I had a pastor in the early 90s’ whose name was John Somers. The first thing that I noticed when I met John was that he was a humble man. John was a man who thought of others more than he thought of himself. He was the kind of leader that drew people to him…to work with him and help him.
‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.’ Proverbs 11:2
In 1978 I was interviewed for a position in Building Services in the Physical Plant at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale by a humble leader, Mr. George O’Hara. Mr. O’Hara not only made me feel at ease and comfortable during the interview but I soon understood the humble nature of this manager of hundreds of people. I left the meeting feeling that Mr. O’Hara cared about me and that I had a good chance of becoming a member of the university community!
A gentleman and a man of humility taught english during my high school years. Mr. Delmar Feazel was an english teacher and a minister. I never heard him raise his voice and I never witnessed him speak to anyone in anger.
Former SIUC Chancellor Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger had a unique and compelling humility that was unlike any that I have observed in university leadership. Jo Ann had the natural ability to cause each person that she interacted with…feel that they were of paramount importance to her and to the mission of SIUC! During a rally of support for her prior to her untimely termination…I saw students and faculty and staff and all members of the skilled crafts and janitors and grounds workers standing in line to express their support for her and their sadness at her firing!
Jo Ann would walk out into the middle of a field to shake hands with a grounds worker and to express how important that they were both to her and to the University!
There is a dynamism to humble leaders! First of all…they are rare! Second they attract people to their cause like bees to the honeycomb! In a society where everyone tells us how great that they are…and how they have all of the answers…we have become jaded and our ears have stopped up and our eyes have glossed over!
We hunger for someone to have the singularity of purpose and the purity of intent to understand that they need others to help them and we listen for their call!
I am a friend of former Southern Illinois University President Dr. Glenn Poshard. I was privileged to counsel with Glenn on numerous occasions. I enjoyed his company immensely because he was not haughty or proud, although he had been a five term United States Congressman and had almost been elected Governor of Illinois. Glenn was always looking for another way to help people. He began his career at SIUC as a civil service employee in the Physical Plant…and he never forgot where he came from! The university president told me on one occasion that I was the humblest person that he had ever met…and I thought I wish that were true…but I still strive to be worthy of his high compliment!
Souther Illinois University @ Carbondale is opening wide its doors of opportunity and growth and happiness and joy! Let all of us, both inside the university community… and outside in the wider Southern Illinois Community… welcome each and every student that graces us with their presence! They are not the fortunate ones to be with us…we are the fortunate ones…to be chosen by them!