St. Luke's Center For Leadership

         Find Your Voice. Make A Difference.

July 23, 2013

A Week in Washington

I was fortunate to travel with a small and hearty crew of five students (Lauren Britt ’15, Jojo Brame ’14, Doug Butman ’14, Wyett Dalton ’14 and Christian Duncan ’14) and a colleague (Sonia Bell) to Washington, DC last week to participate in a week-long YSOP service program.  Youth Service Opportunities Project’s (YSOP) mission is to “helping people become part of the solution to societal problems by showing them how even their smallest actions can make a difference in the lives of others.”  Each day, we got up and traveled to a different site where we helped with some of the many services available to help those in need.  From sorting clothes at the Community Family Life Services, to picking up trash for Parks and People, to packing juices in the Central Food Bank, to preparing food in the DC Central Kitchen we had a great chance to lend a hand to these critical support services.

In trips like these I often think that the biggest difference that we make is in ourselves.  New understanding about homelessness, new experiences with those most in need, transform us into people who have a better understanding of why and how to help.  This was highlighted for us on the afternoon and evening when we had a speaker and then prepared and served a meal to about 40 people.  YSOP urges the workers to engage the homeless before and during the meal and our students got right into it.  Throughout that evening St. Luke’s students laughed and conversed easily with the guests as they played UNO or poured cups of iced tea or sat and chatted with the guests.  My suspicion that this was an important night for them was confirmed by their later comments: “His [Alan Banks, our speaker] story frightened me as it truly conveyed the message that no one is immune from homelessness… Homelessness is part of the human condition and can’t be ignored.”  “I saw a connection between Mr. Banks’s speech and the dinner when I met Gary.  Gary grew up in CT and went to Duke. This shocked me as he is currently homeless.  I was unaware that homelessness was such a close issue until I met Gary.” “Mr. Banks cleared up many of the misconceptions I have had about homeless people subconsciously.  I thought his entire speech was very informative and moving; however the most influential part of my day was the dinner.  Sitting and eating with the people that came in showed me how normal many homeless people truly are.”  “After hearing about his [Alan Banks’s] life, he changed the way I will think about homeless people in the future and he made me want to help every homeless person.” “One thing that changed my view on life is when Alan was talking about how at one point he was just existing.  Then recently after overcoming being homeless, he was living.  Overall, this week has taught me that major issues such as poverty and hunger are right in our backyard.  Those who are willing to serve and to make a difference are living.  Those who just act as if it doesn’t exist are existing.”

While the speaker and dinner in isolation might have provided some of these same insights, the context of the whole week really put us in a place where we were involved with issues connected with poverty and homelessness, giving the dinner more depth.   It was an outstanding experience for all of us—one with lessons that will last us a lifetime.

June 10, 2013

Women’s Campaign School

It was my honor to be one of the “honored guests” at the Women’s Campaign School at Yale today.  Thanks to Patti Russo, former St. Luke’s parent and board member, I was invited to attend a few sessions at this school.  It’s a wonderful chance to be in an intensive women’s leadership workshop with 80 dynamic, motivated women from around the world.  (As I drove about ½ hour to spend a few hours here, I was overwhelmed when the first two women I met were from Australia and the Democratic Republic of Congo!)


These women have a full program in store this week, but I was privileged to hear Rosa DeLauro speak about why women should run for public office, and then presenters Carol Vernon and Deb Scofield talk about image.  While their presentations were targeted to women running for political office, their messages were applicable to anyone pursuing leadership.  Some reminders on creating your leadership presence from Deb Scofield included:

  • You have about 7-24 seconds to make an impression.
  • Be aware of how you look, how you sound, what you say—the vocal, visual and verbal are all important.
  • Learn to vary your voice to reflect the content of what you’re saying.
  • If you want to be a leader, don’t stand next to a wall—take up physical space with your confidence.
  • Know what you’re speaking about and present yourself thoughtfully and clearly.
May 22, 2013

Service Day Success!

It’s always a little daunting sending the entire Upper School out on Service Day.  With about 300 people going to 23 different organizations it always feels like anything could go wrong, but as usual everything went right.  I always enjoy my service day experience, but I’m remembering now that one of the best parts of the day is when people get back.  Everyone is in a great mood.  There’s this enormous sense of having done something great today and spirits are uplifted.  Some groups reported learning some meaningful things about the organizations they worked at, many noted that the places had a lot for them to do and so they were able to be really productive, while others said that they surprised the host organization with their industry and can-do attitudes.  It’s a great feeling to hear how excited students and teachers are about theirStamford Nature Center service day experiences.  Today it is clear that one of the reasons we serve is because it really feels good.  What a great day!

food bank Neighbors Link

April 11, 2013

Sikorsky and St. Luke’s

Yesterday I went with Mike Mitchell’s Introduction to Engineering classes to tour the main headquarters of Sikorsky in Stratford, CT.  It was a fascinating trip, with opportunities for us to see much of the facility, from a small archival museum to Igor Sikorsky’s office (which is virtually as he left it the day before he died in 1972) to the final assembly line where Blackhawk helicopters are completed.  The sheer size of the place is extraordinary and as we listened to our tour guide, we appreciated how much thought and planning has to go into the tiniest detail, such as the size and composition of every last nut, bolt and rivet.  The precision of measurement has to be excruciatingly exact, the choice of materials has to consider all sorts of factors and the workmanship has to be exceptionally thorough.  Some astounding statistics (like each Blackhawk helicopter contains 8 MILES of wiring) were sprinkled into our tour and we left feeling quite overwhelmed by all that we saw and heard.

But for all of that, I appreciated our first stop on the tour, which was in the little museum, where we heard the story of Igor Sikorsky’s life and how his dream of building a helicopter was one that he explored early on and after many trials, he determined that there wasn’t the right technology yet to make it work and he put those plans aside.  After working for several decades on planes he returned to initial aviation idea later in his life and found success in getting his helicopter to fly.  The spirit of trying over and over again, the need to get the timing right and the passion to stick with it are all part of what make dreams come true.

April 10, 2013

Lunch & Lead live! Bob Salomon, Jr. ’55

Tune in below to watch today’s Lunch & Lead with Bob Salomon.

“Not for Profit:  Leading the Charge to Save St. Luke’s”

April 5, 2013

Thoughts on Rutgers, and the “Observatory Rules”


THIS is what coaching’s all about… right?

Sheer coincidence?

This Wednesday morning we sat down with the spring varsity sports captains for their scheduled Captains Leadership workshop – and fell right away into a group viewing of the Mike Rice video from ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t for the life of me imagine how any coach in their right mind feels that kind of behavior is ok, not to mention effective.  Nor can I imagine how any school administrator – Athletic Director, President – could possibly believe that their responsibility for the kids entrusted to their care didn’t demand an immediate firing.  The repercussions on those players will surely be felt for years after the fact.  After all, they’re victims of abuse, plain and simple, and we have an extensive and established body of scientific knowledge on the long-term effects such abuse leaves in its wake.

It was not my ideal jumping-off point, but the Rutgers situation was nonetheless instructive as an entry into sports leadership, which perhaps more strongly than ever this week emphasized the deeply human emotional connections that are at the heart of all great leadership efforts.  Especially coming on the heels of the terrible tragedy that befell Louisville’s Kevin Ware, and the way he, his teammates, and his coaches responded…?  You can’t get a more stark contrast in leadership styles.  And so, as I discussed the “Observatory Rules” with our spring captains on Wednesday morning in the context of all that stuff “out there,” it reminded me of a piece I wrote a number of years ago for our parents’ newsletter.  I offer it to you here.


My son will never play professional basketball.


He’s got sweet shooting form for a 4-year-old, though.  He dribbles with both hands, can pass that heavy ball across the living room on the fly, understands how to “back me down,” and absolutely loves playing defense, too.


But heck, he’ll be lucky to even crack his high school roster.  I know the odds against him – know them better than most, since I played and coached both high school and college basketball.  The stats are eye-opening:  of all the boys in the United States today who play middle school basketball, fewer than 10% will end up playing for their high school teams;  of all who play high school ball, fewer than 5% will play for a Division I, II, or III college team;  of all those who play college basketball, less than 1% will ever suit up for an NBA game.


Maybe, though… maybe, if I find him the right coach…



I know better than that.  No one coach, or even a series of coaches, can alter the arc of my son’s life in such dramatic fashion.  Or can they?


I may be lucky enough to find coaches for my son and my daughter who will teach them how to win.  Winning is such an important skill to learn, but winning so often gets misconstrued.  When I coached the St. Luke’s varsity girls’ basketball team, I taught my players to win by what I called the “Observatory Rules.”  I compiled these rules from years spent watching and playing with my father and his friends on the Observatory Playground in Upper Darby, PA where I grew up.  They’re actually rules for losing:


  1. Play tough, or lose.
  2. Play smart, or lose.
  3. Play as a team, or lose.
  4. Respect the game, or lose.


My St. Luke’s teams occasionally played games where the scoreboard said at the end that we had scored more points than our opponent, yet I and my players both knew that we had not won.  If we had failed to play tough, play smart, play as a team, or respect the game, then we had failed to win in the most important sense of the word.


I’m certain I can find millions of coaches that will teach my son to properly crouch in a defensive stance;  I need to find one who will teach him how to discover his own limitations, then discover what it feels like to work beyond them in pursuit of a specific goal.  We win when we strive, we refuse to back down from a challenge, we compete against our own expectations, and meet or surpass them.  We play tough, or we lose.


Tens of thousands of coaches can teach my son to recognize a man defense from a zone;  I need to find one who will demonstrate in practice each day and on the sidelines every game that he can get fired up with excitement while keeping his cool under pressure.  We win when we harness our emotions, the good ones as well as the bad, rather than letting them control us.  We play smart, or we lose.


Hundreds of coaches can teach my son the value of making the assist rather than the score;  I need to find one who will congratulate him for helping a teammate weather a difficult stretch.  We win when we recognize and value the contributions others have made to our success, and when we in turn contribute selflessly to the success of others.  We play as a team, or we lose.


Perhaps only a handful of coaches can guide my son to a championship, but that doesn’t make them special in my book.   We win when we are humble in victory, gracious in defeat – when we can look our opponents, the referees, the opposing fans, our family, friends, teammates, and coaches in the eye at the end of the game and appreciate that they brought out the best in us, no matter what the score.  If a coach can teach my son to do that, I will consider myself fortunate.  We respect the game, or we lose.


My son may never make headlines for feats of athleticism.  But hopefully, with the right coaching, my son can become a winner….


…perhaps as a member of the 2021 St. Luke’s Varsity Basketball Team.

April 3, 2013

Empowering Young Women

We are honored to be connected with the ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative that empowers “young women from across the U.S. with the leadership skills they need to affect global progress, invest in their communities and begin their journeys as the next generation of leaders.”  Over the last couple of years we’ve had the opportunity to send ANNpower fellows to the Vital Voices Leadership Forum.  Lexi Kelley ’15, is in Washington, DC right now with 49 other young women from across the country all of whom are committed to affecting positive social change in their communities.  vital voicesTheir schedule is filled with wonderful opportunities to hear from many leaders in our world, including Hilary Clinton, Joe Biden, Rosie Rios and Valerie Jarrett, be inspired by celebrities such as Kate Hudson and be mentored by some incredible women.  While I’m eager to hear from Lexi all about her experience there, I was touched by a note from her mom this morning in which she reported that a deeply moving experience for Lexi was hearing from all of the other girls about what they are doing.  It is so reassuring to know that there is a young generation who are inspiring one another with powerful ideas and actions that will move us forward into a world that is becoming more complex and connected.   What a great experience.  Looking forward to sharing more when Lexi is back!

April 2, 2013

2nd Annual Rube Goldberg Challenge Now Live!

The excitement was palpable in Middle School Town Meeting today (yesterday’s Upper School, too) when we officially kicked off the 2nd Annual Rube Goldberg Challenge.   To help me make the announcement, I introduced our students to one of my all-time favorite 2nd-graders, an internet sensation named Audri:

The importance of the inquiry and growth-oriented mindset that Audri so wonderfully displays cannot be overstated, and it’s reassuring to see that others outside the realm of education recognize it, too.   Tom Friedman reminded us once again in yesterday’s New York Times that the future of our working lives depends fundamentally on our ability to reinvent not only ourselves, but the very concept of what “work” consists of.  And it’s great to see President Obama and the White House helping to shift the MAKER movement from the fringes to the focus of our discussions on education and American culture.  Did you ever imagine you’d see a sitting President videochat with a pink-haired engineer?


President Obama “hanging out” with Limor Fried

I’ve really enjoyed watching an invigorated culture of STEM and inquiry take root here at St. Luke’s over the past few years.  Senior engineering students prototyping on our new 3D printer; 5th graders creating and programming using legos, solders, and Little Bits electronic kits;  Flight Day, Exploravision, and Rube Goldberg competitions springing up successfully;  massive registration increases for our intro computer science courses;  our first STEM Scholars’ research projects… it seems everywhere you turn at St. Luke’s there’s fresh evidence of that mindset blossoming in our students.

Next Page »

© 2021 St. Luke's Center For Leadership   Provided by WPMU DEV -The WordPress Experts   Hosted by St. Luke's School Sites