Lessons in Leadership
I’m pleased to be here today to help you celebrate the inaugural class of ELATE Fellows. I feel a special kinship with all of you, Margaret, Monica, Terri, Justine, Gena, Amy, Linda, Keri, Jackie, Karen and Alyssa. We twelve share a common bond.
We are woman scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. We have experienced the joys, and the challenges, that come from taking the path less traveled. And we share some of the same goals. We want the path we took to be more heavily traveled. We want to encourage talented women, and men, to study math, science and engineering. Not because we did. But because we know how important it is to the future of our country and our world.
We also, perhaps, share a feeling that we didn’t really seek out leadership but we became leaders rather indirectly. We aimed to be the best scientists and engineers we could be, and, at some point, by doing that, by focusing on what we do well, we became leaders.
There are many women to whom we owe so much. Some are famous, like Ellen Swallow Richards, Gerty Cori and Grace Murray Cooper. Others are just as important, but remembered in the hearts and minds of the students and colleagues they touched, rather than in history books. We are the beneficiaries of their collective legacy.
As you return to your home institutions, celebrating your achievement as a Fellow of ELATE, it is important to reflect on the responsibilities we carry.
It is our responsibility to build upon what we have been given by those who came before us.
It is our responsibility to develop and nurture future generations of students interested in engineering and science.
It is our responsibility to be the best we can be at our life’s work – Martin Luther King Jr. exhorts us: “Whatever your life's work is, do it well.”
Howard Gardner says that great leaders provide leadership in two principal ways: through the stories they tell, and through the kind of lives they lead. I think about the leaders I look up to and how their examples serve as a guide. I also think about how, sometimes, you find out you have served as a guide or role model when you least expected it.
As you return to your universities, I hope that you will continue to strive to be great leaders. I hope that you will continue to find ways of creating excitement and interest in science, technology, engineering and math. I hope that, one day, you will look back on your career and say to yourself: I made a difference, I left my mark, I touched lives, I helped others to journey on the path less taken.