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A legacy of leadership

The Donald V. Adams Leadership Academy has reached a new milestone and donor generosity is providing funding for the future

Rainy days provide the perfect weather for spotting budding leaders on the Drake University campus. Students who’ve participated in the Adams Academy, an intensive program designed to hone leadership skills for sophomores through seniors, emerge from Cowles Library or Cline Hall wearing the bright blue hooded jackets they’ve received as Academy graduates. Like a letter jacket for leadership, the coats are a symbol of hard work and sense of community that transcends graduating classes.

“These jackets are a point of pride because they cannot be purchased — they have to be earned,” says Carley Steig, a senior marketing and management double major and student coordinator of leadership from Maple Grove, Minn. “We proudly wear them around campus because the jacket represents a commitment to the leadership program here at Drake and a belief in all that it teaches.”

As Drake University celebrates the 1,000th graduate from the Donald V. Adams Leadership Institute (DVALI), and as the generosity of donors Richard, AS’51, and the late Lila Sussman ensure the future for leadership development on campus, students, alumni, faculty and administrators are even more energized by initiatives than ever before.

Sussman gift will extend leadership opportunities

Among the five exemplary practices of leadership is “enable others to act.” By choosing to strengthen Drake’s ability to prepare future leaders through The Lila and Richard Sussman Endowment for Leadership, the Sussmans enable the University to foster coming generations of promising young adults.

The impact of the Sussman’s $1 million gift is profound. Beyond the present benefit to Drake University, this is a gift that will amplify as students become engaged citizens after their campus experience.

“This gift creates a lasting legacy that will improve Drake’s ability to recruit and retain high achieving students for generations to come,” says Diane Caldbeck, associate vice president for alumni and development. “The Sussmans’ desire to expand upon an already strong relationship with the University by making such a remarkable gift to leadership supports a significant priority for distinctlyDrake.”

As a token of the University’s appreciation, Carley Steig, a senior marketing and management double major and student coordinator of leadership from Maple Grove, Minn., presented Richard Sussman with his very own blue DVALI jacket during this fall’s Leadership Conference.

“The Sussmans are investing in our future as leaders, not just during our time here at Drake, but also when we become leaders in our professions and our communities,” she said.

Richard Sussman

Modeling the way

Connection is the defining characteristic of all of Drake’s leadership programs. In the emerging leaders model, first-year students are matched with upperclass leaders for a six-week program. An annual fall leadership workshop and the spring Lila and Richard Sussman Conference on Leadership Education provide daylong development opportunities that include networking with successful alumni. There’s the Florence Meyers Wallace Leadership Lunch that offers student leaders a chance to have deep discussions with faculty, administrators and members of Drake’s Board of Trustees. And each April, top students from each class are recognized at the Leaders and Luminaries awards ceremony.

DVALI’s emphasis on connecting leaders across levels stems from the legacy of Don Adams himself.  Adams joined the Drake University administration as vice president of student life in 1969, a tumultuous time on college campuses across the country. Adams took a hands-on approach, taking the time to listen to student concerns.

Although he retired in 2007 after 37 years of service to Drake, Adams remains active on campus and continues to serve as a model leader for the campus and alumni communities. His efforts to engage the student population in meaningful discussions have impacted myriad alumni.

“Don Adams would always talk to us about what the issues were,” says Tom Henderson, AS’77,LW’80, who served as student body president during his time as an undergraduate at Drake. “It was never emotional. He would try to work on common solutions — he was terrific at that.”

Henderson was among a group of alumni led by Ken Vegors, ED’71, who initially funded DVALI to preserve Adams’ Legacy. In the decade since, they have worked tirelessly to encourage other alumni to come together to help expand leadership initiatives at Drake.

Concentrating on core values

Leadership training and preparation is integral to Drake’s mission to prepare students to be responsible global citizens. As the current co-curricular programming proves, students, faculty, administrators and alumni are all part of an ongoing and evolving effort to foster mutual understanding and respect.

Drake students transform as they journey to embrace the five practices of exemplary leadership:

  • Model the Way
  • Challenge the process
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage the Heart

“We’re always changing and always trying to respond to the times and student needs,” says Jan Wise, director of student leadership and service programs.
“I get to work with some really wonderful students,” Wise says. “They’re driven to make the world a better place.”

Drake University also offers an undergraduate, interdisciplinary Concentration in Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) open to all students from any academic major.

For alumni such as Henderson, incorporating leadership study into the curriculum is a point of pride.

“Alumni know Drake is great, and the community values Drake, but we’re always looking for ways to make the rest of the world know it’s exceptional,” he says. “Constantly being ahead of the curve by having outstanding leadership opportunities gives Drake a distinction. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to me as an alum.”

To learn more about contributing to the leadership priority of distinctlyDrake, please contact: Laura Palmer, laura.palmer@drake.edu, 515-271-3745