Longtime director says farewell to Arboretum
Unexpected career brought plenty of rewards, she says
Menomonee Falls - When Cory Mankowski first began her career in the medical profession, she never thought it would lead to working with the elderly.
She has now been caring for senior citizens as an employee of the Laureate Group for 38 years. She spent 22 of those as the first executive director of The Arboretum, an assisted-living facility in Menomonee Falls. Mankowski is wishing her more than 100 employees and residents a fond farewell as she wraps up a long and successful career this week.
She credits her success in the medical profession to "luck" and "being in the right place at the right time." Debbie Schroeder, who has worked as an office manager at The Arboretum since 1990, does not think Mankowski's long career was that simple.
"I give her a lot of credit to be in charge of such a big building and to oversee over 100 employees. I admire her, I really do and I always did," Schroeder said.
Building a career of caring
Mankowski not only opened The Arboretum in 1990, but was instrumental in the establishment of the first assisted-living apartment complex in the state - Oak Hill Terrace in Waukesha, where she served as executive director.
She also helped the Laureate Group open Laurel Oaks in Glendale, before setting up permanent roots at The Arboretum in Menomonee Falls.
"While it was under construction, across the street from us on the corner was an empty lot and we rented that lot and had a trailer there and that's where I did the marketing," she said.
Mankowski and her staff have worked tirelessly to build a facility that residents see as a home. Isolde Schwegler is proof of that sentiment. She has lived at The Arboretum since 1992 and has watched it evolve over the years. In the last two decades, the facility has undergone two expansions with the addition of two wings, as well as a renovation.
"It's a good place to live. It's safe, you make friends here and there are these outings where I, on my own, would never get to and I don't have to cook or do dishes," Schwegler said. "I think (Mankowski's) done wonderful the way she has developed it, and having Harbor House and then Terrace House and this new exercise facility for therapy is a great thing for us."
A new and nice fit
Working with the elderly was never part of Mankowski's plan. After she graduated from nursing school, she began work as an industrial nurse and then did a stint at Waukesha Memorial Hospital.
When she started having children, she needed to switch to a part-time job. She began working for the Laureate Group at a nursing home in Waukesha. The schedule was flexible, and the hours were convenient.
She has worked with the elderly ever since.
"It was kind of a surprise," she said. "The elderly, as we all know, have a lot to offer in terms of history and life experience. They are just interesting people."
In her years with the Laureate Group, Mankowski said, her time has never been boring; each day brought with it new challenges and new experiences in meeting the needs of the residents. The secret: Learn something new every day and implement that newfound knowledge.
Last week, Mankowski's career was celebrated at The Arboretum with the unveiling of a time capsule buried in 1990. It contained old newspapers, brochures and words of wisdom from previous residents.
"I've been so blessed to have such a great career with a very big company and working with a lot of really great employees and knowing the residents here," she said.
The time capsule will be reburied with items from the current residents and the new executive director, Mary Milliren.
For information on the Laureate Group, visit laureategroup.com.
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