Diane DeMuth acknowledged that "I wandered wide and deep" in her faith journey while building a successful executive career.
For many years DeMuth worked for Standard & Poor’s financial-services company and also specialized as a temporary senior executive for several corporations. Influenced by her admiration for Catholic social-justice priorities — even though she’d ceased practicing the Catholic faith as a young adult — DeMuth eventually transitioned into leadership roles for nonprofit organizations beginning in the mid-1990s, advocating for people with disabilities, urban ministries and rural economic development.
Three years ago DeMuth returned to the church of her youth and once again became a regular churchgoer. Now she’s come full circle in reuniting with her faith: She’s the new executive director of Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga (CCTT).
DeMuth said she’s excited to be joining an agency that shares her strong belief in dignity for all, especially the impoverished.
"I’m going to be working with people like me. When I met the staff, I knew I was home," she said. "I am just, like, so ready."
DeMuth is set to begin her position Nov. 7, overseeing the agency’s offices at 324 W. Buffalo St. in Ithaca and at 464 Broad St. in Waverly. For the past nine years she has been CEO/executive director for the AIM Independent Living Center in Corning that serves people with disabilities. At Catholic Charities she succeeds Christine Sanchirico, who left as executive director this past June after more than five years to become an administrative manager at Cornell University. Mary Pat Dolan, a CCTT board member, has been serving as interim leader.
DeMuth, 61, is a native of Brooklyn. She and her husband of 35 years, Nick, reside in Ithaca. She received bachelor’s degrees from Richmond College (Staten Island) in 1973 and City University of New York in 1984, as well as a master’s in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University/Baruch College in 1995.
Under DeMuth’s leadership at AIM Independent Living Center, that organization has increased its revenue line from $1.1 million to $4.2 million during her tenure while expanding its employee base from 80 people in three counties in 2002 to nearly 290 people in 11 counties currently. DeMuth also has a successful track record in securing grant money during her years leading nonprofit entities.
"The nonprofit world always needs to be thinking in terms of its bottom line. That translates into more programs, more services and better paid employees," she said, adding that funding strategy "has to be very comprehensive, very deep" and she will emphasize strategic planning for fund development as she begins at Catholic Charities.
On a personal level for DeMuth, another priority in the upcoming months will be settling back into a Catholic parish, which she said hasn’t happened in many years due to a combination of work-related travel and her own spiritual searching. After attending daily Mass as a youth, in the 1960s she stopped practicing Catholicism in favor of such alternatives as transcendental meditation and yoga. Yet in more recent years, she said, "I started to feel that need for the religion of my childhood, which was very important to me." She was particularly guided by Catholic social teachings emphasizing the right to a decent life for all, and this has played naturally into her desire to become CCTT’s new director.
DeMuth observed that she’s starting at CCTT during a challenging time in our nation’s history, with an economic decline so steep that it has the potential to strike people of all educational and income levels and leave them limited options for recovery. She encouraged the public to continue supporting Catholic Charities’ mission of activism and outreach, saying this is especially crucial in the face of early September flooding that has devastated much of CCTT’s coverage area — particularly Tioga County — further crippling many residents who were already struggling to make ends meet.
"I don’t think we have ever been as mired in the face of poverty," DeMuth remarked. "These (flood) situations that are happening now are just going to exacerbate the poverty that’s already there."