LEAP Center students kicked off a busy Thursday with a trip to Houston to see a VIP, while other Ambassadors entertained VIPs right here in Huntsville.
Secretary Robert Gates Luncheon
Megan Chapa and a group of three Ambassadors traveled to Houston for a luncheon with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who spoke on the topic of leadership, much drawn from his book A Passion for Leadership. In addition to serving as Defense Secretary, he has worked as director of the Central Intelligence, President of Texas A&M, and served on the National Security Council. And just like any other effective leader, Gates refers to his failures as the key to his success. Listening to him, we learned how important it is to treat your employees and constituents with respect and not just making them feel like they are part of a team, but also truly making them part of the team.
Being a leader, Gates noted, doesn’t always mean you’re in front; sometimes you have to stay behind to pick up the ones who have fallen behind. He also mentioned the lack of leadership in the political sphere we face today. He believes, as President George Washington believed, that excessive party identification hinders great leadership. In this bold statement he stressed the importance of working hard to compromise while maintaining integrity in your beliefs. My favorite quote by Secretary Gates was, “A great leader is not afraid to take risks” and while it may be cliché, it is a challenge to accomplish. Some of his most valuable points were “being a leader and not a boss”, “Take your job serious, but not yourself”, and “never underestimate the power of humor.” LEAP Center students gained great insight into leading in the world they face now and after graduation.
Ambassador Chase Untermeyer
A political journalist, government official at the local, state, national and international level, and White House consultant during the Bush and Reagan presidency, Ambassador Untermeyer spent the day in Huntsville with LEAP ambassadors in true Huntsville spirit.
Huntsville was once nicknamed the “Athens of Texas,” and it was Professor Mike Yawn’s pleasure to offer Ambassador Untermeyer a very brief, but enriching, tour of the city. Untermeyer was intrigued by the local Dan Phillips’ homes, which he said would prompt to seek out “Smither Park,” also designed by Phillips, in Houston.
Following the brief tour, Ambassador Untermeyer and Yawn joined Mac and Leanne Woodward, Jean Loveall, and LEAP students Brian Aldaco and Mitchell Sanchez for lunch at 1836 steakhouse. The food, incidentally, was excellent, with particular recommendations going to the soup, sun-dried tomato bruschetta, crab-stuff mushrooms, and grilled chicken topped with sauteeed mushrooms.
The conversation, however, was the most enjoyable aspect of the lunch, with topics ranging from Untermeyer’s observations of current politics to Sam Houston’s teaching career in Maryville, TN.
This historical themed continued after lunch, when the group reconvened (along with Kaitlyn Tyra) at the grounds of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum. Mac Woodward led a tour of the Steamboat House–where Sam Houston passed away–and the group gathered around a replication of Houston’s death bed to hear the story of his final days.
The history and the tour extended to the Woodland Home, Houston’s favorite domicile, where Untermeyer learned more of Houston and his children.
With this introduction to Sam Houston, Untermeyer moved into an introduction to Sam Houston State University, lecturing before Dr. Massoud Kazemzadeh’s class on “Politics of the Middle East.”
The class was enthusiastic and asked numerous questions. Some had purchased one of Untermeyer’s books, and the author was pleased to stick around after the class and autograph copies.
Later in the afternoon, at the request of Ambassador Untermeyer, we had the privilege to tour the Adickes Foundation, a tour that prompted the company of Ralph and Linda Pease, Dr. Mitzi Mahoney and Sondra Mahoney, Justice Tom Gray, and some additional LEAP Ambassadors.
Most would say that Huntsville is famous for a few things: 1) Prisons, 2) Sam Houston, (3) Bearkat Football, and 4) More Prisons. However, a little-known secret outside of Huntsville is that this small town has the amazing David Adickes’ Foundation Art Gallery. The fact the art is kept within an old, vacant-looking high school…
…makes it all the more surprising that the interiors contain 300-400 pieces of wonderful art.
Once inside, we were immediately greeted with a concave and convex molding of the Beatles, who seemed to stare at me as I moved past them. After turning the corner, many paintings of beautiful women in deep and vibrant colors surrounded us in a hallway. These portraits were inspired when David Adickes was in Paris studying art.
Linda Wiley provided us with a great tour…
…and after viewing all of the different art pieces, the LEAP Ambassadors were able to take a “selfie” with Ambassador Untermeyer and Chief Justice Tom Gray, in front of a group favorite, the “Man in Red” painting, which we captured in first-person view…
…and in third-person view…
While we stood surrounded by David Adickes’s art, anecdotes were shared when Dr. Pease realized he had taught both Justice Gray and Professor Mike Yawn when they attended SHSU. It was an emotional moment when Dr. Pease heard the two talk about how he impacted their lives and all they’ve accomplished with his mentorship. What a reward it was to be a part of this moment.
In fact, the whole day was a reward, one for which we are all very grateful. Ambassador Untermeyer was amazingly gracious, and it was wonderful to spend time with friends such as the Woodwards, the Peases, and Justice Tom Gray. We are fortunate to have found a University that gives us the opportunity to learn not only within classrooms, but provides opportunities for outside learning as well.