The Legacy of Leadership

by Daniel J. Elsener, President of Marian University | Oct 20, 2016

On many occasions, I have articulated the makeup of a transformational leader. This leader must possess a high level of inquisitiveness, skill, trustworthiness, and stamina. In fact, Marian University was founded on the transformational leadership of the Oldenburg Sisters, specifically Mother Clarissa Dillhoff. Upon purchasing the Allison Estate, she wrote to her community, “It is this very spirit of united effort to keep our schools in the limelight of educational endeavor: to do the best that can be done—which has induced us to undertake what may seem a preposterous project at this particular time; namely, the opening of a day college in Indianapolis. This new adventure has been thrust upon us with a speed never-before-experienced…and…it is worth the venture” (Whalen, 1966). Sounds familiar, does it not?

We are now—even while some see this as a preposterous journey—building a great Catholic university in this great American city. As we continue this “preposterous project” begun in 1936, our mission to educate transformational leaders for service to the world continues. In order to cultivate our culture of leadership, we recently hosted The Global Leadership Summit on campus. I was particularly struck by Bill Hybels’ (senior pastor, Willow Creek Community Church) presentation, in which he described four “lenses of leadership:” the passion lens, the people lens, the performance lens, and the lens of legacy. On this last lens he asked, “When you look in the rearview mirror, do you like what you see? Is it God-honoring?”

When I look in the rearview mirror of Marian University, I see the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg providing bold leadership, and women and men— educated in the Franciscan and liberal arts tradition—making profound impacts on society in education, health care, pastoral ministry, and the sciences. That is a truly God-honoring legacy—a legacy that calls us to invest a very generous effort in developing students’ intellects, skills, character, and good stewardship of their gifts, so that they become the transformational leaders so needed in our country and beyond.

Thank you for your past support in this “preposterous project,” and please, I pray, continue your prayers, generosity, and support.

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