Here's something else I couldn't make up. Two days ago, I received an invitation to my alma mater’s Reunion Rally 2012. Even more ironic than when the University of Richmond calls me to contribute, this invite noted that the “Rally program will include the presentation of the Alumni of Richmond Awards for Distinguished Service, the Jepson School’s Tenth Year Reunion Recognition Award as well as class reunion awards.” While it might seem normal to invite general alumni and especially previous recipients of the Jepson School’s Tenth Year Reunion Recognition Award ceremony to applaud current recipients, it’s a bit odd in my case. Those who followed the saga will remember that after the faculty committee selected me as the 2010 recipient, the students went nutty, questioning whether the Jepson School would “give Hitler an award” just because he could get large groups of people to do things, (since in their view it was a nearly identical situation being that I led the 2006 effort to add a marriage amendment to the Virginia Constitution—just as 31 other states have!).
I probably didn’t share the whole story publicly at the time but lots of funny things started to happen when the students began to protest:
1) While the decision of the committee was unanimous, the actual committee members went into hiding and no one would take ownership of the vote
2) The original plan of presenting the award, along with awards from the Business School etc., magically disappeared as the B School couldn’t make the event happen (or something like that).
3) The award ended up being presented to me off campus.
4) At a restaurant.
5) In the very back, back.
6) In a private room.
7) With the dean and two other professors.
8) And definitely not with President Ayers.
8) Where, although I can’t recollect, I don’t think a picture was taken at all.
This was the reaction to a student protest AT THE LEADERSHIP SCHOOL.
Rest assured, no invite to my award “ceremony” went out. Rest assured that President Ayers was no where to be found publicly connected to the “embarrassing” incident, except in the board room where I’m told he embraced the push back from students and faculty on the choice. Quite a different reaction from the picture in my Spring 2012 alumni magazine of this year’s recipient being handed the award by President Ayers even before the scheduled rally.
I loved every minute I spent at Jepson and UR. I loved nearly all the professors I had (everyone has the one or two they disdain!). But the whole incident caused me to seriously reassess who had taught me leadership. Admittedly, by 2010, very few of my esteemed professors were still on faculty, nor was the fabulous dean I had when I attended but, nevertheless, it was not a portrait in courage and decision-making.
I guess I should be glad I’m still on the invite list?