On August 29, the Queens West Division of Kiwanis International held a dinner at the West Side Tennis Club hosting Kiwanis International New York State Governor Brenda Leigh Johnson, the granddaughter of the late Dale Carnegie.
The Queens West Division consists of 17 Kiwanis Clubs, and guests consisted primarily of members of the Forest Hills and Glendale clubs.
Missouri native Dale Carnegie, who passed away in 1955, lived at 27 Wendover Road, a charming 1920 Forest Hills Gardens house.
He was a lecturer and writer who developed courses in public speaking, self-improvement, corporate training, and salesmanship. “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” published in 1936, is his signature book.
An underlying theme of his work was the potential for changing other people’s behavior by changing one’s behavior towards them. He founded the Dale Carnegie Institute in 1912, which today operates as a business training firm with over 200 locations in over 85 countries.
“Leadership is not something that we are born with, it’s a skill that needs to be practiced often,” Johnson, who founded the Long Island Alzheimer’s Association, told the crowd. “Leadership is not a job title, it is a way of thinking and we are all leaders in some way. Every day we make decisions, small or large, that affect people around us.”
Johnson’s mother Rosemary was Carnegie’s stepdaughter.
“Although I have no memories of Dale, he is alive through his books, letters, and photos, and I think he was a most humble man who loved Forest Hills and embraced all it had to offer,” said Johnson.
Carnegie enjoyed tending to rose gardens down the street from his Wendover home.
“As a child, it was a special place to walk to and was filled with varieties of roses,” she said.
Although the Wendover property was sold in the late 1960s, Johnson recalls visiting it often.
“There were always cocktail parties and lots of fun and laughter,” she said. “For Christmas dinner, there were lots of toasts and cheers.”
Her grandma added a sun room and maintained a home office overlooking a back garden.
“There seemed to be a robin singing every time I would go in there,” Johnson said. “It was filled with books and a couple of easy chairs, making creative thought something that was easy to do.”
Johnson began working for Dale Carnegie & Associates while in high school.
“I knew from the time I was a young child that I wanted to work for the family business,” she said. “During my breaks and after work, I would pour over files. I helped my sister-in-law create a room for the archives to be enjoyed by visitors.”
Today the international headquarters is in Melville.
“I created ‘Dale’s office,’ as if Dale just stepped away for a few minutes,” she said. “His desk, books, favorite pictures and, of course, the original manuscript, of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ is there.”
Eleven years ago, Lieutenant Governor Kerrie Hansen was inducted into the Kiwanis Club of Glendale, along with her husband Steve, eventually serving as president before being elevated to her current position.
“Our Kiwanis family offered opportunities to do service and enjoy fellowship,” she said. “I found a global family, who wished to improve the world one child and one community at a time.”
Hansen called Johnson a hands-on governor and amazing leader, mentor, and navigator who traveled statewide during a very complicated time of the pandemic.
“She is akin to the Dale Carnegie legacy, but also as a leader teaching people how to use their skills to make their reach more powerful and impactful,” she said. “Even during challenging times, our 17 clubs commit their service, make generous donations, and fundraise for their communities.
“It may not have been in the traditional ways we accomplished these achievements, but each club, which has a different personality and spirit, succeeded with some creative thinking,” Hansen added.