SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - On the eve of her inauguration as the 16th president of Slippery Rock University, Cheryl Norton took time to talk with students about what creates a quality leader and offered tips and suggestions to help them meet expectations.
Norton addressed students in the Smith Student Center as part of the Inauguration Week celebration that included three symposia under the theme "Embracing the Challenge: Excellence, innovation and responsible citizenship." Her address was titled "Everything I Learned About Leadership I Learned by Sweating."
Norton will be formally installed as president at 10:30 a.m. today in an outdoor ceremony on the Quad. She joined the University June 4.
Earlier symposia offered the University community the chance to learn about diversity and access, presented by Roberta Page, director of championships with the NCAA, and environmental challenges of the 21st century presented by Patrick Burkhart, professor of geography, geology and the environment.
David Wolfe, president of SRU's Student Government Association, opened the president's symposium by presenting a proclamation approved by SGA earlier this week. The proclamation welcomed Norton to SRU and pointed to her accomplishments in the area of sport medicine, her election as a senior fellow with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C., and her accomplishments as president of several national and regional organizations. The resolution added, "Slippery Rock Student Government Association fully supports the selection of Dr. Cheryl J. Norton as our University's president.
Wolfe, said, as, "president of the Slippery Rock Student Government Association, I hereby welcome Dr. Cheryl Norton and her family to Slippery Rock University and urge the University community to unite behind her leadership."
Norton discussed "a bit about leadership and what it means to be a leader. Some of the things I found in my journey through administration while working with students and other people, some of whom I admire very much. I have learned quite a lot about trying to lead an organization."
"The reality is, I think each one of us has a leader inside; I think each one of us has the ability to lead; I think each one of us will find a problem sometime where we want to step out in front and make a difference," she said.
"Some people will say leaders are simply an individual that finds a group of people going in one direction and runs to get to the front of the line - and thus they are leading the group. I would say to you that, that is not what leadership is, although it is always good to have people behind you," Norton said. "It is good to be out in front to help people follow their dream and have a common goal."
"When you look at leadership, leadership is a privilege. It is something that should not be taken lightly; it is something should be honored," she said.
"The real focus of leadership, I believe, is that it needs to be an opportunity for you to do something for others; to work with others; to be positive about how you help others develop their abilities and their potential," Norton said. "The goal of leadership is not to make us feel better about ourselves - it is to make us be better people and in doing so you are not only being better because of who you are, hopefully you have encouraged other people to become better as well."
She pointed out that leading is not just having a title or a position. "You can be a leader regardless of whether you have a title or a responsibility. Some of the best leaders I know are people who step out of the crowd because they see a need and see that they are going to take that responsibility to be in charge and make a difference," she said.
"I would always encourage you, when you see those opportunities, when you see the need, when you see something that compels you, never be afraid to step out of that crowd," she said.
The president said that leaders all have one thing in common. "They must have a vision. They must have an idea of what they are trying to accomplish, because that sets the course of action."
She urged students to march to a different drummer, "as long as you are deliberately out of step and that comes from having a vision."
"Leadership is very lonely, because it separates you from the crowd, and that means there are sometimes hardships you might endure."
"True leaders make decisions and not all decisions are going to have 100 percent of the people they lead in agreement. It is said that if you are a leader long enough, you will rub everybody the wrong way, because eventually you will make a decision that everybody decides not agree with."
Her talk encouraged students to remain ethical in their decisions and to "always do the right thing." Her address cited specific examples students could use in deciding whether a decision is right.
"One principle I try to use, and I hope I am successful at it, and one I would encourage you to use, is to always lead by the soles of your feet. Always take an ethical road, a moral highway that is so high that all we can see is the soles of your feet. Make decisions that are right, ethical and moral, because that will always allow you to look at yourself in the mirror and like what you see," Norton said.
"As Spike Lee said, 'Do the right thing," she said.
Norton's address outlined a number of changes in sports that affected women, including allowing women to participate in marathon races, including the famed Boston Marathon. She pointed out that women had to lead in order to open the races to both genders.
And, she said, "All leaders do not make mistakes; all leaders eventually make mistakes - that is simply being human." She pointed to baseball scoreboard to demonstrate that even the pros make mistakes, and said that the ability to forgive is an important leadership quality.
"As leaders, we have to learn to forgive ourselves and the people we work with," Norton said. "As a leader, I hope you will always have a positive outcome for the people around you."
She provided tips such as saying "Hello," "Thank you" and "You are welcome" to others. "What you do can add to others' happiness, or add to their tragedy."
Norton told the students to never give up their dreams, because even "a gym teacher can become a University president."
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.