Mama's advice: To advance, play golf

Toni Pergolin

When Bancroft Neurohealth's CEO Toni Pergolin was growing up in Pittsburgh, she thought that she should be an accountant. "I didn't know you could be anything else but an accountant," Pergolin said. "I am an accountant because my mother was an accountant."

It turned out to be good advice, which was then followed by more advice, including the value of golf.

Let's tee up the story: After graduating from Penn State with a degree in accounting and after a few years in banking, Pergolin landed at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, rising through the financial ranks. At some point, she got an MBA in health administration from St. Joe's University.

Her mother had more guidance for Pergolin, Pergolin told me during our Leadership Agenda interview, published in Monday's Inquirer.

"She worked for Deloitte and Touche," Pergolin said. "When I decided that I was going to be an accountant, she said, `Look, there are two things you have got to do that I never did. Become a CPA, (so Pergolin got her certified public accountant certification right after graduation) and you have got to learn how to play golf.'

"She always felt she was held back because she didn’t have the CPA," Pergolin said. As for the golf, her mother said, "You’ll be the only one in the office some days if you don’t play golf.' So she took lessons with me."

Pergolin said she's no pro, but she's glad she took up the game. For awhile, it was a family activity with her husband and sons. But now that she needs to raise funds for Bancroft and other organizations, golf has become handy professionally. "I could play at all those outings." she said. "I’m not great, but I can hold my own and that’s all I wanted. I just didn’t want to be an embarrassment."