February 3, 2010
Angela (Massoni) Kates
WOOSTER, Ohio - It's a long way from waiting tables at a local restaurant to serving as chief of staff for the President and Chief Operating Officer of a Fortune 500 company, but Angela (Massoni) Kates has made just such a journey.
A 1992 graduate of Wooster High School and a 1997 graduate of The College of Wooster, Kates was one of four chiefs of staff recognized in a recent Fortune magazine article about this relatively new position in Corporate America.
"My job is to gather information and offer advice to assist in the decision-making process," said Kates, who is in her seventh year (third as COS) with Aflac (American Family Life Assurance Company), a $1.7 billion supplemental insurance provider in Columbus, Ga., which helps people deal with non-medical costs of accidents or illnesses. "I serve as a sounding board for our president, Paul Amos, and a proxy for decisions that can be made at this level."
Kates might still be waiting tables had she not enrolled at The College of Wooster after taking a year and a half off following her graduation from Wooster High School. "I really wasn't sure if I wanted to go to college," she said. "Then, when I finally decided that I did, I couldn't make it work financially."
Fortunately, several staff and faculty members helped to facilitate Kates' aspirations. "Nancy Wright really helped me figure out the financial aid situation, and Dr. (James) Rea was very influential in guiding me and inspiring me when I arrived on campus in the fall of 1994," she said. "This was a baby step for me. I still wasn't certain about college, but because I grew up in Wooster, there was a manageable amount of uncertainty here. Once I got to the college, it felt just right."
Kates blossomed quickly and earned her degree in three and a half years. "Wooster prepared me entirely," she said. "I came here with a small-town point of view, but I had many wonderful professors who believed in me and helped me to believe in myself." Initially, Kates planned to major
in music, but after taking a class (Language and Symbols) with Professor Denise Bostdorff, she decided to major in communication. One of the highlights of her collegiate career was having a paper she had written selected for an undergraduate honors conference at DePauw University.
After graduating from Wooster, Kates moved on to Wake Forest University, where she earned a master's degree in communication. Initially, she planned to pursue a Ph.D. and teach at the college level, but while there, she became interested in the organizational side of business and changed her focus. "I was working on a thesis about the rhetoric of the euthanasia debate when I discovered the world of corporate communication," she said.
Kates' first job was a marketing/communication position with MCI WorldCom in Atlanta. Unfortunately, the corporation was headed for bankruptcy, so after two years there she joined Aflac, where she quickly ascended from customer relations manager to chief of staff. "I was asked to write a letter for our CEO, and our president saw it and was impressed with it," said Kates, who was married in 2002 and gave birth to the couple's first child, a son, last fall. "The position kind of evolved from there."
As Kates looks back on her journey, she can hardly believe how far she has come. "There was a time in my life when I never could have imagined doing something like this," she said, "but I am convinced that Wooster, with its small classes and an intimate sense of community, helped me build
confidence in my intellect and, more importantly, in myself."
1189 Beall Avenue, Wooster, Ohio 44691. (330) 263-2000
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