By Mary Todd
Honor. Excellence. Impact. These three words served as the theme of the 43rd
convention of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi this past
August. But these words were
not only prominently displayed
on banners and materials, they
were embedded in all aspects of
the convention program.
As part of the strategic initiative to increase the Society’s presence and voice in the national
conversation on higher education,
the convention planning committee intentionally repurposed the
convention to include speakers
who would address issues currently facing colleges and universities. The speakers were, simply,
models of excellence.
Sarah Sladek addressed a plenary session of the pre-conven-tion workshops, Partnering For
Success, attended by nearly 200 chapter officers.
Founder and CEO of XYZ University, a fu-
ture-focused generational training and manage-
ment consulting firm, Sladek specializes in help-
ing organizations engage Generations X, Y and
Z. In a lively presentation peppered with video
clips, the author of The End of Membership as We
Know It and Knowing Y: Engage the Next
Generation Now, emphasized the importance of
generational differences in our messaging.
The convention keynote was delivered by E.
Gordon Gee, one of Phi Kappa Phi’s Great
Minds. Dr. Gee, currently president of West
Virginia University, has served as president at
five different universities, and is ever energetic
when sharing his passion for higher learning.
Calling for agility and responsiveness from the
audience, who he called his “partners in this
thinking business,” he stressed his conviction
that “In order for higher education to survive,
we need to move from being elephants to balle-
rinas, or else we will become dinosaurs. We
cannot afford to not change.”
Three provosts from diverse institutions par-
ticipated in an animated conversation on higher
education on the last afternoon of the conven-
tion. These chief academic officers spoke can-
didly of the issues that keep them awake at
night — enrollment pressures, resources, and
numbers. The conversation was joined by mem-
bers of the audience who raised challenging
questions on a variety of topics. An edited tran-
script of the session appears in these pages.
Another model of excellence was exhibited in
the masterful leadership of the governance sessions by Society President Diane Smathers, who
pronounced the state of the Society to be strong.
As it began, the convention paused to honor
by means of a video the memory and contributions of the late Ray Sylvester, Society president-elect who would have assumed the presidency at the close of the convention. In his
place, Timothy Hulsey was elected president by
Gratitude for the honor was the response of
the award recipients who addressed the conven-
tion. The first recipient of the newly established
Ray Sylvester Distinguished Service Award,
Dr. Peter Larlham, gave a moving account of his
project to support a school in Tanzania that he
had attended as a boy.
But listening wasn’t the only skill
exercised by convention goers,
many of whom enjoyed an evening
outing to the original Anheuser-Busch Brewery, where they learned
about the brewing process and met
Jake, one of the famous Budweiser
Clydesdale horses, after sampling
the diverse tastes of St. Louis
Finally, the impact of the convention was evident in the many
conversations over meals, during
breaks and receptions. It will continue to be felt as delegates take
ideas back to their chapters. Before
they left, however, many shared
positive comments about their convention experience. The adjective
most often heard? It was an excellent convention.
Impact will continue to be-
come evident as the newly elect-
ed Board of Directors works with
the strategic plan, as our mem-
bership consultants at MGI roll out new
phases of the two-year marketing plan on
member benefits and renewals, and as we in-
troduce information about the new $100,000
Excellence in Innovation Award to institutions of higher learning.
Honor. Excellence. Impact. Everythingcon-nectstoeverything.
The 2014 Convention provided ample opportunities to network with Phi Kappa Phi
volunteers from across the country. Here with outgoing Vice President at Large John C.
O’Quinn during a reception hosted by the 2012-14 regional vice presidents.
Executive Director Mary Todd presented an overview of the Society’s strategic plan — illustrating how everything
connects to everything — during the opening session.