In my last semester in the Concordia MBA program, I was lucky enough to have Don Christian, the Dean of the College of Business at Concordia University Texas, teach my final leadership seminar course. The other three seminar courses were just an appetizer for the wisdom and guidance Don shared with us. He did not simply lecture. He conversed with us like we were his peer. He challenged us to think deeper. And he encouraged us as we discussed what’s next. I am fortunate to know Don Christian outside of the classroom, but this weekend, I realized the impact this one man has had, not only on me, but on all students in the College of Business and really on the entire university and community.
As a student taking evening classes, it is easy to feel forgotten on a campus with traditional undergraduates. The bookstore closes as you arrive on campus, offices are vacant, and during the summers the air conditioner shuts off just in time to make the last 30 minutes of class uncomfortable. But Don makes you forget all that. He would drop in to congratulate a student who just received a promotion or greet a guest speaker. There were even times he stopped in “just because” and stayed to watch our presentations!
In the midst of all the graduation activities this weekend, I was able to notice how Don truly is a servant leader. At the pinning ceremony, where adult students are given the opportunity to pin those who have helped them achieve their degrees, Don was there. His attendance was not required, but there he was greeting each and every student. After I pinned my husband and we settled back in our seats, he tapped us on the shoulder and asked if he could take a picture of us. His excitement for me paralleled my mother’s! Before lining up to process in at graduation, Don was there shaking hands, taking pictures, hugging students, and cracking jokes as you can often find him doing. But what moved me the most was his actions during the graduation ceremony.
If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was his first graduation ever. Don got emotional during parts of the ceremony and might have had the loudest applause of all people in attendance. But when the faculty was asked to stand to be recognized and graduates applauded to show their appreciation, Don quickly pointed back at us. I read this as his way of saying “you all are the reason why I’m here.”
In his moment to be acknowledged, he wanted his students to be recognized first, a true sign of a servant leader. You can even tell from the photo that accompanies this blog — Don is proudly standing in the back to not take attention away from anyone else’s big day! I am grateful for Don and his impact on my education and my personal and professional life. My experience in the Concordia MBA would not be the same without Don Christian. He is a constant, living example of servant leadership.