While recently visiting the campus of Christopher Newport University, CNU, I had an epiphany. As one dictionary notes, I had "a moment of great or sudden revelation." Why aren't more schools like this?
In two and a half hours with Paul Trible, a former United States Congressman and Senator and now sixteen year president, you actually feel the culture coming from the students, faculty, staff, and of course the President.
The university has a very focused mission to serve as a high quality undergraduate institution of about 5,000 students who believe in leadership, honor and civic engagement. These words roll off the lips of the president like he is saying them for the first time. His leadership is a mission of faith and is shared by his wife, Rosemary.
So, what was the behavior that sparked the epiphany? He knew the students, faculty and staff. As we walked the campus, he greeted everyone and they knew him. The smiles were contagious and he frequently peppered his guests with personal stories about the lives of those who are in his charge.
He had moved the parking spaces of the president and administrative staff to the far parking area; the customers needed the closest parking spaces. He and his wife meticulously reviewed the plans for each building and proudly shared that he wanted his students and alumni to experience the Ritz-Carlton. The more that one-billion-dollar in new construction during his tenure looks like a neo-Georgian puzzle that has been preconceived but is waiting for its next piece to be created.
Every institution has its challenges, but like the Biblical parable, this one is not built on sand it is solid rock!