Chautauqua Striders Honors Zabrodsky’s Leadership

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Deb Kathman, former Chautauqua Striders executive director; Jen Swan-Leuze, Chautauqua Striders executive director; John Zabrodsky; Jay Yaggie, Chautauqua Striders Board of Directors chair; Tory Irgang Chautauqua Region Community Foundation executive director.

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Chautauqua Striders

When John Zabrodsky commits to something, he is in it for the long run.

In 2021, Zabrodsky celebrated 31 years of service as a member of the Board of Directors at Chautauqua Striders and announced his retirement following his term as Chair.

A 1978 Jamestown High School graduate, Zabrodsky ran track and cross country. During the summer of 1979, he was recruited by Chautauqua Striders founding members, Dan Feather and Ron Graham to be part of its very first track team, originally called Valley Striders.

“We used to meet in front of the YMCA on Saturday mornings in the summer, and they would drive a small, but skilled, squad to the AAU meets in Buffalo,” Zabrodsky recalled.

At the University of Rochester, Zabrdosky continued his athletic and academic career where he set 11 school records and served as team captain for the track and field team his junior and senior season. During that time, Zabrodsky helped UR win the regional cross country championship and solidified their position in the NCAA Division III national championship races.

In 1982, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and went on to earn a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers University.

Zabrodsky and Chautauqua Striders

Throughout his higher education, Zabrodsky stayed connected to Chautauqua Striders, joining its Board of Directors in 1990. In his early days, Zabrodsky was heavily involved in the track club and a big supporter of encouraging students in the track program to work on their academic skills with Striders.

“John saw the importance of athletics and academics working together to drive a student’s success,” recalled Deb Kathman, former Chautauqua Striders executive director.

Throughout Zabrodsky’s three decades of service, he had the opportunity to work closely its leadership team including early executive director, Miles Lasser, to evolve Chautauqua Striders from a grassroots track and field and tutoring initiative for Jamestown students into a multifaceted community organization that serves more than 1,200 youth in nearly a dozen school districts across Chautauqua County.

“John was a strong proponent in growing Striders outside of Jamestown and into Chautauqua County,” Kathman explained. “To that end, we were able to expand tutoring programs to Dunkirk, Fredonia, Brocton, Westfield and Silver Creek. He truly recognized the importance of mentoring and supporting our efforts to expand.”

In addition to his dedication to expanding programming, Zabrodsky remained a strong supporter of Striders’ roots, its track program. Along with Kathman, and then Board President, Rob Liebers, Zabrodsky was part of the leadership team, that brought the Dan Feather Memorial 5K under the Striders’ umbrella.

“Track and Field is a great sport, and there is potentially an event that allows and includes anyone who wants to try,” Zabrodsky said. “It is also a sport for life. Individuals can take many of the skills learned through running and training into adulthood.”

Zabrodsky has also been instrumental in the enhancements made to Strider Field helping it grow into what it is today, a premier facility for both athletic and musical events.

According to Jay Yaggie, who served with Zabrodsky for 10 years as Vice-Chair and stepped into the role of Chair following Zabrodsky’s retirement, what has made him so successful in his service, is that he truly believes in Striders’ mission.

“As an integral part of the community, John has been involved in many organizations throughout Chautauqua County,” Yaggie said. “Over the years, he’s used both his personal and professional relationships to help shape Striders’ programs to meet the needs of the community and our students.”

An Honorary Scholarship

Following Zabrodsky’s retirement in June, the Striders’ Board met and discussed several ways to honor him for his service.

“We knew we wanted to do something special, how do you thank someone for 30 years of their life?” Yaggie said. “We realized very quickly that although he would appreciate a material gift, he really didn’t need anything. Then someone suggested creating an endowment in his name and I thought ‘this is exactly what we need to do’. What better way to say thank you, then with a permanent reminder of his service?”

The John Zabrodsky Honorary Scholarship was established at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to assist graduating Jamestown High School seniors who exemplify the interests and traits that Zabrodsky was known for.

“I am humbled, thrilled and privileged that the Chautauqua Striders Board of Directors, management team and staff have determined this means to note my service to Striders,” Zabrodsky said. “As a JHS alum, former JHS track and field and cross country athlete, and resident of Jamestown, it is a very high honor indeed!”