Emory Report
February 12, 2007
Volume 59, Number 19

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February 12, 2007
Emory celebrates 171 years and counting at Founders Dinner

BY kim urquhart

Another year older, another year wiser: Emory celebrated its 171st birthday with a gigantic cake, beautiful music and inspiring words. A candlelight tribute to the “gold and blue” concluded the annual Founders Dinner, held Feb. 5 in the Cox Hall ballroom.

College senior Robbie Brown, editor in chief of The Emory Wheel, served as the emcee for the evening. Recalling the first official meeting of Emory’s founders on Feb. 6, 1837, in Oxford, Georgia, Brown noted that “Emory has come a long way.”

Later, President Jim Wagner pointed to the headlines in Brown’s newspaper — the Dalai Lama’s appointment as professor, Salman Rushdie’s pending arrival at Emory, the opening of the Global Health Institute, the dialogue sparked by Jimmy Carter’s book — as ways that the University’s vision statement “is beginning to manifest itself.”

Noting that the University’s “rich history of engaged scholarship” began with its founding in 1836, Wagner urged the smartly dressed attendees to “be proud of Emory’s past, to be proud of Emory’s present and to be wonderfully hopeful to the future.”

The highlight of the evening was a keynote speech by college senior Drew Harbur, who provided a heartwarming, and often hilarious, reflection on leadership and learning. Harbur, an accomplished scholar-athlete, compared the leadership styles of his high school baseball coach: a “my-way-or-the-highway” type, to the “asset-based” approach of his track and field coach at Emory.

Harbur tried out for the team as a sprinter. Following a hamstring injury at his first race, Assistant Coach Heather Atkinson encouraged him to try throwing. Atkinson had identified his strength: Harbur earned all-University Athletic Association honors in the hammer throw and the javelin during the 2006 outdoor season.

“Coach Atkinson was a leader who remained open to possibilities, was patient even when I became frustrated, and was willing to collaborate with me to find solutions,” Harbur said. “I’d never seen myself as a thrower, but she did, and because of her leadership style, she pulled capacities out of me that I was unaware of.”

He found similar leadership styles in Emory’s classrooms. “The professors at Emory have taught me that learning is not a one-way street,” Harbur said, in contrast to his original approach to learning: listening to books on tape while painting apartments in Florida, “breathing in toxic fumes, spilling cans of paint down the stairs, and getting threatened by retirees who preferred the old color of the stairwells.”

Harbur called for more responsible leadership behavior around the world. “From CEOs to heads-of-state, can you imagine how different things would be if our leaders practiced the collective, transparent and patient style of leadership Coach Atkinson demonstrated?”

To the students in the audience, he said: “We have a lot of work to do. Our challenge is to continue uncovering these emerging styles of learning and leadership, so that when we assume the roles appropriate to our strengths, we can be the most constructive leaders the world has ever seen.”

The evening also included an inspirational invocation by Dean of Chapel Susan Henry-Crowe and musical entertainment by AHANA A Cappella. The Founders Dinner builds on the Emory tradition of Charter Day, which had been observed from 1924 to 2005 on the anniversary of the chartering of Emory University on Jan. 25, 1915.