One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about friends of my friends. The post below is the story on a friend of a friend for January 21, 2015.
When you work at a university you get to meet diverse people. In November 2012 I started a new position at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. I was appointed Chief of Staff and this new career move had me interacting daily with the university’s senior leadership team including the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellors.
The same day I started my new position was the same day that Dr. Richard Cosentino began his new job at UNC Pembroke as Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration. Rich came to Pembroke after a long career at George Washington University in DC. Rich succeeded Neil Hawk who has served as vice chancellor at the university for 20 years.
During his more than 20-year career prior to arriving at Pembroke, Rich held a variety of senior management positions. A senior financial and administrative executive in higher education, he was the associate vice president for finance and management at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., a three-campus university serving approximately 25,000 students with an endowment of more than $1 billion. GWU was quite a bit larger than Pembroke and definitely more urban
Rich has also previously held administrative positions at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University. During his career, he was also the assistant dean for the School of Engineering and Applied Science at George Washington and is a professorial lecturer in the Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering.
He is a very bright guy and extremely animated. Rich is one of those people who always thinking about improvement to processes and experiences. His constant idea generation sometimes can be taxing.
His story about his friend Louis Katz, the Vice President for Finance at GWU involved his creativity. His friend Louis was also his supervisor and he was tasked to try to minimize Rich’s constant creative ideas and get him to slow down and focus at the task at hand.
Louis H. Katz is GWU’s chief financial officer. He carries primary responsibility for the management of GW’s financial, physical and information systems resources. He oversees strategic, operating and capital planning and budgeting. And he advised former GWU president Steven Trachtenberg and the board of trustees on financial and strategic matters affecting the development and operations of the university.
Katz joined GW in 1990 as vice president and treasurer. He was promoted to executive vice president and treasurer in 2003. Louis according to Rich was constantly worried about bad PR that might come from the media or faculty due to any minor financial matter. He was a perfectionist and did a marvelous job of making sure GWU financials were in great shape.
The Friend-RICH COSENTINO
The Friend of the Friend-LOUIS KATZ
Rich’s April Fools Prank on Louis Katz
Rich Cosentino interacted with GWU President Steve Trachtenberg and asked him if he could count on him to join him in planning an Aprils Fool prank on Vice President Louis Katz. Rich outlined his plan to President Trachtenberg and he agreed.
What Rich asked the President to do was as follows. He wanted him to reach out to Louis and say Rich is really working hard but some of the faculty are questioning what you guys are spending money on in Finance. Louis can you please get Rich to slow down and not move so fast on new initiatives especially if involves spending.
The next day the President was meeting with Louis Katz as part of his regular meeting schedule. In that meeting he repeated to Louis what Rich had told him “get Rich Cosentino to slow down and not move so fast on new initiatives especially if involves spending”. He told Louis I don’t want to hear the faculty complaining anymore about Rich and the reckless spending habits of the finance division.
Louis came back and met with his staff and said okay team let’s have no more spending surprises. He even specifically directed the message to Rich.
From the time that Rich spoke to President Trachtenberg and from when Vice President Katz spoke to the finance division Rich was busy plotting. He got his entire team to join in his plan to pull a April Fools prank on their boss.
Their idea was to take the men’s room in the Administration Building that was on the Finance floor and turn it into an “Executive Men’s Room” complete with a complimentary toiletries, mouthwash, mints and the ultimate a bathroom attendant. One of the ladies in the office volunteered her teenage son to play the role of the attendant. Once they had everything in place they prompted President Trachtenberg to summon Louis to his office and have the President read him the riot act about another example of reckless spending.
The President had Louis brought into office and he started right into him on how Louis could allow this to take place. He stated to Louis that his phone was ringing off the hook from faculty leaders and several Board of Trustee members. He kept laying into Louis on how he needed to get his shop under control. Louis had no idea what he was talking about because he could not get a word in because the president was furious even if it was an act.
Finally there was a pause and Vice President Katz asked President Trachtenberg what specifically he was upset with. The President responded what I am upset with is this “Executive Men’s Room” you have installed on your floor.
Louis was dumbfounded what Executive Men’s Room? The president told him if you don’t know you need to get down there right now and shut it down. I will not have faculty calling me about some perk you have installed for yourself and the finance division. I don’t know who authorized this but Louis if it was you I going to can you. Get that bathroom shut down ASAP.
Louis was never more horrified in his life when he walked into the men’s room located on his floor and found the countertop covered with colognes, powder, mouthwash, hand towels and a teenage boy in dark slacks, white shirt, tie, and blue vest asking him “How are you doing today sir”. He immediately asked Louis if he wanted any cologne and handed a bottle of Old Spice What made it worse was there were two other men at the counter in the Executive Men’s Room” that Louis didn’t recognize. He didn’t know they were plants in on Rich’s joke. His blood pressure was rising. He tried to act cool with other people in the men’s room but he was frantic. These other two were also distracting him by helping themselves to the complimentary toiletries. How did this happen. He asked the young bathroom attendant who hired you? Who told you to be in here?
The young man said Mr. Rich hired me. Louis told him to get out right now. The young boy was adamant as he pointed to his stool and said Mr. Rich said I can’t leave until 4 p.m. He told me to bring my lunch and I can eat right here in the Executive Rest Room I can’t leave. He pointed to a three legged wooden stool sitting in the back corner of the rest room and said “Mr. Rich even got me a place to sit”.
Two other people in on the plot entered the rest room and Louis left in hurry to find Rich. He was beyond livid. He marched into Rich’s office and screamed “I want that bathroom cleaned out immediately and I want that attendant gone”. Rich looked at him and paused said “just our bathroom or all of them”. Louis said what do you mean all of them? Rich quietly told Louis his finance division has put attendants in all of the GWU restrooms across campus to bolster morale. Louis was stunned and told Rich you get all of those bathrooms closed right now. Your job is in jeopardy and so is mine.
Rich’s whole team was in on the gig and waited for just the right moment. When they sensed Louis was getting ready to leave Rich’s office they got the President on the phone. The administrative assistant told Louis that the president wanted to speak to him and handed him the phone.
He got on the phone and the president said “Louis April Fools you have been had by Mr. Rich”.