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 university’s new monthly series, Union Leaders. Each month, a leader will share leadership reflections and experiences. Introducing the series is Dr. Roger H. Sublett, President of Union Institute & University.
Throughout his life, Dr. Sublett has dedicated his career to helping students, colleagues and coworkers, and entire institutions develop the confidence and skills necessary to become leaders in their fields. His leadership inspires the university to recognize one another’s creative genius and celebrate the best of the human spirit.
Dr. Roger H. Sublett Leadership Reflections
Q. How do you define leadership?
A. Leadership is relational. It is the ability to get good things done with the help of others and to connect with individuals and groups of people in ways that lead to meaningful dialogue, action and change.
Q. When did you first feel that you were a leader? What was the experience?
A. Growing up on a farm in western Arkansas, we regularly bailed hay for our livestock. On one particularly hot, muggy afternoon that threatened rain, my father arranged for some teenaged boys to help him get the hay bales off the field and into the barn. I joined him in the field, but the young men failed to show up. It was just me, my Dad, and a truck in the field. My dad asked me if I would drive the truck. At nine, I had only driven a riding lawnmower; never any of the farm equipment. I asked hesitantly, “Well, what do I need to do?” He showed me how to shift gears, apply the brakes, and gently depress the gas pedal. Then, he said, “Whatever you do, just don’t run over the bales.” We cleared the field of the hay prior to the storm, and I not only learned to drive a big truck (which is still in the family!), but also managed to avoid the bales!
As leaders, it is important to remember not to run over the bales as we make decisions both personally and professionally. That experience at age nine has stayed with me throughout my adult life and my career.
Q. Share an example of how you’ve put leadership in action.
A. In the early 2000s, I was able to gather a team together that had Union’s legacy and mission in mind as we persevered under some challenging situations. As president, I worked closely with a team of internal and external constituents to establish strong relationships with the U.S. Department of Education; the Ohio Board of Regents; and our accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission. We worked to rebuild trust that led to the approval of a totally revised Ph.D. program at Union Institute & University, an achievement that was vital to the future of the university, and lasts to this day.
Q. What leader do you admire most and why?
A. As a historian, I have long admired and been inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt. While he was far from perfect, his personal and public courage in dealing with a personal health challenge while dealing with the most significant economic collapse of the 20th century was extraordinary. Conveying to the American people in 1933 that “the only thing they had to fear was fear itself,” inspired an entire generation to have hope for a better and brighter future. His leadership was a great gift to a fearful nation that changed the tide and brought great prosperity to our people!
Q. What is your favorite inspiring leadership quote?
A.“We all warm ourselves by fires we did not build and drink from wells we did not dig.”
About Dr. Sublett
Dr. Roger H. Sublett is the fifth president of Union Institute & University. He was appointed in 2003, after holding positions of interim vice president, and chief operating officer at the university. Dr. Sublett served as director of the Kellogg National Leadership Program and as a program director for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation from 1989 to 2000. Before joining the Foundation, he was associate vice president for academic affairs at the University of Evansville, Indiana, and was also dean of the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies, director of special programs in the College of Alternative Programs, and an associate professor of history. He also has served as president of the Coalition for Adult Education Organizations and executive vice president of the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE).
Dr. Sublett is a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a B.S.E. in history and social science and a M.A. in history. He completed his graduate work at Tulane University with a Ph.D. in American history. He has served on numerous committees and boards, including the American Association for Higher Education; the Association for Continuing Higher Education Ethics Committee; and the nationally renowned Association for Continuing Education where he served as chair of the Commission on Lifelong Learning. He serves on the President’s Forum and is a founding member of Transparency by Design, a coalition of university presidents whose goal is to reflect new standards of accountability in higher education. His honors include an Outstanding Service Award given by the Association for Continuing Higher Education, as well as an honorary lifetime membership in that organization for “creative contributions and leadership.” He also received the Star Thrower Award from the Asian-American Pacific Islander Women’s Leadership Association. The Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance presented Dr. Sublett with the 2005 Spirit of Leadership Award, which is given every two years to a leader “who is compassionate, who is courageous, who is a risk-taker, and who has a talent for getting things done.”