Leadership : Up Close and Personal

Vol. 12, No. 1
ISSN: 1546-2676

Guest Editors: 
Virginia L. Clark & Frances E. Andrews

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Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM,
Vol. 12, No. 1. 
1546-2676. Editor: Dorothy I. Mitstifer. Official publication of Kappa Omicron Nu National Honor Society. Member, Association of College Honor Societies. Copyright © 2000. Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM is a refereed, semi-annual publication serving the profession of family and consumer sciences. The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the society. Further information: Kappa Omicron Nu, PO Box 798, Okemos, MI 48805-0798. Telephone: (727) 940-2658 ext. 2003

Interested in submitting an article to KON FORUM? Papers are now being accepted for review.


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Turning Points in  My Professional Life

Beverly J. Crabtree

Dr. Crabtree is Dean Emerita of Iowa State University, Ames.

Before addressing turning points in my professional life, recognition must be directed to the support I have received at every stage of my development. I must give credit to family members, memorable life experiences, mentors, and role models in the profession and to the delightful stimulation and learning obtained from the students and colleagues with whom I have had the privilege to know and work throughout the years.

I honestly cannot say any one thing happened along the way that helped me decide to become a leader. There is not a point in my life when I consciously made such a decision. My mother and father assumed leadership responsibilities in our community and county, and assuming leadership was an expectation that I had for myself and my family and others had of me. Leadership responsibilities were assumed in 4-H, high school, and university organizations. After graduation from college, leadership responsibilities have continued to be assumed in the communities in which my family and I have lived and in professional organizations as a practicing professional in Family and Consumer Sciences, first as a high school teacher, then as a faculty member and administrator in higher education.

During my professional career, I have been privileged to have numerous male and female mentors and role models both in our profession and in higher education administration in general. Space does not permit discussing each of these, so only the very special mentors and role models are identified in the following comments.

The gentle suggestion by Alta Mater Adams, my University of Missouri-Columbia (UM-C) undergraduate advisor and head of Home Economics Education, to consider graduate school was the first impact on the direction of my professional career. I had not previously considered graduate study.

While teaching high school home economics, Dr. Pauline (Garrett) Gunn, then head of Home Economics Education at UM-C and my advisor for the master’s program, provided an opportunity for me to serve as a supervisor of student teachers. This responsibility early in my career enabled me to later pursue responsibilities as a teacher educator in higher education. Assuming a position as a teacher educator would have been impossible in most universities without the experiences as a supervising teacher. Dr. Garrett was the most visionary, stimulating, courageous, and challenging teacher/mentor I have ever known; she modeled for me the willingness to consider new options and to take chances. She “stretched me to the limit” while serving as her graduate assistant during my master’s program. Five years later, Dr. Garrett made the decision to move to Colorado and encouraged me to consider the position of Head of Home Economics Education at UM-C. By that time I had completed the Ph.D. at Iowa State University and served three years as a member of the home economics education faculty at Michigan State University.

For seven years, I had the wonderful opportunity to be a professional colleague of Dr. Margaret Mangel, Dean of the College of Home Economics at UM-C. Dr. Mangel’s vision, courage, scholarship, humaneness, and her quiet and substantive leadership provided tremendous learning experiences for me as a beginning administrator. My UM-C tenure included six years as Head of Home Economics Education and two years as Associate Dean for Home Economics Extension. There were many times when Dr. Mangel would say, “I am in the process of making a decision . . . . Would you be interested in what I am thinking at this time? I would appreciate your perspective.” I would immediately stop what I was doing and go to her office. What fantastic learning experiences these were, and what an excellent mentor she was. Over the years, I continued to use that same strategy to obtain perspectives from my administrative colleagues, and a wealth of insight was shared.

Dr. Mangel nominated me for the position of Dean of the College of Home Economics at Oklahoma State University (OSU), a position assumed for twelve years. During that time, much appreciated support from my family, OSU administrators, professional colleagues, support staff, and students enabled me to assume various leadership responsibilities in the American Home Economics Association (AHEA), serve as President of AHEA during 1977-78, serve on a variety of U. S. Department of Agriculture committees/councils, and assume a variety of leadership roles at the University, in my local community, and at the state level.

New challenges and opportunities led me to accept the position of Dean of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at Iowa State University (ISU), a position assumed for ten years (1987-97). During that time period, again with the support of my family, professional colleagues, support staff, and students in the College, many leadership responsibilities were assumed in the University and community, at the state level, and in AHEA (and later the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences). Being the “Senior Dean” (the one with the longest tenure as Dean at ISU) for the last six years of my tenure involved a variety of unique responsibilities and leadership opportunities.

Throughout the thirty years in administrative roles, I was most fortunate to have fantastic administrative colleagues and support staff. In my absence, the understanding was that those on location with all the facts could make the best decisions. Thus, when absent from campus, calls were not made to me to make decisions that had to be made prior to my return, for my colleagues knew they had the authority to make decisions. In those thirty years, my colleagues never made a wrong decision! My basic premise for leadership is that when administrators and support staff have a “portfolio of delegated responsibilities,” then they should have a “portfolio of authority” to assume those responsibilities and to make decisions.

Lao-tsu, poet and philosopher, eloquently stated my perspective about leadership more than two thousand years ago (parentheses added):

Fail to honor people and they will fail to honor you; but of a good leader who talks little, when his (her) work is done, his (her) aim fulfilled, they will say, “We did this ourselves.”

My sincere hope is that, during my career, I have served as a mentor and role model and have “sparked” the interest of and challenged students, faculty, support staff, alumni, and administrators with whom I have worked for they have certainly done that for me. Now in retirement, I plan to continue to be involved in the profession and, working with others, actively involved with specific community programs that focus on strengthening communities and enhancing the well-being of children and families—a focus central to the family and consumer sciences profession. There is much to be done.