Lauren Caggiano
Freelance Writer
August 17, 2016 // Local

A legacy of leadership for Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Lauren Caggiano
Freelance Writer

Tim Wagner poses with a national award given to him by the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization at the agency’s national conference in Orlando. He was recognized for giving generously of his time, talent and treasure in dedication to the agency’s mission.

By Lauren Caggiano

Some people make it a point to leave the world better than they left it. Such is the case for Tim Wagner, a beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, parishioner and dedicated volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana. Wagner passed away Aug. 3 following a battle with cancer, and many are mourning the loss.

Wagner’s legacy can best be described as one of selflessness and humility, according to his wife, Karen.

“He viewed it as a team effort and often diminished his role,” she said about his approach to leadership.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. At the end of June, he received the national Clifford P. Norman Service Award at the national conference in Orlando. The distinction is awarded to a board member at a local agency who exemplifies the qualities of commitment and generosity.

According to a statement from the agency, Tim was a longtime board member whose “leadership was essential in implementing business-savvy techniques for nonprofit governance that made the agency a locally, regionally and nationally recognized organization. Wagner’s passion and advocacy has also led to an exponential increase in agency funding and resources.”

But there was a time he wasn’t associated with the agency. Tim had served on other local nonprofit boards, and was first introduced to Big Brothers Big Sisters about 10 years ago at a fundraiser. As Karen recounts, there were some kids’ artwork for sale as part of a silent auction. He couldn’t stand for them to go unpurchased so he bought them and hung the pieces at his place of work.

Josette Rider, executive director of BBBSNEI, approached him about becoming involved. He quickly became a go-to volunteer. It wasn’t long before he was approached to join the board; he agreed and became a strong advocate for the cause.

“He could never tell a story (about a Little) without tearing up,” Karen said. He felt fortunate to come from a good family and wanted to pay it forward by impacting a child’s life, she added.

Tim was a real driving force when it came to inspiring people. His approach was to lead by example. According to his son Joe, he was especially conscious of forming a solid business culture and ingrained in values. He was not afraid to subtlely bring his faith into the workplace. Joe shared one of his father’s favorite quotes from St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.”

That phrase really encapsulates Tim’s personal and professional life. He’s credited with encouraging several of his employees at his firm, Wagner-Meinart, to become volunteers.  He also initiated fundraising campaigns that resulted in the donation of thousands of dollars over the years.

His giving spirit extended beyond the agency. Karen described him as a big, yet anonymous supporter of St. Vincent de Paul Church. He was a dedicated and devoted Catholic; for example, “every Sunday he would light a vigil candle for someone — even when we were travelling,” Karen noted.

His faith no doubt played a role in sustaining him during his illness, from the initial diagnosis to his final days. As Karen recalled, her husband never harbored anger about his situation. “He just moved on with acceptance. He was going to do the best he could within the parameters of treatment.” He was even known to joke around with the medical staff. In short, he made the most of the situation, as Karen put it.

That attitude is what made Tim such an asset to the agency. According to Rider, BBBSNEI would not be where it is today if it weren’t for his dedication. She said his servant leadership really set an example of what it means to be a Catholic man today. His example challenges other Catholic men to get out of the pew and take action.

“His job was one to ignite passion in other people,” she said. “It was a ripple effect.”

Memorial donations may be made to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana and the Anthony and Shirley Wagner Scholarship Fund at Bishop Dwenger High School. As his obituary stated, “The best way to truly honor Tim is to mentor a child or change a life for the better.”








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