Hugh and Edith Treadwell’s youngest child is thriving in every aspect of her successful life. Cynthia Treadwell, an accomplished attorney, yoga instructor, and respected nonprofit board member, possesses an abundance of "elegant" energy and a strong passion for life and her work. Cynthia credits her loving parents for instilling such solid values in her and encouraging her and her siblings to move forward with confidence and be the absolute best they could be.
Cynthia recently became a welcomed addition to the Excelsior Youth Center board, and as her friend Carmel Scopellitti says: “Cynthia is just getting started. With a new chapter opening in life, career and community service, 2014 has been a big year. She is a modern woman on the move and there are no signs of stopping for her! She is the real deal and has the largest heart and the deepest soul of anyone I know. A fiercely loyal friend and passionate philanthropist, she puts 100% into everything she believes in and approaches life with authenticity, grace and a sense of humor.”
With her intelligence, poise, insight and commitment to helping people and young girls who have been abused and need someone to give them hope for a better life, it was a smart move on the part of Excelsior Youth Center to appoint Cynthia Treadwell to their board. Perhaps another dear friend of Cynthia's, Bobbi Walker, describes her best: "Seldom does a friend enter your life whose simple presence makes you breathe easier, just knowing they are there, backing you up. Cynthia’s kind and generous spirit manifests in simple notes and gestures, continual reminders that she’s there for you. I am grateful to count her as an anchor member of my urban tribe."
This dynamic high-achiever just gets things done and is ready to make positive changes in the lives of many. Giving back is just part of the balanced life Cynthia Treadwell always strives for.
What was growing up like? Most of my friends have met my family – the Treadwells are an interesting and lively bunch, to say the least! I am the youngest of three children and I have to say, I was very blessed to have a fairly idyllic childhood. There was never a day that I didn’t know I was loved. Our upbringing was very international in flavor due to my Dad’s work and my parents interests, and it was very important to my parents to raise us as “citizens of the world” with a broad knowledge and respect for different countries, cultures and ways of doing things. We were raised to be respectful, to have good manners, to be well read, polite, articulate and above all to think – to really THINK. We were challenged academically and exposed to literally everything – music, art, culture, sports, theater, literature, foreign language – you name it. I have always said the greatest gift I received in this life was my family. My parents did so much to make sure we all grew up safe and happy with the freedom to make real choices in life. That is the most meaningful legacy anyone could possibly hope for and we are all very blessed.
How did you choose your career path? I gave some real thought to going into the law after participating in a YMCA program called Youth And Government in high school. I ended up on the floor of the Texas Senate one year in their mock-legislative program and I ran for Youth Secretary of State the year after that. I figured law school was the first step to elected office. After high school, I spent nearly two years abroad in France in an international relations program and afterward in Italy studying art. Then my thought was to go into diplomacy. Law looked like a good path for that goal, too. Afterward, at the University of Texas, I worked on a few campaigns and learned I probably did not have the stomach for modern politics, but I remained law school bound. I took and passed the Foreign Service Exam, too, which has four parts, takes a year and is about 1000 times harder than the Bar, but decided not to go that route. I loved the courtroom, so I ultimately settled on commercial litigation.
What kind of opportunities have you had to enhance or to change your career? Oh my goodness – there have been many. My career certainly has not followed a traditional trajectory and I have taken many risks. I think the thing I find most remarkable is that from the time I was 18 years old until now, I have done just about every kind of job you can pursue in the law. I was a runner, a secretary, a paralegal, an associate attorney, and a partner in the law firm setting. I have also had a solo practice, worked in-house and now my job is truly a hybrid role in legal advising and business operations. Some of the jobs I fought for, some of them I “fell into” and some of them were a leap of faith. I’m grateful for every opportunity I have had.
What do you see as your greatest achievement? There are many things I am proud of thus far, but honestly, I think my best days remain unseen. There is so much out there and so much ahead of me.
What are you most passionate about? We have a sign over the doorway in our room – it says “Live A Good Life.” I look at it every morning when I get up and every night before I close my eyes. I am passionate about LIFE and every day that I am given.
What were the turning points in your life? I have really only had one. The years 2009 -2010 were a terrible time for me, and I know it was difficult for many other people. Within a relatively short period of time, my father passed away, my first marriage ended and a banking and finance litigation practice I worked very hard to build collapsed right along with the economy in the mortgage crisis. These were heavy blows for me on all fronts. It really took some time to recover and re-group. Before it was over, I learned some hard lessons about many people I thought I could trust. I also learned who my real friends were. I ended up selling my shares and leaving the firm, taking some time off and later starting a solo practice that I rolled into my current position last year.
I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I am a very strong person, but I honestly did not have the personal toolbox of skills needed to manage that much loss in my life all at once. Thank goodness for the support and guidance of my family and a very dear circle of friends. Eventually you find your way through the hard times and you gain more than you lost if you pay attention to the lessons that are there for you. Fortunately, in the end, what this made room for was practically an entirely new life – one that I have been able to redefine in a way that I am really proud of. Maybe in answer to your other question, this is really my “greatest achievement” so far.
What enlivens you when you are discouraged? Humor. Somehow a seriously good laugh can always right the ship.
In the Denver area, what organizations are you/were you involved in? Platte Forum and the Civic Center Conservancy. I previously served on the boards of both. I also support many of the pursuits of close friends who are active philanthropically.
What philanthropic activities are you involved with now? I am 100% focused on Excelsior Youth Center at the moment – we are in full swing for the 2015 Triumphant Faces Gala and we are getting ready to launch the Excelsior Impact Circle – our volunteer and community professionals group supporting the short and long term needs of the residential cottages on campus. I am so excited about that! It is going to be a very flexible, collaborative program that allows our supporters to participate and donate in the ways that are most meaningful to them. We also plan to pack the Impact Circle with plenty of networking and social opportunities.
Why/how did you get involved with Excelsior? I joined the Excelsior Foundation Board a year ago. This was an easy “YES!” when I was asked by Lois Paul to work with them because the work they do is so compelling. Excelsior is also right at the intersection of the two things I care about the most: child welfare and women’s issues. Excelsior is literally the only facility of its kind in the U.S. The young girls we serve have suffered unspeakable hardship, homelessness, violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. Many have endured the worst at the hands at the very people in life they should be able to trust to protect them and time and time again other governmental and legal institutions designed to intervene for their well-being have failed as well. Excelsior’s approach works with this fragile population because we treat the whole child. The average residential stay is about 11 months but we are increasingly serving a growing day student population as well. What is accomplished in their time with us is truly inspiring – our success rate is 94%. Philosopher Karl Jung once said, “I am not what happened to me.” The stories of our girls prove that – every day. There is so much brokenness in this world and it is gratifying to be even a very small part of helping to heal. I am thankful to be involved with Excelsior.
Why do you think giving back to the community is important? My siblings and I were all raised with a strong value system that included an emphasis on service to others and to our community. I think giving back is more than just important – it’s every person’s moral responsibility and my commitment definitely started at home. My parents had different ideas about this, but I was influenced by both of them. When it came to donations, my father believed very strongly that true charity is anonymous because that protects the dignity of the recipient. He did not like the idea of any kind of recognition. I think he believed this implied some kind of motive or expectation rather than giving for its own sake because it is the right thing to do. In volunteering he would say, “go where you can do the most good.” The things he chose to do usually involved music, literature and international relations. These were the things he knew best. My mother, on the other hand, was always very visible and pretty hard to miss. She was comfortable and happy in the public sphere and active with museums and the arts, school fundraisers and a host of other things. Without a doubt, to this day, she is an organizer, party planner and hostess extraordinaire. But what really moves her is social issues. She has an undying commitment to the advancement of women and equality for all people. She is definitely a “doer.” I’d say I ended up as a combination of both of them. The common thread was the belief that we all must do something in our own way to help others and improve our community.
I hear you have some interesting things in the back seat of your car, what are they?
Oh dear – the truth comes out. The running joke is I live out of my car. On any given day, you will probably find a briefcase, a yoga bag, snow shoes, art supplies, a tote full of board-member packet materials, a bag of groceries and a giant handbag. That, of course, is the other joke. My purse is like a McGuyver episode.
What do you think would be the hardest thing for you to give up? I hate to say it – but my phone. For better or worse, everything is on there. I am not constantly “on” the phone, but I do manage a lot of my life from it on the move. Dang thing. We are all slave to the machine. Food-wise it would be dark chocolate. There are very few things dark chocolate will not cure. And it has antioxidants. Don’t forget that. I mean, it’s practically a vitamin, right? OK - I think the Swiss chocolate lobby may have paid for that study.
In what period of time would you liked to have lived? Renaissance Italy – what an elegant and interesting time.
If you were to be successful in another profession, what would you like to do? If I had it to do over, I would have double-majored in gemology and design and I would have stalked Laurence Graff for a job at Graff Diamonds in Britain after graduation. I am somewhat obsessed with gems and their designs are as ambitious and refined as their namesake.
What do you do to decompress after a stressful day? Yoga. That is my peaceful practice and something I do to stay physically strong, internally healthy, mentally balanced and just plain happy. I love all the things yoga has brought into my life and all the people I have met in the yoga community. I also really love to cook and bake and I am surprisingly creative for someone with such a left-brained job. Painting, knitting, sewing, jewelry making… I love it all and I find it very relaxing. I usually make things for other people.
What do you most value in your friends? I have a truly amazing circle of close friends. They are all brilliant women of incredible substance and depth of perspective with expansive goals and beautiful, compassionate hearts. I am so blessed to have each of them in my life. What I admire about them is their strength, their honesty and their big, bright spirits. They know how to LIVE and they inspire me every day - anything is possible!
What do you like most about yourself? My sense of humor. I also like being tall, truth be told.
What do you like least about yourself? I can be fairly unyielding about certain things. There tend to be very few second chances with me over things that truly matter. When I am done, I’m done.
What is your pet peeve? Poor manners, poor grammar, poor taste. I sound like my Mom. That is kind of funny…
To the extent drama and gossip are not already included somewhere in there, those things will get you crossed off the list pretty quickly. I cannot abide either one.
What is your personal motto or favorite quote? The Desiderata contains some important words to live by. That passage is as relevant now as it was hundreds of years ago when it was written. I have always had a copy of it hanging in my front hallway and I also keep one in my office. When I am “having a moment” on someone or something, I stand in front of it.