Have You Met?

When I had the pleasure recently of first meeting Colorado Springs resident, Tony Koren, he looked slightly familiar - and then I realized why. He’s a journalist/reporter, military analyst for NBC and has written articles that have appeared in various publications such as the Denver Post. Mr. Koren shines in front of an audience with his expertise of today’s world conflicts and foreign issues.

Koren has held a series of tough reporting posts in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa – but he sees them as plum assignments because of the experiences they have brought him, and the joy he gets from meeting so many different people from all over the world.

Tony is also now a founding partner of the NorthStone Group, which specializes in leadership development, strategic decision making, executive coaching, community development, and media relations for companies and their clients.

In addition to his client work, Koren is currently chair of the “Colorado Defense Mission Coalition” whose purpose is to coordinate and support Colorado's response to a significant increase in military personnel in the coming years.

One of Mr. Koren’s previous positions was as the Vice-President for Programs at the El Pomar Foundation. There, he helped create the Fellows Program which awards scholarships to outstanding youth who qualify; and he served for two years as co-chair of the “Commission on Homelessness” in Southern Colorado, a broad-based community effort to address the region's homeless issues.

Prior to joining El Pomar, Koren was chief of staff at Ft. Carson where he initiated the housing privatization program, a $3 billion effort that became the first of its kind in the country and the model program for the Defense Department.

An honor-bound man worthy of emulating, Tony Koren is remarkable and extraordinary in many ways. He has danced with danger and realizes that in order to lead the comfortable, privileged lives we lead, sacrifices need to be made at times. If there are a “few good men” out there, Tony Koren is surely one of them.

Because your father was with the State Department and your family moved around a lot, how has living in so many different places affected you or molded you into the person you are today? First of all, growing up - particularly as a kid - you have to learn to be a lot more flexible, innovative, and adaptive than maybe people who were born and raised in the same place. I think you reach out to potential friends quicker, but also learn to be cautious at the same time. I remember having to become pretty independent.

What do you love most about making your home in Colorado? Probably what everybody else likes: it’s the mountains, it’s the diversity, it’s as much fun in the mountains in the summer and the winter - love the climate and the sunshine.

When you were a young boy, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up? I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and go into the Diplomatic Corp.

What is one of your fondest childhood memories? In the summer, when your parent’s would open up the door, and out you went to link up with “your pack”, and you didn’t show up back home until evening time. I really do have some great memories and learned a lot growing up in so many different places.

You have been honored for your charitable contributions to the community, what non-profit organizations are you involved with - or have been – involved with? In addition to my board work, my main civic engagement right now is with the “Colorado Defense Mission Coalition.” We respond to the effects of the growth - particularly in the Ft. Carson area – which will grow by about 10,000 soldiers – plus their families - in the next 5 years. Just in El Paso County, it will double the growth rate and affect social services, human services, and health services. It’s definitely a Statewide issue not just a Colorado Springs issue.

What are some of your favorite quotes? “Even if you fall on your face, you are still moving forward” & Change is inevitable, progress is optional”.

What’s the best book(s) you have read that you wouldn’t hesitate recommending to others? Birdsong - by Sebastian Faulks; Absolute Friends - by John LeCarre’; and State of Denial - by Bob Woodward. I’ve also been doing some reading on Teddy Roosevelt (a great favorite) and have been re-reading Barbara Tuchman’s - Guns of August – which has some relevance to today.

What are your favorite sports or leisure time activities? Ski, hike and climb in the winter, and climb, bike and play golf in the summer. My favorite leisure activity is to read. Love to read.

What word best describes your life right now? Involved – and reasonably eclectic. I’ve been able to get into a lot of different things. NBC has given me that opportunity; and they have given me the opportunity to do some writing. With my consulting firm the NorthStone Group, we do leadership (executive coaching), strategy, decision-making, change management. We work with Fortune 100 companies down to $15 million cap companies, and we also work with some non-profits. There is a lot of responsibility working with the CEO’s, Presidents and Boards, but it’s a lot of fun!

How did your military analyst job with NBC begin? They were putting their teams together in 2002, and my name got passed around to several affiliates, and I chose NBC because they had the highest news rating - but they also have two of their own cable channels – CNBC and MSNBC.

Who is the most interesting person you have ever met? When I was growing up, it was President Eisenhower. My Dad was a Foreign Service Officer in the State Department, and from ‘56 to ‘58, he was assigned to the White House. There was an indoor swimming pool that I, - my Dad, and a friend of mine - used to get to swim in on the weekends. One time, Eisenhower came over, and my Dad said we had to get out of the pool because the President is here now. When Eisenhower came over, my Dad told him we were leaving, and Ike said: “No don’t leave, I enjoy the company!” I got to know him, and whenever I would see him during several other swims, he would ask me: “How are you doing in school? What sports are you playing?” Actually, at around age 12 or 13, we got to spend a lot of time in the locker room with President Eisenhower! (laugh)

Are there others you really admire? Recently, two people come to mind: Tom Brokaw. I have a lot of respect for him and enjoy his company.

And another fellow I’ve gotten to know up in Denver is Cortland Dietler. I’ve become quite fond of him and really admire him because he brings to the table all the things that we’ve talked about before which is integrity, responsibility and shared sacrifice. He landed in North Africa as an Army Lieutenant in 1943 and was in Europe all the way through the end of the war, and now he’s one of the most successful oil and gas businessmen in the U.S. He gives a tremendous amount to the community - and still stays below the radar. Cort is one of the types of people we don’t see enough of today.

Is there something you still want to learn how to do in your lifetime? I want to write more and learn how to write better. I try to learn something new every day from my travels and the wide range of people I meet from all walks of life.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? I haven’t really thought about that. I would hope one of the things that I’m proudest of is: During combat, when I was with the Army Special Forces, I believe I was a good leader to the men I was responsible for. I feel pretty good about that.

If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title of it be? “By the Skin of My Teeth!” Or, as an alternative - being that I’m a news analyst: “Big Mouth, Little Brain.”

Did you ever want to - or do you want to - move up to a higher position with NBC? I have to say the answer is no. If it had come 20 or 25 years ago, maybe yes. At that time I was fully involved as a Special Forces Officer in the military. At this point in my life, I would have to say no. Now, I like my flexibility. Working with NBC, starting and running my own business with such great partners as: Adam Goodman, Rollie Heath, Dale Tomrdle. (George Sparks was our 5th partner – but he was given the opportunity to head up the Denver Museum of Nature and Science – which is something he always wanted to do.)

How do you want to be remembered by future generations? “He didn’t screw things up too badly!”

If you could go back 30 years ago, what do you wish you knew then that you know now – or what advice would you offer a person of, let’s say, 30 years old today? - In a nutshell, what have you learned? I would say “Drink the best scotch you can - don’t drink the crappy stuff.”

Some of Mr. Koren’s Community Involvement:

Board of Trustees, Colorado Leadership Alliance, Chair 2000-2002
Board of Trustees, Outward Bound Wilderness
Board of Directors, Air Force Academy Foundation
Board of Directors, Colorado Springs Youth Sports, Inc., VP 1998-2003
Board of Directors, Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, 1998-2001
Commission on Homelessness in Southern Colorado, Co-Chair, 2000-2002
Colorado Defense Mission Coalition, Chair 2005 to present.