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Lessons in taking the lead

Fall 2014

CMCAA President's LetterWhy does our College exist?

Our mission statement says that CMC exists in part to “educate its students for thoughtful and productive lives and responsible leadership in business, government, and the professions…”

This issue of CMC Magazine spotlights some of our alumni who are productive and responsible leaders in government and the public policy arena. These leaders deserve to be praised, and we should be proud of their success and how a CMC education has contributed to their achievements.

But, does one have to hold a title or gain a measure of acclaim to be a leader? Not at all! The eminent and influential management theorist and scholar Peter Drucker (a Claremont Graduate University professor) summed it up this way, “the only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”

This is the kind of leader that CMC produces, someone—no matter his or her title or fame—who has followers. That describes our alumni. That describes you.

The underpinnings of any community and of any organization are those people to whom others look for guidance, for insight, and for strength of character. Many of our alumni have taken on these roles. Whether as Scoutmasters, PTA presidents, union representatives, coaches, or political activists, CMCers are engaged in their communities.

That’s what makes our CMC education different from that of many other academic institutions. There is no doubt that “leadership—like “sustainability” and “diversity”—is a buzzword of higher education. Many colleges claim to teach and promote leadership. Yet CMC is one of the few that delivers on that promise, which is so prominent in our mission statement.

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things” is another Drucker aphorism that describes the kind of leaders our College produces. CMC’s strong commitment to the liberal arts means that our chemistry, finance, management-engineering, and other majors have a deep well of Western civilization to draw on, in contrast to many purely technical majors from other institutions. Our alumni just don’t know how to do things right, we also know to do the right things.

You know from your time at CMC that abstract “leadership” is not what is important, but that leadership in service to noble ends is what matters most.

As President of the Alumni Association, I am honored to meet alumni from across the country and around the world. Whether they have just graduated or joined the Golden Medallion Club at their 50th reunion, I find that those I meet are thoughtful and are leading productive lives that contribute to the organizations they work with and the communities where they live. We alumni are a testament to the vision of our founders and to professors from whom we’ve learned so much.

Our College has produced many high-profile leaders, some of whom you’ve read about in this issue. But, what is equally important, our College has produced alumni who understand the right thing to do and who can describe that vision so that others will follow. In short, it has produced you.

Crescit cum commercio civitas,

John McDowell ’79
2013 – 2015 CMCAA President