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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Kappa Omicron Nu


Turning Points in Becoming a Leader

Francille M. Firebaugh

Dr. Firebaugh is Professor Emerita, College of Human Ecology, and Director of Special Projects, Office of the Vice Provost, Diversity and Faculty Development, Cornell University.

Working with strong leaders such as Dorothy Scott, Director of the School of Home Economics at Ohio State University (OSU), Eva D. Wilson who was the head of research in the School, and Ruth Deacon who chaired the Division of Management, Housing and Equipment contributed greatly to the early development of my leadership.

A specific turning point came when Lois A. Lund left Ohio State to become Dean of Human Ecology at Michigan State University. Dr. Lund had “stiffened the resolve” of the faculty in home economics to work toward becoming a college separate from agriculture. I was on leave in Washington at the U. S. Department of Agriculture in the Cooperative State Research Service during the search for her successor. The experience of being away from the university for a long time was influential in helping me see a broader picture of home economics, the social science aspects of agriculture, and the complexities of the federal government. I returned to become the Director of the School of Home Economics at OSU, and I take pride in the progression to college status. We formed departments in the School and in the year I served as Acting Vice President for Agriculture, I supported the actions set in place by Lena Bailey to separate from the College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

Several turning points were associated with foreign experiences. Relatively early in my career I visited universities in a number of countries which had home economics as a field of study, with a specific emphasis in India on Ohio State related programs. I returned to India for three months to do research and consult on their program. My appreciation for the cultures in India grew. Another turning point was a 14-month leave when my husband had an assignment in Afghanistan. I took along materials to revise Family Resource Management with Ruth Deacon. During the time we were there the Russians were gradually taking over the government and we were evacuated before the invasion. I gained in inner strength and in my ability to concentrate my energies when I could not affect a situation. My interest was heightened in the areas of roles of women, social and economic change, and the impact of religion, education, and cultural differences.

When I returned, opportunities arose for me to consult three separate years in Egypt, to serve as an external examiner in Malaysia, and to serve on national committees related to international development. The combination of experiences eventually led to becoming Vice Provost of International Affairs at Ohio State.

Another turning point came through the support and encouragement of President Edward H. Hennings and Provost Ann Reynolds who asked me to be Acting Vice President of Agriculture and to chair the search committee for the position. Becoming involved in central administration gave me insights and experience and at the completion of the year in agriculture, I joined the staff in the Provost’s office.

While serving as Director of the School of Home Economics at OSU, Beatrice Cleveland came to say that she thought we should raise a million dollars for the School. I was the reluctant one, but through her leadership and perseverance, the School was successful. I learned a lot along the way. Little did I know that I would be Dean of the College of Human Ecology at Cornell and that one of my early assignments would be participation in the $1.25 billion university capital campaign to raise $17 million for Human Ecology. I am pleased that we raised $34 million in the five-year period.

A turning point occurred when I accepted the deanship at Cornell and my husband took early retirement to support the decision. The position had considerable external relations responsibilities and through observation of others (particularly Frank H. T. Rhodes, President of Cornell) who were brilliant and some very good speakers, I grew in my ability to make presentations and to be involved in the lobbying function in Albany (to a much lesser extent in Washington).

Opportunities to make changes in the structure and academic programs came during the decade of my deanship at Cornell. I believe that the formation of the Department of Policy Analysis and Management will be seen as an important turning point in the history of the College.

It seems obvious to me that circumstances beyond one’s own control have a great deal to do with direction of a professional career, but it takes courage, a certain amount of risk-taking, and accurate assessment of one’s own abilities to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented. In addition, mentors and role models are essential, and I was indeed blessed in these domains.