Steve Strom, President
I am a 39+ year veteran of JCPenney and 11 years with the Alumni Club. I will happily receive my 50 Year Pin in 2023! My JCP career started in Fort Dodge, Iowa and progressed to Sterling, Ill, Dubuque, IA, Davenport, IA, Waterloo, IA, Chicago, Ill (Calumet City, Orland Park, and Elk Grove Village), Hays, Kansas, and Fort Smith, Arkansas. I joined the Alumni Club in 2013 and served as Vice President of the Mile High Denver/ Rocky Mountain RMG for 3 years under Ed Trujillo as President. I assumed the RMG President duties in 2017 and served for 4 years before turning the role over to current President, Royce Bervig. I served on the 2016 HCSC Annual Convention Committee researching Denver as a potential site (Sacramento, CA was selected), and the National Ad Hoc Committee researching and making recommendations about succession planning, future needs and priorities of the club etc. in 2019. I was selected by a National Search Committee led by Board Member, Wynn Watkins, to become 2nd Vice President effective October 2021 and served in that capacity this past year. My dear Wife, Marcia, has supported me throughout my JCPenney and HCSC Alumni Club careers for these 50 amazing years! We have been blessed to reside in Colorado since 2013 after I retired from JCP in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 2012. I am passionate about engaging with all HCSC Alumni Club members and strengthening and preserving our Club into the future. My Alumni Club priorities as 1st V.P. this coming year are membership growth and continued strengthening of relationships with the JCPenney Company and the City of Kemmerer, WY. .
John Gresham, 1st Vice President
I wanted to introduce myself as the new 2nd VP of the National HCSC Club. I worked for JCPenney for 43 years and now 9 years with the Alumni Club since retiring in 2013. I started in Kinston, NC then moved to District Staff in Raleigh, NC, New York Office, Dallas, TX Home Office, Florence, SC, Atlanta, Ga on Regional Staff, Jacksonville, Fl back to Atlanta, Ga, Washington, DC then to Sterling Heights, MI. I joined the Southeast HCSC Alumni Club in 2013 and became the President of the Southeast Club in 2017/2018 and then joined the National HCSC Alumni Club as a board member in 2020. Linda and I retired to Rock Hill, SC to be close to our families in NC/SC/GA and built our dream home on Lake Wylie. Linda is from Hartsville, SC and I'm from Clarksville, TN. We really enjoy having family and friends over to our home to enjoy activities on the lake. I'm an avid Alabama football fan. When I was a teenager, my uncle worked for Bear Bryant as the trainer and when a player got hurt he would run out on the field, when watching TV I would say there goes Uncle Jimmy. Our mission is to continue to support our Local Regional Meeting Groups and to encourage retired JCP associates to join those RMG Clubs as well as building relationships with our former and current JCP associates. .
Manuel "Manny" Fernández 2nd Vice President
During my 43 1/2 year career at Penney’s, I was able to truly achieve my American Dream, arriving in the United States from Cuba, with my mother and two younger sisters at the age of 9.
My father remained behind in Communist Cuba, because he was of military age, but escaped to the Bahamas 2 years later, reuniting with his family a year later.
My first job at JCPenney was part of the DECA program in 1969, that allowed students to go to school 1/2 day, in addition to working part or full time in their profession of choice, within the guidelines of the program. I bundled trash at the Flamingo Plaza Store, in the Hialeah, Fla., strip mall store, restocked cash wraps and sold shoes in the Family Footwear Department. In 1972 the Flamingo store was closed in favor of a new mall based, Westland Mall in Hialeah, Fla..
I retired in 2011, as Sr. Director of Inclusion & Diversity for all stores in the U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico. In between, I worked at 4 JCPenney stores, and the Miami, Dallas and New York Buying Offices. I was the Buyer of Women’s Dresses & Handbags and Jr. Sportswear in Miami. Western Wear in Dallas and Women’s Shoes in New York.
And Athletic Footwear for Men’s & Women in Plano, the largest volume subdivisions in the company at that time.
In Plano, I also worked as the Director of Sports Marketing and Director of Multicultural Marketing, for Hispanic, Asian & African American customers in the U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico.
My last job at the Plano Home Office was as Sr. Director of Inclusion & Diversity, reporting to the SVP of HR, departing with Penney’s being recognized as the No.1 department store for Inclusion & Diversity in the U.S., by Diversity Inc.
After graduating from Montclair State University in New Jersey in 1972, I began my JCPenney career as the second woman hired as an Accounting Trainee in the Company’s New York Office Finance Department.
After several supervisory positions in the Fixed Assets, Financial Reporting, and Payroll Departments (working with Frank Arnone, Don Christensen, Fred Mucha, and Dick Tobin), I accepted a promotional transfer to Human Resources as Project Manager in the Compensation Department working with Tom Clerkin and Don Finn.
After participating in the Home Office move to Plano in 1988, I transferred to the Benefits Department and spent much of my time implementing Managed Care networks aimed at controlling the Company’s spiraling healthcare costs. In 1995, I was promoted to Benefits Director, and over the next few years worked with my experienced team to outsource administration of the Company’s benefits program to Hewitt Associates which became known as ”PowerLine.” During this time, I was also fortunate to work with such experienced leaders as George Kapplinger, Bruce Hill, Gary Davis, and Gale Duff-Bloom.
I retired in January 2010 as V.P., Compensation and Benefits, celebrating 37 ½ years with JCPenney.
Many H.C.S.C. members would remember me as “Sharon Leight” when I was married to my late husband, Gil Leight. After retirement, I was fortunate to meet (on Eharmony, no less!) retired Air Force Navigator, Steve Winkle, who had also recently lost his spouse. Steve and I have been married almost five years now, living in Highland Village, TX and, between us, have five children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Life is good!
Karen Bell, Treasurer