How do we secure the future?

Change — forward moving, innovative and positive change — has been a hallmark of James Madison University since its founding in 1908. As I look back over the university’s history, I cannot identify a single period where the status quo became entrenched or when the school sat on its laurels.  It has always been a restless school, one where the question “how do we secure the future,” has been asked constantly. As a result, JMU has moved on an upward trajectory for 102 years, and yesterday we learned that another historic change is on the horizon.

Dr. Linwood H. Rose, JMU’s current and fifth president, announced that he will end his tenure in June of 2012. It is significant. It is also emblematic of the leadership that JMU has enjoyed for a century of embracing change.  In the spirit of his predecessors, Dr. Rose has considered the future of the university and determined how best to approach it.

One of the most critical moments in any leader’s life is knowing when to turn over the reigns to the next leader. How a leader departs is as critical to the future as how he governs. For a president to look at the landscape and determine what is best for the future is a luxury that not all institutions or all businesses enjoy. Some leaders hold on far too long, until their effectiveness has evaporated, until their welcome is overstayed, until the perfect moment for transition is lost.  JMU has never suffered that fate and, in fact, has benefited from five presidents who had the wisdom, vision and forethought to consider the future. From Julian Burruss, who left to assume the presidency of his (and Dr. Rose’s) alma mater, to Dr. Ronald E. Carrier, who carefully and deliberately prepared for his own exit, each president has left at the right time and in the right way. (The exception might be Dr. Samuel Page Duke whose declining health hastened his retirement, but his — the longest tenure — was no less marked by exceptional positive change).

Dr. Rose — with the analytical deliberateness for which he is known — has determined the time is right. By allowing a generous window for the board to secure his successor, Rose has made the welfare of today’s students and tomorrow’s students paramount. He has systematically thought through the next phase of JMU’s history and determined that the time is right to begin preparing for JMU’s next chapter.

Leadership is a fascinating subject and a highly personal craft with few hard and fast rules; leaders create leadership based on talent, opportunity and an intuitive understanding — not from a textbook or a manual. Of course there are techniques and models and a learning curve, but true leadership is a combination of skills, personality, abilities, bents, ambitions and goals, which in the best leaders converge at the right time, in the right place. JMU has enjoyed five such convergences in five exceptional leaders. And with the thoughtful transition ahead, Dr. Rose is building the foundation for the sixth JMU president to continue the exemplary mantel of leadership that Julian Burruss, Samuel Duke, Tyler Miller, Ron Carrier and Lin Rose delivered.

To read Dr. Rose’s announcement, click here: http://www.jmu.edu/jmuweb/general/news/general11394.shtml

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About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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