Last month, leaders within the Division of Development and Alumni Relations at Penn State had the wonderful experience of having Jim Owen and Kent Noble on campus for their three hour seminar, Standing Tall.
In the early days of the Sandusky child sex abuse crisis at Penn State in November 2011, a colleague of mine gave me and other leaders in my area a copy of Jim’s first book, Cowboy Ethics, containing the ten principles which Jim captured in The Code of the West. The Code came at the right time for many of us, including me. In fact, principles like “Ride for the Brand” and “Live Each Day with Courage” became more than nice expressions in the midst of the University’s unprecedented crisis—for me, the Code became a North Star through an unimaginable storm of challenges none of us had ever faced.
Penn State is a very special place filled with exceptional people who have a deep commitment to their work and to the institution they serve. My team rose to every challenge and served the University with great passion and compassion for her students, faculty, alumni and friends. To the best of my knowledge, not a single staff member left my team because the challenge was too great. Indeed, they “gave it their all.” The number of contributors to the University increased in 2011-12, the year the crisis began, and increased the following year as well.
Through a set of circumstances too long to explain and via the phone call of a good friend, I was introduced to Jim Owen and had the privilege of meeting him this past March in Austin while there on University business. We had a great two hour breakfast. I was fascinated with the work that Jim and Kent Noble were doing in secondary schools with at risk students and with a variety of organizations, and I think Jim was equally intrigued with how we worked our way through a very difficult time at Penn State. Long story short, I invited Jim and Kent to present their Standing Tall workshop for about 70 leaders in my Division as a “thank you” to my team for the great work they’ve done the past two years. In the matter of a few months, my team will help Penn State exceed its campaign fundraising goal of $2 billion, a feat many considered daunting, if not plain unachievable in 2011.
More significant than any fundraising goal, however, is the experience we had at the Standing Tall workshop. Jim set the tone and context for the importance to have a code to live by, especially in today’s often upside down world. Kent’s passion for his work and his open, friendly style engaged my team. We were touched by the whole experience. More than anything, my staff really appreciated the dedicated time to escape the daily press of business and focus on improving themselves and identifying what is important to them in their professional and personal life and how their “code” impacts everything they do and everyone around them.
I applaud the work that Jim and Kent are doing around the country. It was a real honor and treat to have them at Penn State.
Rodney P. Kirsch
Senior Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations
The Pennsylvania State University
116 Old Main
University Park, PA 16802
(814) 863-4826 Fax (814) 863-7520