Eric Stevens, CEO of Courage Center for the past six years, recently resigned his position in order to continue his life’s journey. He has been vital to the Center’s incorporation of assistive technology, development of numerous community outreach activities and resulting partnerships, as well as its focus on fitness and wellness. In 2003, Twin Cities Business Monthly ranked Courage Center as having the second most-respected reputation among nonprofit organizations in the state, behind only the Mayo Clinic. Also in 2003, Courage Center received the Secretary of [the US Department of] Labor’s New Freedom Initiative Award.
Stevens announced his decision to the Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers on November 29; his last day will be December 31. “Working as a leader in this field has been my life’s work–and continues to inspire me. It has given me the opportunity to contribute to our community and to be part of the healthy development of children, families and people with disabilities. The Courage Center is a wonderful organization. Our mission, the people I work with daily, and the generous, selfless support that we receive from thousands of donors and volunteers have inspired me and motivated me to give all I could,” he said in an announcement to family, friends, and colleagues. Among a host of his fondest Courage memories are the grand opening of the renovated Courage Residence, their 75th Anniversary Celebration, and receiving the New Freedom Initiative Award.
“I have come to a point in my career and in my life where I feel in my heart that it is time to move on to something else. As much as the opportunities and challenges still stimulate me day in and day out, I want to step away from the increasingly complex non-profit CEO’s responsibilities – including the challenges that have been amplified in the past several years by government funding cuts. I’m excited and ready to move onto the next phase of my life,” he continued. Although last August marked his 25th year providing non-profit leadership, Stevens has no plans for retiring quite yet! Stevens, an adventurer at heart, quoted Bob Dylan; “He who is not busy being born is busy dying.” During the first few months after leaving Courage Center, he plans a “personal sabbatical” for relaxing a bit, spending time with family and friends, and considering his next opportunities, which will likely include additional time with his wife Caroline, wilderness backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, and gardening. Potential professional treks include teaching, executive and personal coaching, and perhaps writing.
Stevens has become well-known throughout the Twin Cities as a professional development coach in the areas of leadership development, strategic planning, business development, marketing and board development. He is viewed by many business leaders as a strategic and entrepreneurial leader, a visionary who can drive successful organizational change and growth. He has served on various nonprofit boards and actively participated within many community and professional groups, including the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, United Way Council of Agency Executives, Minneapolis Rotary Club, and the Minneapolis Club.
He has earned degrees from New York’s Queens College (bachelor’s degree in economics), the Leadership Institute of Seattle (master’s degree in organizational leadership/applied behavioral science), and Central Washington State University (master’s degree in early childhood education). He was also a Bush Fellow in early childhood education at the University of Minnesota.
The Board of Directors has appointed Nancy Larkin as interim CEO while they search for Steven’s successor. “I feel that Courage is in excellent hands. We spent the past year developing a new strategic plan that I believe positions Courage well for the future–and I am proud to have been one of the architects of that direction. I also have total confidence in the inordinately talented group of staff and volunteers who work here, as well as a great Board of Directors,” Stevens stated.
Larkin joined Courage Center last January, after serving as the executive director for Minneapolis’ Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute since 1998. There, she successfully provided leadership in the development of an integrated rehabilitation system in four metropolitan Allina Hospitals. She also participated in the transition of the Sister Kenny Board of Trustees from an operational leadership team to a charitable board. Her efforts helped increase overall patient admissions, market share, and profitability plus furthered excellence and innovation in rehabilitative services. Since joining Courage Center, she has served as the vice president of healthcare development, where she has been responsible for healthcare planning, business development, growth of healthcare outpatient services, as well as partnering with others in building a community-wide coordinated system of care for people with disabilities. Larkin has also served on the Center’s Executive Management Team, which is responsible for implementing strategic direction for the organization