Editor's note: This story first appeared in the spring 2020 issue of the Concordian, the official magazine of Concordia University Wisconsin.
Sheldon Cuffie (’08) is a born tinkerer. Ever since he was a child he took things apart and put them back together. It started with toys but rapidly progressed to lamps, televisions, and, eventually, computers. To some, his penchant for parts might have seemed precocious; for Cuffie, it was very early career preparation. As the newly appointed enterprise chief information security officer at American Family, the technological prodigy is exactly where he is called to be—in a leadership position in his hometown with a company that shares his values for people and community.
In this new role, Cuffie and his team of 140 professionals are responsible for protecting the private information of millions of families who trust American Family Insurance and the companies that make up the American Family enterprise. With more than 20 years of industry experience, and leadership training and education—including a technical diploma from the U.S. Army Signal Center in Fort Gordon, Georgia, and an undergraduate degree in management and communications from Concordia University Wisconsin—Cuffie is comfortable at the helm of such a vital operation.
This new position brings Cuffie and his wife of 27 years, Celeste, and their two adult children back to Milwaukee after a year in Austin, Texas, where Cuffie served as vice president and chief information security officer at Dell Technologies.
“I’m so happy to be back in my hometown,” says Cuffie. “The people are nice, traffic is manageable, and there’s a real sense of community here that you don’t find in other cities. Milwaukee has been a significant part of my development as a leader, a father, and a husband.”
Prior to Dell, Cuffie held the position of vice president and chief information security officer for Northwestern Mutual, where he was responsible for the company’s cyber-security, risk management, and enterprise privacy programs. Before Northwestern Mutual, Cuffie served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and worked in information systems leadership roles for Kohl’s, M&I Bank, Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company, and Abbott Laboratories Global Pharmaceuticals division.
“I’ve worked in almost every IT position you can think of,” says Cuffie. “As an analyst, an engineer, and now cyber-security leader, I take pride in ensuring I’m always learning and applying the latest technologies. At the same, I had to evolve to ensure I’m operating as a progressive leader that supports, empowers, and develops the people entrusted to me. That’s where the CUW experience became a game-changer for me.”
Cuffie enrolled at Concordia as a nontraditional student and was already working full time in his field. He credits CUW for offering flexible options to accommodate busy adult learners and is grateful for the friendships he made with other working professionals within his cohort.
“Concordia helped me to develop my corporate and leadership skills,” says Cuffie. “We covered relevant material, and were encouraged to ask questions to develop our critical-thinking and problem-solving capacities.”
Sheldon’s wife, Celeste (’06, ’12), also attended Concordia as a nontraditional student. She is a well-known executive coach and corporate trainer, and is CEO of Life Empowered Consulting Services, a Christian-based consulting firm. The two of them are active alumni, and generously volunteer their time and treasure back to their alma mater. Celeste serves on the Foundation Board and has helped to create the inaugural alumni council. She frequently partners with the Batterman School of Business to host personal development events.
"I had to evolve to ensure I’m operating as a progressive leader that supports, empowers, and develops the people entrusted to me. That’s where the CUW experience became a game-changer for me." —Sheldon Cuffie
In 2019, the Cuffie family created an endowment to support students of color who pursue a degree in computer science, or construction and trade management; both programs were chosen to honor their fathers’ professions and intense focus on education.
Whether volunteering in the classroom or out in the industry, Cuffie is a servant leader who is invested in the growth and development of the next generation. “If I’m not creating more leaders, then I’m not a leader,” says Cuffie. “I don’t want to be remembered for the things I accomplished. I want to be measured by the number of people that I’ve developed to lead the next generation with integrity, capability, and conviction. For me, it’s about legacy.”
Learn more about CUW’s business offerings: cuw.edu/business.
—The spring 2020 Concordian hit mailboxes the end of April. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, email Jennifer.Hackmann@cuaa.edu.
— Lisa Liljegren is assistant vice president of strategic communications within the Office of Strategy and University Affairs.
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