Who has inspired you?
I have to mention Prem Paul, who was hands down the most supportive and inspiring mentor I’ve ever had. Prem had a completely authentic passion for advancing the interests of others and an uncanny ability to find the positive in everything and everyone. It was like he only saw one spectrum of light – he saw possibility and optimism and success all around him. That created an unmatched energy to help others achieve their goals. I’ve never known anyone like him. I think we all hope that 10 percent of his talent and character rubbed off on us. I try hard to practice the life he modeled.
Whom do you hope to inspire?
I’m not sure we get to decide who we inspire. My parents taught my brother Andy and me to “Do the right thing even when no one is watching.” Maybe that’s the best way any of us could even hope to inspire someone.
What does leadership mean to you?
For me, leadership is about decision-making. Effective leaders select and develop a strong team, then collaborate with the team to craft a worthy mission, an ambitious set of goals, focused metrics and smart strategies. In my experience, the best leaders are comfortable making the big and small decisions that empower and energize the team’s work. Making good decisions requires analytical skills, gut instincts and a significant dose of humility.
What is your favorite quote or motto?
My nieces took me to the Fleetwood Mac concert at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Since then, they’ve been reminding me of the lyric from Landslide, “Time makes you bolder.” I just turned 60 and I love that idea.
How would you describe a great day at work?
It has always included lots of varied tasks, new information to absorb, moments of confusion followed by a flash of insight, something unexpected, a chance to really help someone, many moments of pride in those around me and at the end of the day, some sense that a few good things happened because of our team’s work.
What's the best advice you've ever received, and who gave it to you?
My mom told me that the purpose of our family was to assure that each generation is more courageous in the pursuit of their values, more honorable and more generous. She believed that a family who accomplishes that goal will enjoy happy lives and leave the world a better place. Pretty amazing thing to learn from your mom.
What's the highlight of your career (so far)?
Maybe it’s right now. I’m retiring from UNL in May and going to work for IntelliFarm, which is a young company at Nebraska Innovation Campus. This is a fascinating inflection point in my career. And perfect timing. The campus is in very good hands with Ronnie Green and Donde Plowman – two of the most visionary and determined Nebraskans I know. I had an amazing 31 years as a professor at UNL, and I’m filled with gratitude and admiration for the campus. Now I get to work for Steve Tippery, president of IntelliFarm, who is another visionary and determined Nebraskan. My role involves a lot of new responsibilities, and so every day will be a steep learning curve. That’s exciting. For years, I’ve dreamed of being a part of Lincoln’s entrepreneurial community. And now I’ll be working for an innovative company that will grow jobs and add value to Nebraska’s economy in a variety of ways. It feels like a perfect way to apply the things that UNL has allowed me to learn. And I’ll still be on campus!
How have you changed over the course of your career?
I became more willing to be creative and more tolerant of uncertainty.