When she was a kid"”maybe 12 years old or s'”Vickie Buyniski Gluckman would put on a ski mask to hide her face. She'd tuck her chin down and speak in the deepest voice she could muster. "Um, can I shovel your snow?" She'd figured out she could make twice as much money clearing driveways and walks as she could babysitting. Girls didn't shovel snow, so she pretended to be a boy.

 "It was my first economics lesson," she says. But not her first job and certainly not her last. She sold Wallace Brown greeting cards, dripping glitter door-to-door. "I was into earning money." Both her mom and dad worked, but she has four siblings and money was tight.

"My dad was very honest, very upfront with us. He told us we didn't have much money." To prove his point, he showed the kids his pay stub. About $80 take-home pay.

 Point taken.

 "We became part of the solution," she says.

 Money is no longer tight. "The fact that I'm here is a real shock to my system," she says. "Here" is a spacious stone house at a prestigious Hyde Park address. "We can talk wherever you're comfortable." And, curiously, most people would be comfortable just about anywhere in her home, which manages to be handsomely appointed without being pretentious or imposing. Sort of like the woman who lives there with her husband, surgeon Jack Gluckman, and kids Eddie, a student at Seven Hills, and Samantha, wh'™s studying at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. In a letter, Sam thanked her mom because "you're never too busy for me." A nice accolade for any parent, but particularly one who runs a company that administers a billion dollars in healthcare services. A company she built from scratch.

 We sit at a correctly distressed table for six in the breakfast room overlooking a terraced garden and pool. A tousled year-old white pup roams the house. Candy dishes are filled with actual candy. An upright piano. Warm colors. Potted plants. Fresh cut flowers. A stack of National Geographic magazines. And, discreetly, computers and telephones with multiple lines. The pale green buffet, like most flat surfaces in the house, is topped by family photos. Joyful snapshots of men, women and children. On horseback. On skis. On a beach. On an African veldt. In bathing suits and evening wear. Vickie takes most of the pictures.

 "We take a lot of interesting trips," she says, showing a photo she didn't take"”one of her with Nelson Mandela. Interesting trips, but probably none more adventurous than the one she took from her birthplace in Tennessee to her place today as one of the country's top female entrepreneurs. 

 Her family moved to Dayton, Ohio, where after graduation from Kettering High School in 1969 she took a secretarial job at NCR Corp. It never occurred to her that she might go to college. It was not a family tradition. "If I'd known then what I know now!" She sighs. "I'd have chased a scholarship or taken out a loan." Instead, she says, "I go to college every day, learning from the people I meet. I'm not afraid to ask stupid questions."

 When she sets foot on a real college campus these days, Vickie is more likely to be answering questions than asking them. She's particularly proud of her work at Northern Kentucky University's Entrepreneurship Institute. "I love the idea that a lot of the kids I meet are the first ones in their families to go to college. And most of them work while they go to school." 

 Her own business, United Medical Resources, has annual revenues of more than $30 million, and 400 employees. She serves on the boards of U.S. Bancorp, Ohio National Financial Services, The Health Alliance and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, learning from everybody, she says.

 From her job at NCR, she took what she learned about data and software, and went to work at a medical records company. From there she took a job at one of the newly created agencies set up to manage healthcare costs for Medicare, Medicaid and workers' compensation.

After eight months, an opening came up to start and run a similar organization of "doctors reviewing each other." Impressed by her grasp of the complexities of health care, the search committee of seven doctors offered her the job without delving into her formal education. "Lucky for me."

 At 25, Gluckman was the youngest CEO of a federal Professional Standards Review Organization (PSRO) in the country. Three years later, she was recruited to head the PSRO in Cincinnati and, three years after that, she started her own company, promising her first client, Stouffer's, she could save them a million dollars in healthcare costs. She kept her promise.

 Now UMR has more than 120 customers and administers plans for more than 400,000 people in 46 states. Late last year, she sold her company to United Healthcare for an undisclosed amount. Undisclosed"”but it was "a lot." Media savvy but still a person whose instincts are to show the pay stub, she elaborates just a little. Quick smile. Hazel eyes widening. "A windfall." She'll stay on as CEO and get an even bigger chance at national business.

And she doesn't have to pretend to be a boy.