Peter and Susie Horvath
Giving of Their Time, Treasures and Talents for the Good of Others
Regardless of what point they’ve been at in their lives, Peter and Susie Horvath have focused on helping others and leading by example. “We’ve always been involved in companywide charitable efforts,” observes Peter. They became even more inspired after relocating to Columbus from Connecticut in the mid-1980s, when Peter took a position at The Limited. “I had the chance to work closely with Les Wexner. His philosophy was that if you do well in business, it’s your responsibility to give back to the community.” And not just monetarily: “You have to show up too, and give of your time and intellectual capital, leveraging that with the cause to attract like-minded people.”
The Horvaths put these principles into practice when they moved with their three young daughters into the town of New Albany. “The new school facilities had not yet been constructed and at times it was a challenge,” admits Susie. So, for 15 years, Peter served as an elected official of the New Albany Plain local school board; both he and Susie worked closely with others to move the system toward excellence. They were also active in various local causes: Susie with TWIG and raising money for Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Peter in United Way.
In 2005, Peter left The Limited to serve as president of DSW, only to return three years later as executive vice-president of Victoria’s Secret. During his tenure at DSW, the company became the biggest “zero-to-hero” United Way contributor in central Ohio, with nearly 100 percent participation from the Columbus office, and it organized a dinner that raised more than $400,000 for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Although Peter was also starting to work with The James Foundation Board, the desire to do something about cancer was bigger than that, and “seemed to choose us,” observes Susie. “While our stories are similar to many people’s”— both lost a parent to cancer, and Peter’s sister is a 20- year breast cancer survivor—both admit to being deeply influenced by the people they encountered at The James.
Peter Horvath’s “semi-retirement” from Victoria’s Secret in December 2010 turned out to be more like a highoctane sabbatical. “It gave me a chance to explore creative pursuits and spend more time with my family,” he says. During a 12-month period, he utilized his extensive background in finance, leadership and company operations to help guide The James Foundation Board through action planning—and he and his wife Susie pledged $150,000 to the Cancer Strategic Initiatives fund. “The Board was undergoing a major transition period, and we needed to formulate strategies and innovations that would help us move from raising $35 million a year to $120 million.”
Along with acting as a management consultant for businesses ranging from vintage sports apparel to healthcare management to kids’ athletics during this period, Peter also served as an adviser to Mission Essential Personnel (MEP), an $800 million global program management company. Its more than 8,000 employees provide linguistic, intelligence and training services to the U.S. government and NATO allies in austere or dangerous environments. Then in January he “unretired,” becoming MEP’s CEO and chairman of the board.
“It was an easy decision, given role models like Dr. Michael Caligiuri, Dr. David Schuller, the incredible development staff, Cheryl Kreuger, Dave Ryan, Cindy Hilsheimer and the Tuckermans,” says Peter, noting that Judy Tuckerman is a special hero to Susie. The Celebration for Life, an annual event hosted by Judy and her husband Steve, is in its 11th year and has raised more than $10.5 million. “Like Susie, Judy is a woman small in stature yet mighty in her ability to get people involved and get things done.”
Although their three daughters are mostly grown—two are in college while one is a junior in high school—“We are looking at transitioning from being active parents to focusing on what is meaningful to us personally and as a couple,” explains Susie. To this end, she is ramping up her volunteer efforts at The James as well as continuing to raise funds for Nationwide Children’s.
Peter, who divides his time between Columbus and Washington, DC, as well as Afghanistan and other trouble spots around the world, is focusing on enlisting others in the fight against cancer. An avid cyclist, he has been active in Pelotonia since its inception in 2009, and this year MEP was the first company ever to achieve 100 percent participation when its entire Columbus HQ office signed up to become virtual riders, riders or volunteers. Approximately 50 other MEP employees outside Columbus also enrolled, including 16 employees who were deployed in Afghanistan. “Soldiers love the competition and distraction, so I’m hoping to bring Pelotonia overseas in 2013,” he adds.
It only takes a small investment of time or money to start a lifetime of giving—and hopefully ending cancer. “Anybody can help,” observes Peter. “All you really need is the desire. Although we are fairly private people, by sharing our journey with The James, perhaps we’ll inspire a few folks to get involved.”