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CDW Employees, ‘Coach Cal’ Remember Former CEO Tom Richards

‘Our CDW family is devastated to hear of Tom‘s passing, but the legacy he leaves is the culture shared by every one of us,’ wrote Morgan Czerwinski, manager of event operations and experience at CDW. ‘In Tom’s honor, I’m throwing on a CDW vest today and I’m challenging myself to work passionately, lead intentionally, and spread kindness generously.’

CDW employees are responding to the passing of former CDW CEO Tom Richards – who is being remembered as a gifted leader with a coach’s acumen that brought out the best in people- with an outpouring of loving tributes on social media.

Richards, a former star basketball player at Moon High School in Pennsylvania and The University of Pittsburgh, also received emotional tributes on social media from University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Coach John Calipari and basketball fans.

Richards passed away on Oct. 28 after a short illness. CDW CEO Christine Leahy, who took over from Richards in 2018, said that what she takes from Richards above all else is his “unwavering belief and ability to see the possibilities” in others. “Under Tom’s leadership people blossomed,” she wrote.

Morgan Czerwinski, manager of event operations and experience at CDW, marveled at the “small yet impactful actions” Richards took on a daily basis that are innumerable. “The way he’d say hello in the cafeteria to every coworker he’d encounter... The giant smile in the hallway as he’d walk by,” she wrote.

Czerwinski also recalled a 2021 CDW Town Hall meeting when Richards was asked what his favorite book was? “Tom quickly and clearly stated- “The Bible” – it’s where I seek guidance on how to lead,” she said.

Czerwinski, who was working as a CDW contractor at the time, sent Richards an email. “Within 30 minutes, I had a personal response, thanking me for my comment, and talking about the importance of faith in his life,” she said.

“Our CDW family is devastated to hear of Tom‘s passing, but the legacy he leaves is the culture shared by every one of us,” Czerwinski wrote. “In Tom’s honor, I’m throwing on a CDW vest today and I’m challenging myself to work passionately, lead intentionally, and spread kindness generously.”

University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Coach John Calipari singled out Richards in a Twitter post as a “role model” for many players in his era. “When I say role model, I’m talking about who he was as a father, as a husband and as a man with integrity,” said Calipari. “He always tried to help.”

Calipari featured a photo of Richards, a point guard on the legendary University of Pittsburgh team from 1974 that reached the Elite Eight. “Tom never forgot his roots, especially at the University of Pittsburgh,” wrote Calipari. “He was also a heck of a player. He scored 63 points in a game when there was no 3-point line and he was 6 feet tall. All of us who knew him are hurting today. He left us too soon.”

The idea of being a role model for CDW employees resonated with Richards. When Mark Pazdan, a manager of corporate strategy, strategy and marketing for CDW, sent a note about faith to Richards he received this response: “Thank you for your kind words. Truthfully I am humbled by your comments. I have always hoped I could be an example to others that being successful in business and being a Christian were not mutually exclusive. In fact I often reflect on how anyone could do a job like this without faith as a foundation is beyond me. Thanks again for your note- Tom“

Joshua Donn, a residency sales manager at CDW, recalled Richards as a mentor who made it a point to reach out and introduce himself to the sales trainees in CDW’s Sales Academy.

“While there won’t be another like you, Tom, your fingerprints are all over the organization that I have been so proud to call home for the last 11 and a half years, and you will not be forgotten,” wrote Donn. “Cheers Tom, and remember, YOU made a difference.”

Leta Amburgey, former head of customer success, managed services for CDW, wrote on LinkedIn that she found herself in “awe” that Richards is being “remembered less for his incredible success leading CDW to results and growth” and more for his character and leadership.

“Tom treated everyone with respect,” wrote Amburgey. “Everyone was important. Everyone was sincerely valued.” She quoted Richards who told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports writer Mike White: “We think our success in life sometimes is because of hard work. But what it’s really all about is the people along the way who did it with you.”

Denise Cushaney, a former state and government segment manager at CDW, said that “everyone who worked with Tom walked away being a bit better at whatever they did - he truly was a coach/mentor/leader. May he rest in peace.”

Though best known in the technology industry as a Fortune 500 CEO, Richards also left a rich legacy as a star basketball player in Pennsylvania.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s White, who wrote a powerful profile of Richards’ basketball heroics that included Richards’ philosophy on leadership and life, said that Richards was his idol.

“Personally so sad to hear the passing of Tom Richards,” said White. “WPIAL hoops great at Moon (High School) (scored 63 in a game). What a shooter! Starter on Pitt‘s Elite 8 team of 1974. As a kid I went to Pitt camp in 1970s & Tom became my idol. We reconnected yrs. later. What a special person. RIP Tom.”

Bill Schackner, a higher education writer for the Post-Gazette, quoted University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher in a Twitter post: “He would push and ask the hard questions. But you knew he was always doing it from a position of how could he support you. It was almost like a coach.”

Rich Fitzgerald, a Pittsburgh county executive, said Pittsburgh lost a “true champion and homegrown success story” when Richards passed away. “Tom continued to put his talents and work ethic toward the betterment of our region as he rose to lead his alma mater to great heights,” wrote Fitzgerald on Twitter. “He will be sorely missed.”

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