Monday Moments with President Bergman: November 15, 2021

Gustavus President Rebecca M. Bergman shares her thoughts with College students, faculty, and staff each week.
Posted on November 15th, 2021 by

The last paragraph of the Gustavus Mission states the College’s purpose and clearly answers the question of why we are here:

The purpose of a Gustavus education is to help its students attain their full potential as persons, to develop in them a capacity and passion for lifelong learning, and to prepare them for fulfilling lives of leadership and service in society.

We aspire to help students reach their full potential, become lifelong learners, and then comes the clincher that declares why those qualities are important so that students are prepared to lead “fulfilling lives of leadership and service in society.” As I reflected on that phrase, which is perhaps the most frequently quoted phrase of our mission statement, I noticed that these eight words capture our hopes for Gusties for their lives.

  • What type of lives do we hope our Gusties will lead?  …Lives of leadership and service
  • Where will this happen?  …In society
  • What will be the result?  …Life will be fulfilling

It is noteworthy that leadership and service are linked in our mission. This brings to mind the concept of servant leadership, which was first developed by Robert Greenleaf over 30 years ago. The basic premise of servant leadership is that leaders are most effective when they focus on serving others, turning the traditional hierarchy of organizations upside down. The servant leader empowers others to become their best selves, promoting the growth of people and communities to which they belong. Servant leaders seek to make the world a better place, aspiring to create a more caring and just society. Servant leaders embrace diversity in its broadest sense of the word, build trust, and, in turn, develop others to be servant leaders.

Last week, I had the honor of speaking about former Gustavus President Jim Peterson at his funeral and memorial service. Here is an excerpt from my remarks:

Jim was selfless, kind, and always put the needs of students first. He was mission driven, values-centered, a humble and authentic leader. He was rooted in faith, and he led with integrity, vision, and a generous heart. He cared deeply about people and loved connecting with everyone he met. He was always visible and present on the campus. He was respected and genuinely loved by this community. He embodied that special “Gustie spirit” and it showed in his words and his actions.

Jim was an authentic example of a servant leader one who served at Gustavus and who had a profoundly positive impact on this community and others where he was engaged. May his legacy inspire each of us to find fulfillment through a life of leadership and service, and, ultimately, to make a difference in the lives of others and in society as a whole.

Yours in community,

President Bergman


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