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Gergen advises emerging leaders


Jessica Patchett /Editor in Chief

David Gergen, the first Isabella Cannon Distinguished Visiting Professor of Leadership, taught more than 2,500 students and faculty in 10 class sessions during his two weeks at Elon this Winter Term. Gergen’s reputation as a professor, journalist and presidential advisor nearly filled McCrary Theatre at his first lecture Jan. 5. His following two lectures in the series “Lessons from World Leaders” sold out days prior to the presentations.

George Troxler, dean of cultural and special programs, estimates that nearly 50 percent of the audiences at each lecture were Elon students, though neither the Department of Cultural Programs nor the Elon Box Office tallied the exact number of students requesting free tickets to the lectures. Gergen also held two question-and-answer sessions, conducted several classroom visits and met with Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows on two occasions.

“Having him come in has really given us some insight from an outside perspective,’ said freshman Leadership Fellow Ashley Bennett. Leadership fellows met with Gergen to discuss the future of the students’ leadership at Elon.

As a sophomore, Bennett will again sit down with another visiting professor and gain a new perspective on the art and importance of modern leadership.

Junior Zach Pund is in his third year of the Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows program.

“A lot of what we do in the third year of the program is about change,” he said. He said he remembered Gergen focusing in both lectures and luncheons on the importance of a leader’s ability to provoke change. “That brought the whole third level of the program into perspective.”

Gergen’s willingness to ‘engage students in a comfortable but productive setting’ is one of the greatest benefits of having a national leader such as Gergen interact closely with students, according to Rex Waters, director of the Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows.

“[Isabella Cannon’s endowment for visiting professors of leadership] has an impact on a more global scale by having someone like David Gergen here,” Waters said. The importance of finding a leader with larger community and national appeal is a wonderful opportunity for the University, he said.

“The endowment from Isabella Cannon will generate enough resources to bring one Isabella Cannon Professor of Leadership to campus each year,” said Nancy Midgette, associate provost. Cannon left a $1.4 million grant for the fellows program and the visiting professorship. Elon officials could not release the exact expense of Gergen’s visit.

Waters and leadership fellows will solicit names for the next Isabella Cannon Visiting Professor of Leadership.

“Its good that we have the opportunity to bring in other professors,’ said Bennett. ‘It can really broaden the [Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows] program.”


© 2004 The Pendulum Online

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