Tag: communique

Leadership Communique, 12/8/2013

Lessons in Leadership

Good frozen Sunday to you!

We are counting on clearing skies to assist our UCO crew in preparing the grounds for a safe

finals week. But please be cautious walking and driving. Slow and steady make

good sense in ice and snow. I want you to successfully complete this semester and return to

your family and friends for your holiday break.

Susanne and I were delighted to have you in our home this past week. You all looked

marvelous, and I am confident that you harvested hundreds of photos. I enjoyed speaking

with many of you about your studies, families and aspirations. You are all members of

UCO leadership programs we intentionally created to encourage and prepare graduates to

assume roles throughout our world, from local to global. We are committed to offering you

experiences which, taken together, provide you with a value-added opportunity to learn and

exercise leadership as undergraduates. Leadership is one of UCO’s “Central Six”, high impact

practices intended to enhance your growth and development beyond your mastery of discipline


Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner and former Edmond major Patrice Douglas was our

final L in L guest leader for the semester. Patrice is a vibrant public servant and a relevant role

model. Despite her demanding responsibilities, she was truly looking forward to her time with


I was pleased that she included concepts from Bill George’s True North. She asked us to

consider what we value most and why. I know this is your blog topic this week in your interaction

with Jarrett. This “true north” alignment is connected to issues of integrity and character that

we have discussed earlier.

At the nucleus of effective leadership is a vitality and determination closely linked to service, to

others and to the fundamental rhythms of life that connect us all. Patrice and Bill George know

that we are all in an intensely human enterprise, that what each of us does impacts others, and

that, in the end, we our brother’s and sister’s keepers. Cultivating our expanding competence,

our honesty, our vision and our compassion demonstrably enhances our capacities to serve, our

leadership effectiveness, and the sense of satisfaction which is derived from our quality of life.

Please be sure to reach out Patrice to express your appreciation at some time in the coming


Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who spent 27 years in prison for his

resistance to the apartheid regime that ruled his country, passed away this week at age 95.

For the next week, the world’s media will concentrate on the man, his legacy, his country

and the goodbye which will be witnessed by a massive global audience. South Africa can

seem distant from our world here in Oklahoma and at UCO, but the lessons to be discovered,

enshrined and retold are universal.

Many volumes have been written about Mandela, and more will follow. Former President

Bill Clinton places him in the rarest of company in the past century and more, listing him with

Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr as leaders with transforming impact on those around them,

and far beyond. Each was a recognized change agent who suffered at the hands of government

and local authorities in their campaigns to alter the circumstances under which people lived their

lives. None of the three was financially wealthy, controlled vast armies or territory, and all there

experienced humbling setbacks. Two were assassinated, martyred for the beliefs and their


Nelson Mandela’s ” martyrdom” was to spend 27 years in an isolated island prison off the coast

of Capetown, a hard labor confinement intended to rob its captives of hope. But changes within

the global political landscape, in his own country, and his disciplined determination resulted not

only in his celebrated release in 1990, and also in his election as the first black president of a

South Africa historically controlled by its white minority citizenry.

There is so much to his story that includes the USA, the Cold War, nationalism, economic and

racial disparities, and struggles for democracy that continue in Africa and around the world. I

urge you to learn more about him and the world in which he fought for political, economic and

social justice.

Among the comments that are relevant to our goals here at UCO and for L in L include those

related to his character and leadership style. He has been identified as a man of courage,

character and compassion, a man who become the change he sought for his people and, by

example, for others. Mandela was a symbol of freedom for many in Africa and elsewhere. I

have seen his face on t-shirts in dozens of countries, proudly worn by the young and their

parents. Mandela was admired because he lived his values, but was also pragmatic In

achieving his goals of freedom and democracy, goals which, even today, remain elusive in his

home country. Even in the dark days in Robben Island prison, his fellow captives marveled at

his perpetual discipline. He remarked that his captors isolated him, but they could not take his

mind and heart.

Mandela is revered also because rather than seeking revenge for his lost decades in prison, he

molded and advocated for reconciliation, so essential if South Africa was to become the multi-
racial democracy Mandela envisioned.

There are so many quotable quotations attributed to Nelson Mandela. Here are just a sampling

with special meaning for us.

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”

And one which is hanging in the Nigh food court seating area, “It is impossible until it is done.”

Given the state of contemporary technology, the coverage of Mandela’s funeral and related

events will be exceptional. This is history as we watch, listen and learn.

I encourage you to observe and connect as your lives permit.

Finally, my best wishes for a highly successful conclusion to the semester’s work. All of you

should rightly count this as an notable achievement.

And offer a work a thanks and appreciation to Jarrett and Marissa for all their guidance and


I am truly pleased that you are here with us at UCO. I will be following your pathways with

continuing interest.

Take care,

Don Betz

Leadership Communique 11/24/2013

Lessons in Leadership

Good morning!

It is a cold morning in Edmond with the promise of winter weather today. Be aware as you venture out as conditions could change even as you move about.

This is an abbreviated week at UCO. The Thanksgiving holiday begins on Wednesday, though I am confident you need not be reminded as you are fully aware of this welcomed break in the demands of the semester.

Richard Ogden, a prominent Oklahoma City lawyer and Chair of UCO governing Board of Regents, will be this week’s L in L guest leader. UCO is one of six regional universities in Oklahoma which comprise the Regional University System of Oklahoma(RUSO). All were originally normal schools, institutions dedicated to the training of teachers. Each has evolved over the past 100 years to become comprehensive universities. UCO, originally Central Normal, is the largest institution in the system.

Richard is active in the development of The Oklahoma City metro are and the state. He is highly engaged in his role as Regent and has developed a strong interest in UCO. We appreciate his leadership and welcome him to L in L. I encourage you to connect with him after his remarks. He is particularly focused on student achievement and success.

This past Tuesday, many of you participated in the Creative Oklahoma Forum, a day devoted to the cultivation and encouragement of creativity in its myriad forms. I have served on the Board for the parent organization, Creative Oklahoma, Inc., for years, and have watched the state’s interest in imagination, creativity and innovation grow to include supporters from education, commerce and government.

We believe that cultivating creativity is vital to Oklahoma’s development. I have attended parallel creativity forums in other countries, and I am encouraged by the efforts and energies here to stimulate and support Oklahoma’s creative future. We believe that creativity and prosperity are tightly linked, and that we should nurture a culture of creativity here in our state which will serve the interests of our citizens, but also attract interest and investment from other parts of the USA and abroad.

I am keenly interested in your sense of the day and the component parts of the program. Your input is relevant and important to me and to UCO. Tell me, Jarrett and Marissa what you think.

What did you find stimulating, informative, inspirational? For you, was it a day well spent? UCO makes an investment to insure your attendance, and your feedback is valuable. I was pleased that we were able to corral most of us for a UCO Creativity photo after the luncheon and address by the Rwandan ambassador to the USA. When available, we will share that group picture with all of you.

In my message last Sunday, I discussed some of the legacy of President John Kennedy as a prelude to the 50th anniversary of his assassination last Friday. The outpouring of reflections and memories over these days has been remarkable and indicative of the enduring impact this young president had on the people of his time and long afterwards. He is frozen forever at age 47 with a thousand days of leadership service as president.

He was a defining influence on the people at the time, especially young citizens here and abroad who responded to him with a powerful sense of service. This past week dozens of programs, special publications and commentaries have probed his life and death and analyzed why we still care a half century he was struck down. For many his legacy is to be found in the good works done by volunteers, government officials and political leaders over these decades. They are the change he championed.

And so are you. Part of the rationale that spawned UCO’s leadership programs and those found at many other universities was a response to Kennedy’s call to public service, in whatever form it may take. Your volunteer work while you are here at UCO springs from the same tradition. From the tragedy of his death has arisen an unshakable belief among many that we can and must grow the next generations of servant leaders.

At UCO we strive to create a culture of learning, leading and serving. Such commitments trace their evolution to President Kennedy. This a part of the leadership experience here that is designed to serve you as you, in turn, take up your leadership roles in society.

We invest in you because we believe in you.

May you have marvelous days of Thanksgiving with your families and friends. It will be December when you return with the semester’s end clearly in sight.

My best wishes to you and your families,

Don Betz

Leadership Communique, 11/17/2013

Lessons in Leadership

Good morning,

Sunday in mid November and it will be 70 degrees on the UCO campus in Edmond. It is hard to imagine a more attractive recipe for a fall weekend. Our trees and shrubs are clinging to the last of their vivid colors, as the wind finishes them off. Last week’s morning chill ended the growth and bloom cycles of most outdoor plants. Fall is here and winter is waiting on the sidelines.

Michael Carolina, the Executive Director of OCAST (Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology) was gracious in again accepting our invitation to spend time in our L in L format. His pathway and accomplishments have distinguished him among Oklahoma and national colleagues. OCAST’s public service mission and program impact the state and its institutions, including UCO. I appreciate Michael’s expertise on the importance of technology in our future, and his ability to effectively communicate its relevance to virtually all aspects of our lives life and society. He is an exceptional mentor and it would be valued added-opportunity to spend to with him and OCAST, perhaps as an intern.

A second guest here this week, which you did not attend, was the keynote speaker for the annual Oklahoma Women in Higher Education conference. She is General Rita Aragon, currently serving on Governor Mary Fallin’s Cabinet as Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs. Rita, a UCO double graduate, is a powerful spokesperson on military issues, and also a major proponent for education and degree completion. Her energy and indomitable spirit are apparent from the first few moments with her. She is an articulate speaker with a reputation of “telling it like it is”. Her comments to the assembled educators were enthusiastically received, and would have been highly relevant to L. l and our focus on personal and collaborative leadership development. Some of you may have met the General in the past. She is an avid UCO supporter, and I encourage you to connect with her during one of her forthcoming visits to the campus. Persistence, service and integrity are among the characteristics she most often cites as lasting leadership values to be cultivated throughout life.

If you were 55 years old or older (and obviously you are not), you would undoubtedly be able to answer this question. “Where were you when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated?” It was a defining moment in modern American history and in global affairs as well. Should you have looked at television over the past few weeks, you would have spotted an increasing number of programs devoted to the moment, the man, his family and the pivotal times in which this cataclysmic event occurred.

It has been one half century since that sunny day in Dallas, 50 years since all seemed to change in a matter of moments. It was also a momentous time for TV and television journalism, as almost all of America watched a screen somewhere for over 30 straight hours.

TV was not what you observe today. There were few networks and limited technology by today’s multi-platform expectations. TV and the dean of on screen journalists, Walter Cronkite, guided the nation through this trauma with strict standards of professionalism, expertise and excellence. His work and those of his colleagues bears scant resemblance to the talking heads that appear hour after hour on dozens of sites offering instant analysis and expertise on issues and events even as they are unfolding. It was a different time and a different measure of journalistic responsibility.

Thousands of books and articles, documentaries and dramatic films have been produced over these years attempting to sort of the event and its implications. New insights seem to emerge anew, particularly as we cross the half century mark since JFK’s death.

There are many perspectives on the time and the man and what might have been. Though he was president for only thousand days, Kennedy’s enduring influence is undeniable. There is a entire generation, Americans and others, who answered his inaugural challenge, each in his/her own way. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

The clarion call to public service, do do something for others, to be part of a mission larger and profoundly more important than oneself, was heard and embraced by millions. Implicit in the Kennedy ethos was the sense of hope based on one serving the needs of others. Around UCO, and other places, this call is termed “be the change”, paraphrasing the thoughts and words of many including Mahatma Gandhi.

President Kennedy exhorted us to give the best of us in what we do for the sake and welfare of others in our neighborhood, community, state, country and in the world. This call to service is blind to borders and other culturally-imposed barriers intended to divide us. His was to actively shape the world we wanted, and to do so together.

And so we hear it today, each in our own way. The leadership programs in which you are members have connections that reach back to the days of John Kennedy, and the promise his election, words and actions held out for many, here in the USA, and far beyond.

On June 10, 1963, President Kennedy delivered the commencement address at American University. It has been often citied since as a call for peace in the midst of the Cold War with the USSR. It is replete with memorable insights.

In his opening remarks, he quoted John Masefield commenting on the nature of education and the role of the university. “There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university…a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see”.

I encourage you to find time this week to learn more about John Kennedy and his legacy. There will be many choices across the media and in print from which to chose.

Wishing you a productive week,

Don Betz

Leadership Communique, 11/10/2013

Lessons in Leadership

Good morning to each of you. It is Sunday morning once again.

We are appreciative that Tom Emerick was able to join you those at the Tuesday session. His corporate experience is invaluable as relevant perspective for many of you will navigate corporate career paths.

You also had the opportunity to spend some time in the past days with Dr. John Barthell, UCO’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. He is our chief academic officer and responsible for faculty and the academic curriculum. John coordinates with the deans of our colleges and directors of our special programs, such as ACM@UCO and the Forensic Science Institute, among others.

John has been a valued member of the UCO community for over 18 years, including 8 as a highly successful Dean of the College of Mathematics and Science. Among his many talents and accomplishments, John is well-known as a research biologist and a humanist with a strong philosophical orientation. He many have mentioned this to you, but John was a speaker at the annual Thoreau conference this past summer at Waldon Pond in Massachusetts. John is a valued colleague, a highly-regarded teacher and researcher and a collaborative leader. I guarantee that you will be enriched by your interaction with him, as with many of UCO’s accomplished and dedicated educators.

The panorama of activities and events here at UCO spends virtually every interest. This past week at “China Night”, our students offered an amazing array of cultural and musical talent to a packed Constitution Hall. The annual International Festival will fill the ballrooms at the Nigh this coming Thursday, November 14th from 11:00am – 2:30pm. Literally hundreds of our international students have prepared cultural displays, presentations and culinary delights from their countries and cultures spanning the globe. I encourage you to attend and to explore the rich variety of peoples and cultures and that are to be discovered here at UCO.

Last week we were also honored to host former US Ambassador John Limbert for a presentation and dinner. Amb Limbert is a 32-year career foreign service officer with extensive experience in the Middle East. His interest began whether served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran in the 1960s.

Amb Limbert appeared at UCO on the 34th anniversary of the storming of the US embassy in Tehran, Iran, a watershed date in US-Iranian relations and for the ambassador. He was among the 52 Americans held captive there for 444 days in Iran. They were released at the moment that President Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president.

John Limbert presented an insightful overview of US-Iran relations and the importance to both countries and peoples to end this protracted period of estrangement. At this moment, there are historic contacts underway between Iran and the US and other nations on uranium enrichment and sanctions. This amount of direct contact has not happened since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Limbert does not believe that the two nations and peoples, which enjoyed amicable connections in the past, must remain implacable enemies.

His presence here at UCO offered our community a unique perspective on a serious issue.

In last week’s message, I included a comment from Mark Twain on “doing right”.

Here is another from the Hannibal, Missouri sage:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”.

This week you can span the globe right here at UCO Nigh Center on November 14th when we will enjoy the annual International Festival.

I hope our paths cross there. I wish each of you a marvelous week.

Don Betz

Leadership Communique, 11/3/2013

Lessons in Leadership

It is the Sunday after Homecoming Week. The weather cooperated all week to add to the splendor of the falls colors breaking our all over the campus.

For many of you this past week has been a non-stop series of events, rehearsals, activities, all amidst your normal long list of projects and responsibilities. I know that many of you participated in Cheer and Dance Friday evening. Your enthusiasm energized all who attended that evening. All of your extra efforts this past week were truly appreciated.

Dan Boren was our guest leader and his focus on the merits of public service. He simply and clearly stated why he, and others, selected a career of public service. “You do it”, he explained, ” to help people.” The position offers you access and opportunity to make a palpable difference in someone else’s life.

His portrait of a “day in the life of a Congressman” chronicled rounds of committee meetings, non-stop fundraising, shuttling between Washington and his home district in eastern Oklahoma. He held town meetings in each of the 25 counties there and dealt with a wide range of issues, both local and personal as well and national and global. Dan also offered us a peek into intra- Congressional life when he spoke of the importance of positive relations with the chamber leadership in order to secure the right committee assignments which, in turn, determine your capacities to assist the citizens of your home district.

As a leader, he quickly learned that each decision will have mixed outcomes depending on the interests being impacted. ” With each vote, or sponsored bill, you will make someone mad.”, Dan commented.

Several of you were interested in his role on the House Intelligence Committee and his visit to Pakistan around the time of Osama bin Laden’s elimination. It should be noted that his father, OU’s President David Boren, was a leading member of the Senate Intelligence Committee when he served in that chamber.

In addressing the matter of his leadership style, Dan emphasized that he voted with his constituency up to 95% of the time. However, there were those moments and issues where he would exercise his own best judgment and vote in what he perceived to be the best interest of the country. Those are leadership moments for him as he would realize that what he knows about an issue eclipses what his constituents may not know and that they may not perceive all the consequences of an impending decision. In those circumstances, his powers of communication are essential to his success.

Dan also emphasized the importance of access to quality public education and that the continuing cuts in public funding are negatively impacting the future of the state.

Dan’s comments about life in balance and informed judgment in decision-making were particularly relevant to the leadership development you have undertaken this semester.
Leadership, as in life, is not lived as a series of easily-taken, clear-cut issues and decisions. Life is composed of varying shades of gray rather than black and white situations. Ron Heifetz writes about “leadership with no easy answers.” It is our ability to function effectively as leaders in the realms of ambiguity and uncertainty that is decisive when making challenging decisions in challenging times.

We are in one of those historic eras which is likely not to change soon. In such circumstances, integrity, competence, compassion, communication, collaboration and character remain timeless ingredients for servant-leadership success.

America’s venerated author and philosopher left us with this timely prescription.

” Always do right. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

May you continue to astonish people.

Take care,

Don Betz