The Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented annually by each of RIT’s nine colleges and the School of Individualized Study to an alumnus/a who has performed at the highest levels of his or her profession or who has contributed to the advancement and leadership of civic, philanthropic or service organizations. It is the highest award an RIT college can bestow upon its alumni. The 2019 recipients were be honored on Oct. 18.
National Technical Institute for the Deaf 2019 Distinguished Alumnus
Michael Rizzolo ’76 (basic interpreter training program), ’78 (social work), ’86 MS (human services management)
President and CEO, Interpretek
What is your favorite RIT memory?
“Meeting the student who later became my lovely bride—Kathleen O’Keefe Rizzolo ’81 (nuclear medicine technology).”
How did RIT help prepare you for success?
“RIT provided both curricular and non-curricular opportunities which allowed me to gain the leadership skills I have used throughout my career. These are the things that, in turn, allowed me to create a successful national company. As an alumnus, I am fortunate to have this connection to a world-class institution and tens of thousands of fellow alumni proud of our common roots and education.”
What is your career highlight?
“My colleagues and I have worked diligently and have overcome many challenges to create a successful service company devoted to promoting high-quality communication access between deaf and hearing citizens throughout the United States and beyond.”
Michael Rizzolo, another finalist, is also looking forward to the upcoming gala, where he can, “be with people who seem to embrace value and want to celebrate” ethical behavior in the workplace.
For the president and CEO of Interpretek, the ability to practice sound ethics doesn’t stem from a book or from specific written criteria, but through continued, day-to-day experience.
“It’s just more interpersonal; it happens by doing.”
Interpretek first began in 1993, after Rizzolo had spent 12 years as a manager of Interpreting Services for Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
“We started with: Send the best interpreter available and pay them on time, and something simple like that rang true with the consumers.”
Now with six offices in five states, Rizzolo is looking forward to celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary, with the Ethie nomination providing an excellent promotional opportunity. Even if they don’t win this year, he views the company ending up on the Ethie shortlist “as having already won.”
“We take away the affirmation that we’ve done well, that we’re doing the right thing. But I don’t think we’re done. The market keeps changing, the needs keep changing; we need to keep changing.”
When it comes to ethical behavior for Rizzolo, the first priority is to his employees. While he places a high value on providing cutting edge services to his customers and clients who require ASL interpreters, he also values a workplace where employees can approach him regarding a potential problem or mistake without worrying about retribution.
“You can’t really make a mistake that’s going to get you fired. That’s silly. If you make a mistake, I want you to learn from it, and then you’re going to be better the next day.”
There’s also a desire for maintaining a strong, effective relationship with the interpreters he hires, since many are independent contractors.
“I hire them, I want the best from them, they want the best from me. It’s a wonderful, mutual relationship. One can’t survive without the other, so you want to maximize it, not minimize it.”
Interpretek also tries to match up interpreters with the situation they are needed for, especially if there’s a requirement for specialized knowledge.
“So, when a request comes in, we don’t just say, ‘who’s available?’ We try to match up. So if it’s a medical request, does this person have medical training and background? If it’s a legal request, can they survive in a courtroom?”
For Rizzolo, the idea is be upfront conducting business, allowing Interpretek to cultivate a strong relationship with the community.
“It’s nice to garner good will from having done the right thing, being ethical,” he says, whether the company is working with employees, contractors or customers.
Thanks so much to everyone who attended our 25th anniversary bash in Rochester on June 29 – it was a wonderful time! We were especially honored to have so many NTID graduates who were in town for the 50th anniversary reunion attend. If you’d like to see photos from the day, please visit our Facebook photo album here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Interpretek Receives 2019 Best of Rome Award
Rome Award Program Honors the Achievement
ROME December 5, 2019 — Interpretek has been selected for the 2019 Best of Rome Award in the Translator category by the Rome Award Program.
Each year, the Rome Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Rome area a great place to live, work and play.
Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2019 Rome Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Rome Award Program and data provided by third parties.
About Rome Award Program
The Rome Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Rome area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.
The Rome Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.
Interpretek is thrilled to announce that we are a finalist in the Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation’s 2017 ETHIE awards for ethics in business. From RABEF’s website, “the ETHIE recognizes businesses and organizations that do the right thing through strong ethical foundations, aspirations to high standards of business conduct, and the multifaceted nature of ethics in our daily lives. RABEF plans to honor the ETHIE recipients at an awards celebration at Geva Theatre Center on October 2, 2017.”
This is an honor for our company and we are humbled to be considered alongside other great businesses in the Rochester, New York region.