The Epitome of Service

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Over the past few weeks, Anna Maria College has lost two extraordinary Trustees, Al Lagan and Edith LaVigne. Both led extraordinary lives, had wonderful families, and displayed exemplary bravery and faith as they faced battles with illness and ultimately passed away. They were good friends of the College and will be missed by all of us.

While I am tempted to share more personal details about their lives, I think the more important lessons we can learn from Al and Edith are the true meanings of service. They were both good people, but they were great Trustees. They were great leaders and servants.

To be a good servant, a person has to have a deep and abiding commitment to the mission of the organization. Some people serve on Boards for self-interest or to do the organization a favor. But a great Trustee cares deeply about the mission of the organization and believes in the value of the organization.

Edith LaVigne was an alumna of AMC (as were her two sisters). Her dedication to AMC generated from her experience as a student and her reflection on the ways the College changed and transformed her life. Al Lagan had no affiliation with AMC before agreeing to serve as a Trustee. But he had a deep commitment to Catholic education and valued institutions like AMC that provided educational opportunity to those with limited means and great potential. While they may have arrived at their point of commitment to the mission from different directions, they shared and demonstrated this belief in the core values of AMC in similar ways.

To be a good servant, a person has to be willing to devote time and energy to the work of the Board. It is not enough to simply attend meetings and events or lend your name to a Trustee roster. A great Trustee reads the documents, studies the issues and comes prepared to critique, comment, analyze and help to make the best decisions for our students.

Al’s background was in financial planning. He was always prepared to help the College better understand issues related to budgets, investments and financial viability. But he contributed equally to areas related to education, programs, fund raising, governance, etc. Edith was an educator, but shared her real life experience and her astute insights in many ways. Both cared about the whole AMC and worked hard to be the best Trustees possible. They were both engaged leaders of the Board and the College.

To be a good servant, a person has to understand the difference between leadership and management. Trustees have a leadership role and need to be careful not to interfere with day to day administration. Edith and Al understood this balancing act perfectly and never crossed the line. They were deeply involved in strategic planning, policy development, program approval, and took their fiduciary responsibilities seriously. They held the administration accountable, but never tried to be college administrators. They helped make the best decisions and then supported these decisions fully.

Finally, it is often said that a good servant shares her or his time, talent and treasure. Al and Edith epitomized this maxim. They were always available to take a phone call or to meet; to offer insights, advice and support; to share their knowledge and wisdom; and, to generously support the College financially.

Anna Maria College has lost two great Trustees and two even better friends. I don’t know if I will find new friends like Edith and Al, but I hope for the College’s sake that we find similar Trustees in the future. And their model of service and commitment will serve as the standard for all Trustees now and forever.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

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Guest Saturday, 19 April 2014