass.

Steve Wilcox (01:29):
Well, I take it as a compliment.

Liz Tinkham (01:32):
Good, good. Well, I mean, you’re from the East Coast, so you’re from New York. And I met you probably not long, maybe I met you in New York, but anyway, it kind of goes with the territory. So I want to spend a few minutes on your first act, which was at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, which I have to say, I’ve never heard of. Why there? And what did you want to get out of that? What did you think you were going to do?

Steve Wilcox (01:54):
Well, first of all, why there? It is not many people have heard of it, but it’s run by The Holy Cross Fathers, which is the same order that runs Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame, so it’s just one of their smaller schools. And my parents didn’t go to college. And in fact, I didn’t really know anyone who went to college. And it was a very safe choice, pretty close to home, but far enough away I could be away. And at the time, I thought I could go there and kind of continue to explore what I wanted to do, but my general direction was a career in, I’m going to say government, public service, something like that. I majored in political science and economics, so that’s generally what I was thinking of doing.

Liz Tinkham (02:45):
Maybe you could go back to it right about now. We could probably use some folks. But then you went on to Carnegie Mellon for your master’s. Did you go directly after undergraduate school?

Steve Wilcox (02:55):
No. I ended up with a year off, which in retrospect was perfect. I got very ill my senior year in college. I got mononucleosis.

Liz Tinkham (03:06):

Steve Wilcox (03:07):
On a scale of one to 10, I got it at a nine. And so I ended up with six weeks, I quite literally almost couldn’t get out of bed. So I didn’t graduate, and ended up sort of with a forced year off, which turned out fine. And during that time, I spent my time exploring grad schools, made a decision I would go to the best school I got into, and it was Carnegie Mellon.

Liz Tinkham (03:33):
And what did you study there?

Steve Wilcox (03:35):
My master’s was in public policy analysis. It was quantitative program based on really geared towards the federal government, both in terms of how to create policy, but also how to analyze policy, so I did things. I’ll give an example. We did a research paper where we created, this seems like ancient history, we created the engineering spec for: What would a facility need to look like if you were going to DNA research? Because at the time, there were concerns that: If DNA research escaped into the water and the air, what would it do to the environment? So we did pretty hardcore engineering and analytics that would end up as policy.

Liz Tinkham (04:26):
That’s really cool. But you thought you were going to go into the CIA. Did you want to be a spy?

Steve Wilcox (04:30):

Liz Tinkham (04:32):
I can’t see you as a spy.

Steve Wilcox (04:35):
Maybe. So actually, that’s what ended it was the fact that I blurted that out in an interview. I did several rounds of interviews with the CIA, I thought I was going to be an analyst, a policy analyst.

Liz Tinkham (04:48):
Jack Ryan-esque.

Steve Wilcox (04:51):
I thought it was exciting.

Liz Tinkham (04:53):
Of courses.

Steve Wilcox (04:53):
And I was going to see, and it was a perfect match for my skills. And then in my last interview with them, so I didn’t make it to the next interview, they asked me if I’d ever considered data collection as a career. And I was like, “What do you mean?” And they said, “Well, there’s a certain percentage of our employees that we put in the diplomatic corps, and we then put them in embassies, change their names of course.” I’m not kidding. This is exactly what they say. We change their names, of course, and then those people really, they get to know people in the foreign countries. They collect data.

Liz Tinkham (05:36):
Public data.

Steve Wilcox (05:37):
And I said, “Oh, you want me to be a spy.” And they didn’t invite me back for the next interview.

Liz Tinkham (05:43):
Oh, my goodness. Wow. Okay. Note to listeners, words not to use. They recruit people who are older. I did at one point, I saw an ad in The Economist last year, and I was thinking about my own third act, trying to figure out what to do. And I said to John, my husband, I’m like, “Why don’t we go be spies? We’re smart. We’re a couple. Do you think they’d take us?” And he just looked at me like I had five heads. Right?

Steve Wilcox (06:09):

Liz Tinkham (06:11):
Okay. So after, so you’re doing well in grad school, but you have your slip during your CIA interview. What do you end up doing?

Steve Wilcox (06:20):
I did interview with, among other things, Arthur Andersen, who of course have a practice that’s not underway, but it’s in its early stages at Arthur Andersen. It’s called ad services at the time. And they’re working with computers. And there was a group of us, myself included, that we could turn a computer on. We could program it. I mean, we used it all the time in our analysis. I mean, I knew a language or two. And they came to campus to interview, and I interviewed, in fact with a guy named Steve Zimmerman. I don’t know if you remember Steve.

Liz Tinkham (07:07):
I remember Steve, sure.

Steve Wilcox (07:07):
And Steve was a Carnegie Tech grad, so he went back even further than Carnegie Mellon. And I got connected to New York, and was hired. It was perfect. Peggy and I were pretty serious by then, getting ready to get married. She was living in New Jersey. New York was a great location. And Arthur Andersen had a government practice, so I was kind of thinking, “Geez, I’ll just put together tech skills with government practice and location.”

Liz Tinkham (07:40):
So you got hired. I think you told me earlier that you thought if you worked for them, you’d be useful to them.

Steve Wilcox (07:46):
Exactly. I thought I would be somewhat … At the time, you could put the entire New York, think of it as consulting practice, in a ballroom. I mean, we were that small. We were 125 of us. I’m sure this was true for you when you started as well.

Liz Tinkham (08:02):
Oh, absolutely, in Chicago. It’s funny when I contrast that to my own children and probably to yours because we have kids about the same age, who are working. And when I talk to them about, well, more they talk to me about their jobs, it’s all about how great they are for that company, how that company should be happy that they have them. And I think same with you, I’m like, “Well, maybe I could be useful to these guys, and they’d pay me.” So it’s such a different attitude.

Steve Wilcox (08:36):
Well, I remember that I was very happy to have a job, but there was one guy I was with, and I can’t remember his name. But when he found out that someone was paid more to start with roughly the same credentials, he quit. And I was like, “You’re doing what?” Well, they paid him $2,000 more to start than we got. And I was like, “You’re crazy.”

Liz Tinkham (09:04):
Right. Keep your job, right. So a little bit, things have changed.

Steve Wilcox (09:07):

Liz Tinkham (09:08):
You had a great career starting in New York. I met you when you moved out to California. Maybe just give us some highlights of sort of what you did and what maybe your own personal career highlights were. Tell us a little bit about that.

Steve Wilcox (09:23):
Well, the early career probably worked out a little bit like I was originally thinking. My first big assignment was at the New York City Transit Authority, so not a government agency, but pretty close. And I worked, I’m sure the partner was actually Rick Haverly, but the guy I worked for was Steve Smith. And we built what was the first business application on a mini computer, maybe in the United States, maybe in the world. And we dabbled in things like the programmer’s workbench and stuff like that, so it was really technical skills, government application, so it was a lot of fun. And unlike my peers who bounced from project to project, I was on the New York City Transit Authority job for three years.

Liz Tinkham (10:18):

Steve Wilcox (10:19):
So I was there for a long time. And I supervised people, I managed teams, so I had a great experience. But the highlight there was when I got to the end of my third year, the client actually kicked Arthur Andersen out, and it did so by hiring four of us to take over the application, myself included, so I actually left the firm.

Liz Tinkham (10:45):
You did?

Steve Wilcox (10:46):

Liz Tinkham (10:46):
You defected to a client?

Steve Wilcox (10:48):
I defected to a client. Now that is a mortal injury to-

Liz Tinkham (10:56):
Absolutely. I didn’t know this about you. So how did you manage to worm your way back in?

Steve Wilcox (10:58):
So this is interesting, of course, like I said, I was working for Steve Smith, so the first year, it was great. I mean, I earned a lot. In fact, I went to Steve Smith for advice on whether to leave. And Steve actually said to me, he probably would deny this, Steve was either a partner or close to being a partner. And he said, “Well, listen. If you’re going to turn this down, I’m taking it.”

Liz Tinkham (11:20):
Oh, my gosh. Wow.

Steve Wilcox (11:22):
That’s how much money they were offering us. But I took the job, I worked for a year under that contract. And then the Transit Authority ended that contract and offered me the position of director of technical services, so I was the director of technical services of the New York City Transit Authority for about a year and a half under Mayor Koch, of all people.

Liz Tinkham (11:47):
Wow, wow. Okay.

Steve Wilcox (11:48):
And then one day, I was riding home, reading the newspaper, and the mayor was disrespecting my entire unit in the paper. And I told Peg I was quitting. I said, “I’m just not up for being in the newspaper.”

Liz Tinkham (12:05):
Wow. Was your name mentioned?

Steve Wilcox (12:08):
It wasn’t directly, but it was just the abuse we were taking for outages on the trains just wasn’t called for. It wasn’t really our fault. So anyway, I decided to quit, started looking for another job. And I was close to landing one, and I bumped into Steve Smith in Midtown Manhattan, I mean, bumped into him on the street corner.

Liz Tinkham (12:33):
Thousands of people, no sense, not right now.

Steve Wilcox (12:37):
Yeah. And he says to me, “Steve, what are you doing?” I said, “I’m changing jobs.” And he said, “Listen, I’ll tell you what. Turn down that job you’re going to get. Interview with us, and if we don’t hire you, I will help you find a job better than the one you’re going to turn down.”

Liz Tinkham (12:58):
That was really nice of him.

Steve Wilcox (12:59):
And I said, “Deal.” And I was interviewed and accepted a position back with Arthur Andersen.

Liz Tinkham (13:09):
I had no idea you had your little detour.

Steve Wilcox (13:11):
I immediately was assigned to AT&T.

Liz Tinkham (13:15):
Oh, my gosh. And that’s how you got going in the communication industry group.

Steve Wilcox (13:19):

Liz Tinkham (13:19):
I want to transition a little bit to Peg, you and Peg, and your legacy of giving because throughout your career, you are giving time and money to organizations that you and Peg support. And in spite of a career that’s really taking off, you’ve managed to make time for this. And I think many of the folks who listen to this know that when you worked in the ’80s and the ’90s, it was basically a 12 hour day. Right? It was just all out. There were no breaks, yet you managed to figure out a way to be involved. So tell me a little bit about that and how you and Peg made that happen. And maybe use Covenant House as an example.

Steve Wilcox (14:14):
Yeah. Well, thanks, Liz. And thanks for even asking about this because part, it’s about how both Peg and I were raised and exposed as growing up. Peg has a legacy with her family, primarily through her dad. It’s her parents, but her dad was a dedicated public servant. I mean, he had his own law practice. But he was dedicated to the community, and served as mayor, although he had his own practice, served as mayor, and did a lot of great things. But for me, it was my mom. And we lived, I had the great fortune of living in an extended family. So it was not just my mom and dad and the six kids. It was, we lived with great-uncles and great-aunts and grandparents, and so there were 13, 14 of us in the house at any one time.

Steve Wilcox (15:15):
And my mother once said to me, “Steve, it’s not about paying the bills. It’s about which bill to pay.” So we always considered ourselves a middle class family, but it wasn’t like there were extras. And yet despite this, my mother, and maybe it was the era, but my mother always felt that there was another place at the table. You could always help somebody. There was always somebody you could invite to dinner or whatever. And so I think that set the tone for much of my life, and I think Peg’s as well.

Liz Tinkham (15:55):
You said to me when we were prepping for this that at one point, you came home from college and had to introduce yourself.

Steve Wilcox (16:02):
One Christmas, I came home at dinner, at our Christmas dinner, I had to introduce myself to the people sitting around me. It’s not just the 13 of us in the house there. Understand now, there are others that are in the room, other visitors, other relatives. But the people sitting immediately around me are people I don’t know. And so I asked my mother, “Who are these people?” And she said, “Oh, I met them at the laundromat, or I met them at the grocery store. And they seemed lonely, so I invited them to dinner.” But not just that, we would then retire to the family room, where everybody would be exchanging a gift. And sure enough, my mother bought gifts for these people. I mean, a bottle of perfume, or whatever.

Liz Tinkham (16:55):
Right. Just something, yeah.

Steve Wilcox (16:56):
But she didn’t want them to be forgotten.

Liz Tinkham (16:59):
All right. Tell us about Covenant House.

Steve Wilcox (17:02):
So Covenant House is an organization that deals with homeless youth, ages 18 to 25. It has multiple programs, but largely is trying to transition youth from the streets to a stable life, so it could be anything from just giving them a place to live so they can work and go to school, or it could in fact include their own program for education, let’s say if someone doesn’t have a high school equivalent. So it’s really a wonderful, wonderful organization. And we’ve supported them for, gosh, 40 years or more.

Liz Tinkham (17:45):
That is so great. And so throughout your careers advancing, you’re doing well. You move to California. You’re making more and more money. You talk about the December 28th checks and wine.

Steve Wilcox (18:00):
Yeah. Well, at some point along the line there, I think we’re still in New Jersey, Peg and I decided that, hey listen, we should be sort of setting, typical Accenture guy, we ought to be setting targets for how much we’re giving away.

Liz Tinkham (18:19):
Key performance indicators.

Steve Wilcox (18:21):
Key performance indicator. And so we decided to tithe, which is 10% of your gross income, and so we decided to do that. And it evolved into this write checks and drink wine. So on somewhere in the last week of Christmas, but enough that we could write the checks, get them in the mail, and out the door, so December 28th is sort of a good target. We would sit down with a list of all the charities that had written us, a list of all the charities we had given, a list of the charities we had already given to, a calculation of how much money we had made during the year. And we wrote checks until we hit that amount.

Liz Tinkham (19:09):

Steve Wilcox (19:09):
And usually, we had a bottle of wine sitting at the table, and we would just drink until that happened.

Liz Tinkham (19:15):
Did that mean that the people that were down on the priority list, but had the benefit of three glasses of wine got a little bit more?

Steve Wilcox (19:23):
Well, at some point during that conversation, it did become, “Yeah, sure. Go ahead. Yeah, sure.”

Liz Tinkham (19:30):
Yeah. We’ll probably make more next year. When I was working with you, we were doing a lot of traveling to Texas for our client down there. You had the largest account at Accenture. You had a multi-hundred-million-dollar target on your head. We had a lot of pressure. There were a lot of difficult situations with the client sometimes, and trying to hit your numbers. And it was a very tough job that you did a great job running it. But you still throughout that continued your involvement with both youth sports and charities. How did you make that work with all of that pressure, teenage kids, et cetera?

Steve Wilcox (20:20):
Well, on the kid side, a lot of red eyes.

Liz Tinkham (20:24):
Golly, yeah.

Steve Wilcox (20:25):
I’d say a lot of red eyes, really great coordination between Peg and Linda Meyer, my executive assistant at the time.

Liz Tinkham (20:36):
Okay. I remember her too.

Steve Wilcox (20:37):
Linda would put personal events on my calendar, and she knew to arrange my travel around them. It was just something that you just had to do. I don’t think our boys think I missed any of them. Ultimately, Liz, I think what was important was that the family understood they were first. You know what I mean? That’s really the most important thing was they understood they were first.

Liz Tinkham (21:11):
After you retire, you start a family foundation, so tell us about that.

Steve Wilcox (21:17):
Well, we get to the end of the Accenture career, and it was really quite honestly, I loved working there. ] I realized Accenture was really going to be happy to have me continue to do what I was doing for as long as I wanted to do it. But I had just reached the point where I was either going to do something more and different, either in the firm or outside the firm, and it seemed like doing something outside the firm seemed the better path, so I retired and spent probably six months or so really thinking about what was next, and really started to dive into sort of my main three charities. But in addition, I had given long hard thought to starting this foundation, family foundation, which was based on this notion that Peg and I were going to give the money away anyway. So why not set up a foundation, and then be more intentional, if that’s the right word, about giving it away.

Steve Wilcox (22:31):
And with the added bonus of being able to include our boys in the actual giving, make them directors, and then include them in all of the decisions about who gets what, how the foundation’s run, et cetera. So that’s really what the whole thinking was, that I had my next piece in front of me. I had my activities, but this seemed like a great family activity.

Liz Tinkham (23:05):
And how long have you been doing it?

Steve Wilcox (23:07):
So maybe 12 years now.

Liz Tinkham (23:09):
Wow. And how’s it worked out? I mean, what have you seen with your boys? I think this is a very cool idea that until I met you, I’ve never heard. I mean, no contemporary of mine, I should say, has ever done something like this.

Steve Wilcox (23:21):
Well, I think the results so far are good, given where we are and given where the boys are in their lives. First of all, the boys are much better organized than I am.

Liz Tinkham (23:34):
That’s saying something. Okay.

Steve Wilcox (23:37):
Well, I still think that I would’ve transitioned into a foundation that was going to write checks and drink wine on December 28th. The boys are … We have a website. We have a mission statement.

Liz Tinkham (23:49):
Oh, my goodness. Okay.

Steve Wilcox (23:51):
We literally sit down, I guess at least twice, often three times a year, and review who has asked money from us, divvy up to dos about who’s going to track down the nonprofit, talk to them, evaluate them, come back to the group as to whether the cause is in line with our mission, worthy of someone we want to support. They’ve put limits. The boys have put limits on how much money we give to an organization the first year, until we’re certain they’re going to be spending their money … I mean, they’re very disciplined, so it’s worked out well. I guess I couldn’t have hoped for more at this point. And they’re engaged in giving.

Liz Tinkham (24:42):
That’s just great.

Steve Wilcox (24:45):
Each boy, each young man at this point, Joe, his interests are environmental, so he’s looking for sustainability of solutions related to solar energy and water safety. Dan and his wife are interested in women who’ve been abused in their relationships with men. Tom and his significant other are very interested in food security. So very different, they’re different kids, and to try to bring that all together into a theme is interesting.

Liz Tinkham (25:34):
And they’ve been able to figure that out among…

Steve Wilcox (25:36):

Liz Tinkham (25:37):
It’s super cool. So after you retire, you also, somewhere along the way, meet the bishop of the Archdiocese of Oakland. How does that happen?

Steve Wilcox (25:46):
Well, one of my activities had been that I was on the board of Catholic Charities. And we ended up losing our CEO, and so I served on a volunteer basis as the CEO for about nine months while we did a search. So I met the new bishop. He actually was appointed while I was there. When I got done with that activity, he basically said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea that needs someone to lead it. Would you be interested in perhaps taking this on?” And I said, “Sure. What is it?” And he said, “Well, I’ve got a high school in Oakland that’s struggling a bit financially. And I want to replace it with a work-study high school” It’s called Cristo Rey. You may have heard of it, Liz. They have one actually, the second one was in Portland.

Liz Tinkham (26:44):
I think there’s one in Chicago too, that some friends of mine actually supported.

Steve Wilcox (26:47):
One was in Chicago. They have two in Chicago now. But I wanted to start a Cristo Rey school in Oakland. Would you take on that task? And I said, “Sure.” So for about two and a half years, I headed up a committee that raised money, found jobs, found a site for the school, figured out the demographics of where kids who are underserved lived and where they would be living 10 years from now, how transportation would work. I had a great committee that worked with me. It was quite an experience. So that school is up, it’s in its third year now. Interesting to run a work study school in the era of COVID.

Liz Tinkham (27:35):
Probably a little harder to do the work part of it. Right?

Steve Wilcox (27:39):
Yeah. A little harder to do that.

Liz Tinkham (27:41):

Steve Wilcox (27:42):
And then so when that got done, I called him up. I said, “Hey, we got approval to start the school.” There’s a headquarters, so we had to have their approval. We got their approval, and I called him up. And he said, “Well, why don’t you come to the office? I have something else.” I said, “Sure.” I was on vacation at the time. And when I got back, we started talking about how to reorganize the chancery and what would be the best reorganization model. And when that was done, he said, “Well, geez.” He looked at the org chart and he said, “Well, why don’t you take that role?”

Liz Tinkham (28:23):
Wow. Just you’ve white boarded it as a typical consultant, you’ve probably done a two by two matrix on pros and cons. And so he says, he absolutely knew what he was doing getting you in there. Right?

Steve Wilcox (28:35):
I think he knew what he was doing.

Liz Tinkham (28:38):
That you would design your own job. So you’re the most senior non-church person at the Archdiocese. Is that correct?

Steve Wilcox (28:46):
Well, yes. Although, there’s a CFO who has finance. He has real estate. He actually has anything related to assets. So he and I are on that inner circle, but I’m the first non religious to hold this role in Oakland.

Liz Tinkham (29:13):
What do you do at that job? What’s the remit?

Steve Wilcox (29:17):
Well, my major responsibilities are all over the board. If you take finance out, and the stuff I’ve talked about, and you take out anything that relates to priests, it would be fair to say I have everything else. So I have communications. I have faith formation from a headquarters standpoint. I’m the one who signs off and keeps all the records about priest assignments and outside priests coming and going. I have all the sex abuse issues. They all belong to me, historic, as well as current. I do special stuff like we just started racial justice task force, so that belongs to me. So I’ve got everything else… when I say communications, I have the print media, I have all social media. I have a website, so all of that, so it’s kind of a hodgepodge of all things that other people don’t have.

Liz Tinkham (30:38):
As we’ve talked here, you’ve had such a great long history of fundraising and being involved. What’s the difference between doing that, not just giving the money, but you’ve also been involved, and actually being sort of a member, a staff member if you will, of a not for profit, which in this case happens to be the Catholic church?

Steve Wilcox (30:59):
Well, when I was with Accenture, and I think you just started out this way, compassionate hard ass. I think all of us have been in that position in business where you’d like to be the benevolent dictator. But ultimately, you make decisions and you can tell people, “Listen, I’ve heard all of the opinions. This is what we’re going to do.”

Liz Tinkham (31:23):
Yes, I remember you saying that multiple times to me.

Steve Wilcox (31:28):
So no such things are nonprofits. The dynamic in a nonprofit is that everyone thinks they run the place. Everyone needs to be on board. Everybody needs to buy in. And therefore, the more that you were to say, “I’m sorry. This is the way we’re doing it,” the more resistant the organization becomes to the idea of doing it, whatever it is, whether it’s the best idea or the worst idea. You spend much more time in that, I’m going to say that influence, getting people up and down the organization agreeing to what you’d like to do and the vision and the direction.

Liz Tinkham (32:16):
Do you feel like you have an equal voice from an authority perspective as a nonreligious person in the organization?

Steve Wilcox (32:27):
In many matters, I’d say yes, but not all. I mean, the fact that I don’t wear a collar matters, does matter occasionally. For example, priest assignments, no one asks me.

Liz Tinkham (32:44):
They make them?

Steve Wilcox (32:45):
Yeah. They’re made by the bishop and his priest advisors. I’m not asked. But on the other hand, I would say on most matters, I’m consulted by the bishop for my opinion. He checks around with probably four people on most everything, and I’m one of those on almost everything.

Liz Tinkham (33:10):
Okay. So if I’m listening to this and I’m thinking that my third act might be doing something with my church more in that direction, regardless of what religion it is, what advice might you give as you think about our listeners all being high charging business people, and then transitioning into a role like that, even in such a senior leadership position?

Steve Wilcox (33:39):
Despite maybe how my story unfolds, I’d say start getting involved at some level as soon as possible to feel it out. Right? To feel it out. I mean ultimately, you don’t agree to do this unless you’re comfortable that you can work with the people, that you enjoy the environment, I mean, at least in the current state of the Catholic church.

Liz Tinkham (34:06):
All right. Well, I always ask my guests at the end: What aren’t you done with yet?

Steve Wilcox (34:13):
I think that there are … I sort of look out, again, I’m three years into this gig. I think I’m far from done. It’s really about: What do I want to tackle next? Whether it’s to work on, we didn’t even talk about Red Cloud today, the work with the Native Americans that I’ve loved so much. Peg and I have been involved in it for, gosh, 20 years. Covenant House, again the homelessness of youth, getting them off the street. But I’m going to say, to answer your question, narrow our focus a bit, focus on particular social issues and try to make an impact. I think that’s what’s next.

Liz Tinkham (34:57):
That will be your fourth, fifth, sixth act, so we’ll come back. You can come back on the show in another season.

Steve Wilcox (35:03):
Thank you. Thank you.

Liz Tinkham (35:04):
Steve, it’s been great talking. Where can our listeners find you online?

Steve Wilcox (35:09):
Online, they could just write me emails. I’m open to those anytime.

Liz Tinkham (35:16):
We’ll put those in the show notes then.

Steve Wilcox (35:17):
Put them in the show notes. That would be great. I’m happy to chat too, so if you want to include my cell phone, just give me a shout. If you’re in the Bay Area under normal circumstances, I’m good for a beer or a cup of coffee anytime.

Liz Tinkham (35:32):
Great. Well, thanks so much, Steve. And good luck with your work.

Steve Wilcox (35:36):
Yeah. Thanks Liz. Thanks for having me.

Liz Tinkham (35:40):
Thanks for joining me today to listen to the Third Act Podcast. You can find show notes, guest bios, and more at If you enjoyed our show today, please subscribe and write a review on your favorite podcast platform. I’m your host, Liz Tinkham. I’ll be back next week with another guest who’s found new meaning and fulfillment in the third act of their life.

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