For more than three decades, Austin College has been actively involved in a dialogueon leadership. This positive influence was promulgated by the stewardship of President John D. Moseley and guided and shaped by the leadership of President Oscar C. Page.
Dr. Page has been an advocate for leadership throughout his career. His arrival at Austin College prompted him to engage in and initiate one of the most influential student development programs in the College’s recent history.
With a small group of select Austin College students, Dr. Page began the Austin College Leadership Institute in 1996. The intent of the program of study and exploration was to present a modern model of leadership to students that embraced service to others, and a global perspective of influence and personal responsibility. The program included active study of leadership theory and practice, experiential growth through internships and mentor relations and exposure to some of the leading international figures of our time.
Through the International Chair in Leadership, Austin College students met and talked with statesmen, humanitarians, celebrated professionals and leaders of sovereign nations.Visits by Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica, and Nobel Laureate; Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity; General Colin Powell and President George H.W. Bush provided a special and unique perspective to the lessons of leadership studied at Austin College.
In later years, Dr. Page’s guidance and leadership initiated the Austin College Leadership Award, recognizing women and men of extraordinary global influence and servant leadership. Recipient’s have included Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America,Dr. Paul Farmer, whose health relief efforts are memorialized in Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains; Geoffrey Canada, community advocate and founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone; and Greg Mortenson, director of the Central Asia Institute and builder of girl’s schools and human understanding in Afghanistan for twenty years.
As Austin College thought globally, we also acted locally. More than 300 students have embraced the study of leadership in addition to their regular programs of scholarship. Members of the Leadership Institute extended themselves far beyond the norm of their already robust programs of study to examine leadership in a multitude of activities. Their efforts have yielded many positive effects for the campus and community during this period, as Leadership Scholars led student groups, provided extensive community service, and embraced special projects and interests beyond the norm for an active college students.
Looking back to the recent past, Austin College alumni are quick to relate their current professional growth and success to the lessons learned and the experiences gained as Leadership Students.
Rhett Skiles, AC class of 2000, currently Program Officer for Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro for the International Republican Institute in Washington, charts his trajectory from a Student Assembly and Model UN delegate, to the London School of Economics and duties as a Senior Legislative Assistant for Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs and Economic Development for US Representative Steven Pearce (NM). He attributes much of his awareness and sensitivity to the combination of practical experience and academic reflection that the Leadership Institute provided him as an undergraduate. Putting theory into action, and having an intellectual context to judge effectiveness, Rhett reports has been of great value. He remembers the advocacy of Professor Mark Hébert with appreciation, and a manifestation of true servant leadership in Dr. Oscar Page, whose interaction ranged from a smile for everyone to an ‘impeccable’ memory for students and something personal and consequential in their lives. He saw Dr. Page as a person consistently ready to assess the vision and practice of Austin College, with the special ability to listen to ideas and perspectives with positiveness and regard.
Dr. Lynden McGriff, AC Class of 2002, reports that the experience of the Leadership Institute and the support of Dr. Page allowed him to cultivate a sense of personal confidence, that fortified his positive engagement, as a student, to travel to Africa, serve as an intern in the Office of Environmental and Scientific Affairs as a chemical research associate, and find himself as a spokesman for the Environmental Policy Office for then Secretary Colin Powell. Lynden has been a clinical coordinator for the Institute for Latin American Service as a pharmacy student, a lobbyist for the American Pharmaceutical Association and a pharmacy manager for Walgreen’s. His recollection of his leadership experiences at Austin College were the encouragement for ‘diligence, determination, perseverance and courage’. He credits the critical support of Professor Shelly Williams, and the extraordinary example of Oscar Page for his commitment and current success.
Abbas Ravjani, AC Class of 2004, was the consummate student leader. From Boys and Girls Club volunteer to Student Assembly President , Abbas extended himself far beyond the norm for Austin College students. He won a Truman Scholarship but delayed his entry into law school to work for the US Office of Naval Intelligence as a Middle East Analyst. He is completing Yale School this June and will join the staff of the Senate Foreign Services Committee as a member of the legal counsel team. Abbas notes that his experience at Austin College studying leadership caused him to become increasingly critically self-reflective, and afforded him the distinct advantage of having knowledge and skill in self development and professional decision-making. He comments that the chance and frequency with which he was able to engage in real leadership responsibilities gave him a sense of self-confidence and perspective that contributed directly to his success. He credits Dr. Page with creating this environment and providing the feedback and support that enhanced Abba’s development as a student leader.
Ms. Amber Childress, AC Class of 2007, recently joined the staff of an environmental advocacy group in Washington. Amber had some significant exposure to the federal legislative process before and during her studies at Austin College. Amber served as a Congressional Page in high school, and later was a member of the staff of the Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. While a leadership student, Amber led a select team of Austin College students who assisted the Greater Dallas Business Ethics Selection Committee in the selection of the annual national awardee in 2007. Amber credits these and other leadership roles she was afforded as a member of the leadership program as instrumental in her personal development and subsequent choice of professional endeavor.
Ms. Catherine Moran, AC Class of 2007, embraced the model of the scholar, leader, athlete. In addition to her leadership on the court, as women’s basketball team captain, and membership in Black Expressions, Catherine was instrumental in the development of the education outreach partnership between Austin College and the Irma J. Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, that is now in it’s fourth year. Catherine is finishing her studies at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, where she is the president of the Thurgood Marshall Legal Society, and started the Ashaki Young Women’s Leadership Project, a special advocacy program, working with Austin public schools. She credits her experience at Austin College and the environment created by Dr. Page with a strong foundation supported by all faculty and fellow students. She recalls Dr. Page as kind and encouraging, with a person interest in her growth and development. Catherine views her leadership as formed by a continuing desire to focus on personal growth and how she could positively effect others, that she suggests is understood in retrospect. She recently competed on national finalist team for the Frederick Douglas Moot Court competition, serves as an editor for the National Black Law Journal, and has served on the staff of legislators, judges and public defenders offices in preparation for her career as a civil rights litigator.
Ms. Kristin Saboe, AC Class of 2007, chose Austin College over comparable schools because the College allowed her to begin her studies in leadership as a freshman. Kristin went on to demonstrate her interest and engagement as student leader through involvement with Rotoract, as a founding member of the Wheelchair Basketball fundraiser, and as the executive for the Student Development Board. Kristin credits her study abroad experience, her internships at the Osgood Center in Washington and the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, and her exposure to leaders of state, like Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada, as being instrumental developing her awareness and fortifying her conviction. Kristin won a Goodlow-Lewis Award at Austin College, and became a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow on her way to doctoral studies in organizational psychology and leadership at University of South Florida. She notes the positive role model, of Dr. Page, who had genuine interest in reaching out to all students. Her assessment of the leadership program is ‘what you get out of it is what you make of it’ and sees it as a vehicle for the serious student to catapult themselves forward.
Parth Shah, AC Class of 2009, will spend a year as a Medical Scribe, in attendance to surgeons in operating rooms, before attending medical school. Parth actively led his peers and fellow students in a variety of roles: as a Resident Advisor and Head Resident, president of the Indian Students Association, captain and re-energizer of the Austin College Hockey Team, and leadership scholar. Parth epitomizes the servant leader, modeling Dr. Page, and attributes much of his focus and personal growth to the support her received. Parth was named Senior Man by his peers for 2009.
These a but a few stories of the growth and development of young women and men at Austin College. For those who read and enjoy the lessons of leadership taught by wise people in ancient cultures, the influence of Oscar Page can be illustrated by the words of Chinese philosopher, Lao Tsu: ‘The wisest leader is the one whose followers say: Look what we have done!” With this sentiment and foundation, the legacy of leadership of Oscar Page is certainly to endure.