Today is a joyous day in the life of Omicron Delta Kappa. Today marks the official “birth” of the University of Washington – Tacoma. Our National Vice President, Michelle Burke of Grand Valley State University, will be the presiding officer at this evening’s celebration in Tacoma. And tomorrow, we officially welcome the Fontbonne University Circle into our world, and I will have the pleasure of being the presiding officer at that ceremony. I’ll write more about why this is so special to me below.
Since I last posted in the “We Are ODK” blog, I’ve had the opportunity to visit several Circles and even a prospective Circle. Last week, I visited with several faculty and staff members at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, the home of the Owls, to discuss their initial application to establish a Circle at KSU. The next day, I had the pleasure of visiting with two of the officers of the Morehouse College Circle, and I learned about the alternative spring break program that the Circle coordinates each year in Haiti. The program focuses on the historical, cultural, and socio-economic challenges of the country, and it is supported by a local Rotary group as well. The Circle secures more than $40,000 in support each year to continue the relief efforts in Haiti.
Last Friday afternoon, I also got to spend nearly 90 minutes with the members of the Oglethorpe University Circle on their beautiful campus which looks like something right out of Harry Potter and it resembles Hogwarts. I was so impressed by the range of programs in which these students are involved, and it was special when President Larry Schall stopped by for a few minutes too.
Over the weekend, I went to visit the members of the University of Georgia Circle, attend their homecoming celebration (three O∆K members were part of this year’s court), and give a brief address about bullying and how leaders can respond. This very active Circle has positioned itself to be an incubator for good ideas on campus. In recent years, the UGA Circle has helped bring a TEDx program to campus and to establish a new campus positive news communication entitled The Chapel Bell. The campus obviously has a great affection for bulldogs.
On Monday, Bobby Ann Stanton, our director of development and alumni engagement, and I traveled east across I-64 to attend the fall induction ceremony for the newest members of the Epsilon Circle at the University of Richmond. It was good to see Dr. Steve Bisese, one of our past presidents, and to visit with the current and newest members of the Circle.
Each of the O∆K members I met along the way were enthusiastic, incredibly smart, and accomplished. These community leaders of tomorrow are inspiring, and it’s quite humbling to have the opportunity to work with them.
Tonight and tomorrow, I’ll be visiting with individuals from Fontbonne University, the home of the Griffins. The president at Fontbonne is Dr. Denny Golden – a gentleman who I have known for more than half of my life and who has had a tremendous influence on me. In a previous posting, Denny was one of the individuals I referenced when I made the observation that “if you can lead, thank a teacher.”
Dr. Golden, who was inducted into O∆K at the University of Louisville (as was I) was indeed one of my teachers when I was a young professional. He came to U of L in the mid-1980’s when I was still early in my career, and his guidance helped shape me as a person as well as a professional. Three quick things I learned from Dr. Golden about leadership.
First, service and leadership may also involve love. If you love your work, love your mission, and love those around you who share in working to fulfill that mission, you will find a truer purpose in leading.
Second, let life unfold. Dr. Golden often reminded me that not everything in my control. He even wrote once on a piece of paper, “Everything according to God’s plan.” I still struggle with this concept; but the older I get, the more I realize that work plans, careers, and relationships frequently evolve and unfold in ways different than we expect or hope. Adaptability to accept and embrace change is a necessary leadership and life skill.
Third, take the time question why you pursue certain opportunities and challenges. The “why” of motivation is a question we leaders should ask ourselves more frequently. Why do we want such positions? Is it for the salary, the duties of the job, and the prestige that may go with the position? Or, is it the opportunity to advance change, help others, develop new ideas, or serve a greater good? The encouragement I received from Dr. Golden as a young professional about questioning one’s own motivations and choices has been healthy for me.
The opportunity to serve in O∆K is special, but this has definitely been a week where I have been reminded that, truly, “if you can lead, thank a teacher.