Securing nuclear materials is all in a day’s work for our next guest. Joyce Connery has used her considerable people skills to help reduce vast amounts of plutonium and weapons-grade uranium. Two years ago, she brought fifty world leaders together for a summit. She got them to make concrete promises. To date, they have fulfilled about 90 percent of those commitments. For her work as the National Security Council’s director of nuclear energy policy, Connery is a finalist for the Service to America medals.
What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?
Teamwork, humor and enthusiasm
What’s the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
My dad told us from a very early age to value learning, education and experience — because no matter what happens, no one can take those from you.
Who is your biggest role model and why?
I have had numerous role models throughout my life and career. One that sticks out was Mary Berenice McCall. I had the pleasure of serving in the Peace Corps with her and her husband John, former President of Knox College. It was a rough tour, especially at their ages, but Mary Berenice faced every challenge with grace, humor and a willingness to take risks that was an inspiration. Sadly, Mary Berenice is no longer with us but I know that she lived her life to its fullest and has impacted the lives of all of her students and colleagues in a positive way.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome (personally or professionally) and how did you overcome it?
Probably the biggest challenge I have had to face was a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 36. I was able to meet that challenge and face surgery, radiation and chemotherapy because of the fantastic support network I had at home and at work. Being able to continue to work helped me focus on other things than being sick and to remind myself that I still had a great deal to offer the world– and not to give up. Once you face something like that, the day to day challenges are less daunting!
What’s the last thing you read and what’s next on your reading list?
I am reading Confidence Men by Ron Suskind at the moment. I think my next book will be fiction to enjoy on vacation — perhaps Ken Follett’s latest book.