Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday, Mr. Jefferson!

This week was the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the U.S., and founder of the University of Virginia. The latter is one of the achievements he was most proud of and wanted on his tombstone.

He conceived of the University as a very different place from the academic institutions of his day. One of his ideas was to create an "academical village." Today that same vision is driving another leader in the same direction.

George Hanbury, the new president of Nova Southeastern University arrived there after successful stints as city manager of cities that needed a major turn around. His record in Portsmouth, Virginia and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida are substantial and might have led a lesser leader to retire on his laurels. Not Dr. Hanbury.

This excerpt from Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers details some of Hanbury's achievements at Nova as COO as he worked to implement Jefferson's vision.

Hanbury rediscovered Jefferson's vision as he did his doctoral work at Florida Atlantic University and when he arrived at Nova in 1998 he was eager to bring it to reality. Jefferson's idea of the "academical village" was a place where academics and the real world could be brought together for students to benefit from both. He saw a place where students would have a practical as well as theoretical education, where commerce and study could blend.

"It takes a visionary to look at a 1970s shopping center and wasteland of abandoned parking lots and see a revolutionary new community combining commercial space, state-of-the-art research facilities, living and recreational space, and college class rooms. Yet that's what he saw...

When I first came to just seemed like a natural that what Jefferson was professing...[wanting] students to appreciate how theory was supportive of practice, and without practice, theory was no more than an exercise. Practice without theory would just remain stagnant and there would be no expansion.

I thought if we wrapped the buildings around the parking decks, and then made it an attractive area for people who want to live and work and do research and connect all that to a doctoral research university with high-speed connections to all other research universities in the state, you'd really have quite an economic engine."

So Jefferson's "academical village" is emerging in Davie, Florida, spurred on by Hanbury, whose vision is ever evolving and who, himself combines theory and practice quite neatly in building the university.

Happy birthday, Tom, your ideas are alive and well and continuing to evolve and see the light of day.

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Want to apply the wisdom of the founding fathers such as Jefferson or contemporary leaders such as George Hanbury? Read Conventional Wisdom or contact me to discuss how their insights can be helpful to you and your business.
Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, President, Advantage Leadership, Inc.

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