The Crucible Experience of a Leader
After 12 successful years as president of Hendrix College, a pause from the presidency and returning to the faculty have been reinvigorating and eye opening experiences for me. Faculty members work hard!!!
I decided to step down from the Hendrix presidency in 2013 largely because it was time for new leadership. I believe that executive positions have a “shelf life.” I have always believed that true leaders must make decisions that are right for the institution even if those decisions are not necessarily popular and that leadership fails when only popular decisions are made which may not be right for the institution.
Another reason I choose to step down from being president was that in December 2012 my family and I experienced a tragedy from which we needed time to recover. On Christmas day, 2012 we hosted a party in our home for international students and staff who had nowhere to go for break. It was a joyous day and a celebration of religious, national, ethnic, and racial diversity. Unfortunately on that same snowy Christmas night my family and I were the victims of a home invasion by an armed intruder. The intruder attacked me and threatened to kill my wife, my children and me. Fortunately, I was able to confront the intruder with a weapon I had in my house as a result of having gone through the training involved in obtaining a concealed carry permit. In the chaos that ensued the police seriously injured the armed assailant.
In a state of shock, even with police present I continued to protect my family. As a result of this trauma my family and I underwent extensive counseling. It has taken my family time to even openly talk about what happened that night.
From this experience I learned about gun violence, police practices used to subdue an armed assailant, and how police and first responders must be willing to put their lives at risk to honorably protect the innocent. I learned how such events happen quickly, get out of control, and produce fear, terror, and unpredictable reactions in everyone involved.
In retrospect, during the terror and shock of the events of that night I made mistakes. I learned, however, how difficult it is to for the people involved to remember accurately the exact details of a tragedy that occurs in mere seconds. In such situations, it is easy for people on social media and others to mischaracterize and second-guess the reactions of the victims and the first responders involved. Through God’s grace I have realized the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation for healing from such a violation.
We were fortunate that no one was killed that night. Despite the fortunate outcome of our home invasion, this terrible event has given me a unique sympathy for all victims of incidents involving gun violence, particularly for families whose loved one’s have been killed or injured. These incidents have become all too familiar on college and school campuses.
As a leader I have learned from this crucible life experience. This tragedy enhanced my resilience. It has also given me valuable insight into policies, systems, and practices that can make institutions prepared for such potential tragedies and students and the community safer as a result. While at Hendrix I implemented a system called H-Alert that uses cell phones in a unique fashion to warn the community of immediately of threats.