National Library Week – Union Leaders Spotlight on Dr. David Axelrod

David B. Axelrod

Union Institute & University’s historical commitment to ethical and creative leadership and the insights gained over the past 50 years as a leader in adult learning is the inspiration for the monthly series, Union Leaders.

In recognition of National Library week, April 8-14, 2018, we are featuring the leadership insights of alumni Dr. David Axelrod, (Ph.D. 1997) an award-winning poet, professor, and author.

He launched two organizations to enhance happiness and health through the promotion of the writing arts. In 1976 he founded Writers Unlimited as part of his Union Ph.D. writing project, to teach creative writing, poetry and journalism, promote the arts, publish, and provide communication services. Writers Unlimited has given hundreds of authors the opportunity to be seen and heard throughout the world.

His second nonprofit is Creative Happiness Institute, Inc. CHI is dedicated to enhance the quality of life through creative programs and services with the theme, “Be creative, be well.” This organization has allowed him to shepherd young writers with funding opportunities.

In the forty years since completing his Ph.D. he has published twenty-three books. His latest is All Vows: New & Selected Poems that include poems from his creative writing projects at Union and his first book published in 1968.

Dr. Axelrod is the recipient of numerous poetry prizes, and three separate Fulbright Awards. He was the first official Poet-in-Residence in the People’s Republic of China. He was Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, New York and is currently Poet Laureate of Volusia County, Florida.

Learn how Dr. Axelrod has used his Union degree to lead and transform lives and communities in the Q&A below.

Q. How do you define leadership?

A. A leader’s duty is to help his community to make life happier and healthier. Whether I have been elected to a leadership position or established a group where I am the director, I’ve considered it my duty to facilitate the projects people want to do. I don’t want to tell people what to do. I want to enable them.

Q. Share an example of how you’ve put leadership in action.

A. I thank UI&U for giving me the skills I have used to put leadership into action for the last 41 years since I was granted my Ph.D. My leadership skills have allowed me to launch two nonprofit organizations to enhance health and happiness through the promotion of the writing arts and alternative healing programs that incorporates the cultural activities.

First, in 1976, I founded Writers Unlimited Agency, Inc. (WU) as part of my Union Ph.D. project, to demonstrate excellence. WU teaches creative writing, poetry and journalism; publishes an alternative press; and acts as a nonprofit literary agency. WU has given hundreds of authors the opportunity to be seen and heard throughout the world.

My second nonprofit, Creative Happiness Institute, Inc. (CHI) is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life through creative programs with an emphasis on writing. We also join with other arts groups to present cultural events. Our motto is: “Be creative, be well.” CHI has allowed me to shepherd young writers to publication with government, corporate and private funding.

Q. What leader do you admire most and why?

A. I am especially fond of leaders who are not thought of as leaders in the traditional sense. For example, my wife is someone I admire greatly. After she retired from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and moved to Florida, she became part of the Long-term-Care Ombudsman program that inspects nursing homes for the state of Florida. She is a leading example of how a person should serve the community.

The mayor of my community, Daytona Beach, is a very good leader. I admire Derek Henry’s ability to step back from contention and listen to many views. Instead of working along a specific party affiliation, he is interested in the good of the community.

Once a year CHI gives an award to a community volunteer whose efforts are rarely singled out for his or her actions to make our area a better place to live. It is a joy to recognize someone who doesn’t crave attention for good deeds but does so much for everyone.

Q. What is your favorite inspiring leadership quote?

A. I will share three with you. First, “Do no harm,” which reminds me not to impose my will on others. Second, the African proverb, “When an old person dies, a library burns to the ground.” It reminds us to consider how much value there is to every life. Third, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” People are only as moral as their courage allows, and we need to be reminded to speak truth to power.

Q. When did you first feel that you were a leader? What was the experience?

A. I’m glad to take the lead and see projects get done. I find I have little patience for groups that meet once a month because they haven’t met for a month, and less patience for work that requires many committee meetings. Let me take on a task and I’ll get it done, reporting back to reassure a group that things are proper. That’s how I work; that and helping others do do what they think is needed.

About Dr. David B. Axelrod

Dr. Axelrod is a 1977 graduate of Union Institute & University with a Ph.D. in Nonprofit Writing Program Design and Administration. He is an award-winning poet, professor, and author. In the forty years since completing his Ph.D. he has had twenty-three books published. His latest is All Vows: New & Selected Poems that include poems from his creative writing projects at Union and his first book published in 1968.

Dr. Axelrod credits Union with the skills to succeed. Of Union, Dr. Axelrod says, “When I met Leo McLaughlin, former president of Fordham University, at my first Union seminar he refused to be my Ph.D. committee chairperson until I fully understood that my studies would be only in the subject matter that I chose. I had been in three previous doctoral programs but none was right for me until he allowed me to excel.”

Dr. Axelrod is the recipient of numerous poetry prizes, and three separate Fulbright Awards. He was the first official Poet-in-Residence in the People’s Republic of China. He was Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, New York and is currently Poet Laureate of Volusia County, Florida.

Poet and editor, X.J. Kennedy calls him “one of the finest and most original poets now writing. Peter Meinke, current Poet Laureate of Florida, deems him, “approachable, wise, and witty. The New York Times once wrote that his performances were “a treat.”

As principle author and editor of Merlin Stone Remembered (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2014), a critical biography about the pioneer women’s rights artist and author, he won a Gold Medal from the Florida Book Awards for the best non-fiction book of the year, and a first place for the best biography from the Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) Awards.

Dr. Axelrod lives in Dayton Beach, Florida with his wife, Sandy Martin. He is vice president of Writers Unlimited, the nonprofit he founded to help writers. He is also founder and director of Creative Happiness Institute, Inc. a nonprofit educational group that encourages wellness through creative writing and arts program. To learn more about these organizations, visit Writers Unlimited, Creative Happiness Institute, and Poetry Doctor.

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