Center for Public and Nonprofit Management

Meet Philip A. Wenk

Philip Wenk

Name: Philip A. Wenk, PhD, MBA
Title and Organization: Founder, Wenk Family Charitable Foundation

Tell us a little about yourself.
I have a true entrepreneurial position. 

One part of me runs my family foundation where we provide financial support to many agencies throughout Northeast Ohio. The foundation works to spearhead collaborative efforts between institutions to broaden the reach of their services, as well as develop initiatives to address underserved or no serviced populations.  

Another part of me works with leading businesspeople, foundations, and politicians to develop and implement programs to address the systemic issues facing families.

And yet, another part of me is an Adjunct Professor at John Carroll University where I teach master-level students, as well as serve as the University’s first Social-Innovator-In-Residency.

However, the position I find most gratifying and fulfilling is being the father to my three amazing sons!

How has your career evolved over the years?
This is an interesting question. I would have never chosen the path I am currently on. It has been through the grace of others that I have had the amazing career I have had to date. I graduated from Xavier University (located in Cincinnati, Ohio) in four years with a BSBA and an MBA. After graduating, I started my first foundation providing afterschool programs for at-risk youth living in low-income areas within Greater Cleveland. A few years after starting that foundation, I was awarded one of the National Point of Light Awards from President George H. W. Bush. He only awarded 1,000 of those in the entire country. I started traveling around the country redesigning social service delivery systems for municipalities and housing authorities. While doing that work, I received a Presidential Citation from President William Clinton.

Within a couple of years, I took over our family business of childcare centers and Montessori Schools. Over the next four years, I was able to grow them into the nation’s fourteen largest centers, serving more than 2,200 children each day.

Then, due to personal circumstances, I went into therapy and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to a traumatic childhood. Once I learned what PTSD was, I decided to go back to school and earn my PhD in Psychology specializing in trauma. I wanted to help other children who suffered as I did to get the help they deserve and heal so they could experience the highest quality of life possible. This takes me up to today. I serve as asked, and am willing to do almost anything to help a child and better my community.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
That is easy - dealing with my PTSD. I got to the point where each day was do difficult to get through. I had to face my childhood trauma and heal so I could shift from a victim to a messenger. I decided quickly during the healing process that I would not accept letting another child wait as long as I did before they got help. So, I did what was necessary to be able to heal and help other children struggling with trauma.

Did you have a mentor? If so, how did he/she help?
I had several mentors!  Each one played a critical role in helping me evolve to the next step in my career and life. In college, the President of Xavier University, Fr. Charles Currie, SJ, was my mentor. He helped me appreciate the “human” part of any situation, as well as to always value others’ positions. He taught me that no matter what situation I was in, my objective should be to find common ground.

Then, after my diagnosis of PTSD, there was a mentor who helped show me how to live life on life’s terms - which is not always easy. He always told me I may not always (or ever) know the big picture, so I need to do my part each day and leave the big picture to other forces. He was also there for me when I suffered my greatest tragedy: the loss of my 3-year-old daughter. If not for that mentor, I can honestly say I would be lost.

Today, my mentors are the people I have the privilege to interact with – students, colleagues, friends, other professionals, etc. I approach every situation as an opportunity to learn. I welcome those who help to broaden my understanding of the world and challenge me to continually improve.

How long have you been in the mentoring program? Who is your current mentee?
This is my second year as a mentor and am so grateful that I was asked again to be a part of the Mentoring Program. I find these interactions to be mutually beneficial. My current mentee is Nicki Price. Nicki is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Nonprofit Administration at Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs. She is an amazing individual who has done so much to improve the lives of our military families! I know she will have a significant, long-lasting positive impact in whatever she chooses to do.
What has been your favorite mentoring moment so far?
My favorite moment is when I get to meet the mentee and learn about them. The mentees come with such diverse experiences that I thoroughly enjoy learning from all of them.

What is one thing you wish someone would have told you prior to beginning your career? What piece of advice do you have for students beginning their careers?
Great question! I wish someone had told me that it is equally important to honor my personal passions as it is my professional passions. There are a couple of “what if’s” I live with because I never pursued some personal passions such as continuing to act on the stage.

​​​​​​​My advice would be that no matter what situation you are in, be willing to learn and appreciate other’s perspectives. There is always a third option, so no one is right or wrong! Find that common ground.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
We live at a time when there is a great deal of opportunity to create divides. Rise above them! Find common ground and mutual respect. Get outside your comfort zone, and reach out to someone you may have never chosen to reach out to and share. Make a new friend. Always leave a situation better than when you started with it! Remain teachable.