Phil Ollila has a knack for listening. When he visited Goddard Riverside, our 2018 gala honoree gave each person he spoke with his full attention, from our executive director to the kitchen staff. Ollila spent so long chatting with Senior Center members over lunch that we had to rush him off to the next visit. Then he lingered at the TOP Clubhouse —which helps people living with mental illness connect with friends and develop new skills and opportunities —until he ran out of time there, too.
Ollila is Chief Content Officer of Ingram Content Group, one of our longtime supporters in the publishing industry. He grew up in small-town Marquette, Michigan, on the south shore of Lake Superior. It was an idyllic environment but one that left him hungry for a broader perspective.
“It was pretty sheltered. I had no idea what the world really looked like,” he said on the phone recently from Ingram’s headquarters in Nashville.
A stint in the Army gave him a chance to live all over the country and meet all kinds of people. Then Ollila got his college degree and found his way to the publishing industry. His feels his listening-oriented style has served him well because the people he works with are so talented.
“When you’re surrounded by people who have a lot to offer, sometimes all you need to do is ask what they think. What should we do? How should we handle this?” he explained. “I certainly learn more from people than they learn from me.”
Listening is a huge part of what we do, too —so we’re thrilled to honor Ollila at our Annual Gala at Gotham Hall on Oct. 30. We’ll also be announcing the winner of the second annual Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice. Members of our Young People’s Chorus will perform, and we’ll hear from some members of the community who’ve changed their lives with the help of our programs.