Ronnie Boatman was a natural leader. Even among his peers – other Executive Directors and company leaders at Atria Senior Living – people looked up to Ronnie and sought his guidance.
“He was so charismatic. People responded to Ronnie, that’s really the best way to put it,” says Danny McCoy, Atria’s Senior Vice President of West Operations and a longtime friend and colleague of Ronnie’s. “And it wasn’t because of his title or position. He was a mentor because he connected with people authentically, on a human level.”
Ronnie was a long-tenured employee who served several leadership roles at Atria before passing away from cancer in 2005. His commitment to education and mentorship – to empowering others and opening doors – made establishing the Ronnie Boatman Scholarship Program a natural extension of his Atria legacy.
Since 2006, the scholarship program has awarded nearly $700,000 to family members of Atria employees to pursue higher education.
Each year, the number of individuals impacted by Ronnie’s legacy continues to grow – sometimes in surprising ways.
“When my kids were in high school, that’s when I first heard about Ronnie Boatman and the scholarship established in his name,” says Jill Biondo, Senior Engage Life Director at Atria Seville in Las Vegas.
“I knew about his place within Atria and Ronnie’s commitment to higher education. I heard about the endowment, and that all Atria employees could apply. And then it came down and touched Atria Seville. It touched me!”
Jill began her career with Atria over 12 years ago. Like Ronnie, she found her calling in senior living a little later in life.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Jill comes from a large family “with lots of Italian food and even more storytelling.” She credits the time spent with her extended family – often around the dinner table – for instilling her admiration and respect for elders.
“The grandparents and the great-grandparents, they’re like lighthouses,” says Jill. “They teach you about yourself because they understand where you came from. They connect the stories.”
Jill’s own story has had many chapters. She began her professional life in New York City doing design work for universities and nonprofits. She left to embark on an adventure – camping across the country with her husband before starting an advertising and photography business in San Francisco.
Family circumstances eventually brought her to Las Vegas, where all her experiences and talents were brought to the forefront at Atria Seville.
“I don’t know if anyone graduates from high school and knows exactly what they want to do and then they do it. Maybe some – but that wasn’t me. I had a meandering path, but I loved every step that brought me to this position. I took everything I had learned, and I applied it to my role here.”
As her career with Atria grew, so did her family. Jill – herself a twin – had twins of her own who were approaching college age. Knowing that Atria had scholarships available was a source of both relief and excitement.
“Our team at Atria Seville talks about it often. It’s an exciting time – we call it ‘Boatman season’ – when the scholarship window is open. We help remind each other and stay engaged through the application process.”
Jill’s daughter received the Boatman scholarship first. Her son was awarded the following year. The awards have helped both students pursue their dreams and begin their adult lives on their own terms.
“This experience is very personal because it affects my family, and providing for family is perhaps the biggest reason why we work,” Jill says. “It’s just so nice to have our families invested in, and to work for a company that recognizes how important that is.”
When the awards are announced, Danny McCoy recalls his friend and the times they spent hunting, fishing and golfing together.
“The scholarships are awarded, but also they’re earned,” Danny says. “These are high achieving, deserving individuals who’ll be future leaders themselves. Ronnie loved helping people who were self-motivated. I can’t imagine a better way to honor him. He’d be smiling.”