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Derek Cluse recently joined CEOGC’s leadership team as the Chief Financial Officer. You can read more about his credentials in his bio, but for this feature, we wanted to tell a much more fun story of our newest team member. Enjoy this Q&A with Derek Cluse:

Q: You only get 3 words to describe yourself – what are they?
Optimistic, Resilient, Calm

Q: What kind of things make you laugh? Not just snicker, the deep belly laugh!
Good question. For me, it’s more about the delivery than the content. It can be something really silly or something someone says with a straight face that can get me going.  But once I get going it’s like an uncontrollable reflex where I can’t breathe and wind up falling out of the chair. I love a good laugh.

Q: If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
T’Challa the Black Panther- King of Wakanda. Wakanda provides a vision of Africa that is not too far from the real truth that has been hidden from us about history. It would be perfect if an African nation would rise up and lead the world out of war and poverty to peace and prosperity.

Q: What was the last concert you went to?
I’ve attended Blossom to hear the Cleveland Orchestra every year for the past 10 years.

Q: What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
No question, the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done was asking my wife to marry me. There was literally no planning involved.  Luckily it worked out for me.

Q: If you had a time machine, would you go back in time or visit the future? Why?
If it was just for a visit, I would definitely go to the future to see how things turn out for us. I’m an optimistic person so I expect things to be better. But if it was permanent, I wouldn’t mind going back to my childhood and starting over.  Especially if I could keep my memories.

Q: What’s your favorite television show of all-time?
Game of Thrones. I mean, if I’m gonna’ veg out and watch TV I want to escape to a fantasy world with lots of action and drama.

Q: If you could rename yourself, what name would you choose?
T’Challa…just kidding. I can’t imagine having another name. My folks did me justice.

Q: What does your morning ritual or routine look like?
I usually rise between 5:30 and 5:45 AM. Weather permitting, I go for a 45-minute walk with my wife and my dog or some time just my dog. In fact, my dog usually wakes me up at exactly 5:45 AM so he can take me for a walk. If the weather is bad, I get on my rowing machine in the basement.  Then I feed my dog (Gumbo), grab a cup of coffee, and sit down for 15 minutes to plan my day.  In the shower by 7:15 AM and dressed for work by 7:45 AM. I might linger around a few more minutes but I’m usually out the door by 8:00 AM.

Q: You have unlimited money to spend on a vacation of your choosing; where are you going?
If the money is unlimited I’m going to a few places. First, I planning a safari trip somewhere in Africa. Then I’m sailing on the Mediterranean Sea to Greece and Spain. Next, I’ll jet over to Brazil, Cuba, and Jamaica.  I’d spend a week in each place so you won’t see me back home for about 2 months.  I can still call into the office on Zoom periodically.

Q: What did you aspire to be when you were young?
A professional athlete or an entrepreneur. Injuries held me back from pursuing sports and it turned out that I had a knack for business and finance.

Q: If any actor played you in, “The Life of Derek Cluse”, who would you choose? Why?
Either the Rock or Will Smith. He would need to be funny and athletic. If they aren’t available then we can go with Denzel.

Q: What is your favorite item of clothing?
A worn-out t-shirt. That’s usually what I wear around the house.

Q: What was the happiest moment of your life?
I passed the CPA exam and my first child was born a month apart in 1993. It was like the heavens opened up a poured out blessings on me.

Q: What was your favorite thing to do in the summers when you were growing up?
Go to family picnics in the park. We would run around playing whatever sport was in season with my cousins while my Dad manned the barbecue pit and everyone sat in the shade telling exaggerated stories of days of old. Family gatherings were the most memorable moments for me.

Q: Have you ever done anything to look super cool but just ended up looking awkward? What was it?
Of course. I remember my mother bringing me to this new barbershop/beauty salon when I was about 10 to get what I thought was a haircut. It turned out that she told them to put a perm in my hair to straighten out the kinks.  When they finished with me I looked like SuperFly.  Within a few days, my hair turned red and I really looked crazy.  I cut it all off down to the scalp and started over from scratch.

Q: Is a hotdog a sandwich? Why or why not?
A sandwich has 2 pieces of bread.

Q: Who was your favorite teacher in school and why?
My favorite teacher was a high school science teacher named Ms. Shaw. She was also the after school detention teacher.  I got assigned to detention a few times but I never showed up and she never turned me in for it. I thought I was special at the time and I was getting away with something but she later explained how detention was full of black boys who were sent there just so the white teachers didn’t have to deal with us.  My most impactful teacher, however, was Mrs. Harris my 5th-grade teacher who told me that I was intelligent and did a spotlight on me when I got straight A’s.  She instilled confidence in me to be an excellent student when it wasn’t cool to be.

Q: What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
I like vanilla especially when it’s homemade. As a kid, we would make homemade ice cream and I would have to turn the handle on ice cream make for what seemed like an eternity to freeze the ice cream.  But it was well worth it every time.

Q: What is your all-time favorite book to read?
I can’t really pin down what my all-time favorite book to read is. I often turn to the Bible when I’m searching for answers to life’s challenges.  I will say that, when I read The Debt by Randall Robinson many years ago, it opened my eyes to some things about America’s relationship with black people.  I’m currently reading a great book by Tim Hawkes called 10 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son.  I wish I would have read this 20 years ago.

Q: What led you here to CEOGC?
I can only say that it was divine providence because I didn’t know that CEOGC existed a year ago. A good friend brought the opportunity to my attention while I was working at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District as Deputy CFO. Once I found out more about the work CEOGC has done in this community I thought it would be a great opportunity and a great fit so I applied.  The rest is history.

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