Archive for Thursday, August 17, 2006

President eager to connect with community, students

August 17, 2006

New Baker University President Pat Long is a people person.

She spent the first six weeks on her new job meeting many Baldwin City residents, including hosting an ice-cream social in Harter Union.

"I love this town," said Long, who took over as Baker's president on July 1 and moved into the Collins House a month later. "The first week people kept bringing in flowers to welcome us here. It doesn't take long to fall in love with Baker University."

Long thrives around people. As a child, it was common for her to invite four or five friends over to play.

"It was never just one," said her mother, Bernice McCaslin. "She always liked a lot of people around. She's very outgoing and it was easy for her to make friends."

Long, the university's 28th president, succeeds Daniel Lambert who had been Baker's president for 19 years. Long and her husband, Dennis, a retired electrical engineer and their dachshunds, Frankie and Morgan, moved into the Collins House on Aug. 5.

On the job for only a few weeks, Long is at ease with people.

"In all situations she has the same personality and way of working with people," said former Johnson County Community College colleague Jackie Snyder, now Chancellor of Metropolitan Community Colleges. "She always fills you up and helps you out, yet is very focused on doing a good job. She's a terrific leader, a natural born leader."

Steve Ballard, chancellor of East Carolina University who was a provost at the University of Missouri-Kansas City during Long's time there, refers to her as "the ultimate colleague and leader.' "

"She always paid attention to others. When she knew I had a rough day, she would come by the office late, drag me out the door, and we would go to our favorite ice cream place. Somehow a hot fudge sundae with Pat Long cured most ills," Ballard said.

The ability to bring people together was one reason Long was selected for the Baker Presidency. Baker Trustee Chair Bob Honse, who led the search for a new president, said he knew that expectations would be high for anyone who followed Lambert's long and successful tenure.

"Pat is very bright and is highly-regarded in educational circles for her breadth of experience and success in managing change," Honse said. "She rose to the top of the candidate pool because of her great presence, her leadership qualities and her solid record of accomplishments."

Those who know Long agree that there is more to her than charisma.

"Pat is a complete leader," Ballard said. "Great leadership starts with integrity and trustworthiness and Pat excels at both. I've never worked with anyone who has greater character strengths than Pat Long."

Long's younger sister, Debbie McCaslin, explains that those strengths came from the farm and the family.

"We were fortunate to have both sets of grandparents growing up and they taught us our work ethic and values," McCaslin said. "She's honest and her moral fiber truly is what it is. Her Lord comes first, her husband second and we come third."

Long applies honesty in her profession in a healthy but not all-together common way, notes Ballard.

"She knows the value of direct conversation. When something didn't seem right, she would come and say, 'Steve, that didn't feel right to me,' and we would always talk about it. She knew how to do this without blame or emotion, so that made the conversations productive," Ballard said. "The ability to have real conversations without authoritative or emotional overtones is a great leadership strength, but not a common one."

Long's leadership abilities have been recognized her whole life, and it is evident in the way she has consistently moved up the career ladder.

She started out teaching adult basic education in the Kansas City, Mo., school district and soon became head teacher in that program. Long later moved on to Johnson County Community College where she would work for 17 years, first as a testing assessment assistant.

Then, through a series of promotions, she was appointed Dean of Students. From there she went to UMKC where she was Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. Within a year she was promoted to Deputy Chancellor for University Communications and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. When the school's chancellor resigned suddenly in 2005, the president quickly tapped Long to help lead the university as Acting Executive Vice Chancellor. While at UMKC she is credited with accomplishing big things. Long helped move a $200 million capital campaign toward completion and developed and implemented the university's first marketing plan and first enrollment management plan. She managed a budget of more than $50 million and over her career led the design, acquisition and construction of three new facilities.

Her big accomplishments may have something to do with her enthusiasm for diving into new things -- a quality she's always exhibited. Her mother describes Pat as a bit of a "daredevil" and recalls one instance when a man traded the family a motorcycle for a parcel of land. "Charles (her father) was wondering how we were going to get the thing home and Pat said, 'I'll ride it!' "

The family watched in amazement as she hopped on and rode away.

"She was so fearless in taking on new challenges," Long's sister said. "She wasn't afraid to try anything. She loved skating and water skiing and she worked in the hayfields.
She wasn't afraid to fail, and she rarely did."

While she's not averse to risk, Long makes it clear that she's a risk-taker with boundaries.

"I have strong intuition about whether something can be successful and I think I have enough experience to know when you can and when you can not take risks," Long said.

It is no surprise then that Long has jumped into her new role full force, and she speaks repeatedly about working together to move Baker forward.

" 'Forward, together' is a phrase I use because it truly will take each of us for Baker to continue to thrive and lead the pack," Long said. "We have an outstanding faculty, supportive community, committed staff and Baker clearly is student-centered -- from our undergraduates through our graduate, nursing, professional and doctoral students. We have a rich history of success, but we can not stand still. We will need to build buildings, fund new programs and raise our scholarship endowment."

In her first two weeks on the job, Long signaled the importance of fund raising when she hired a new Vice President for Advancement. Long chose Lyn Lakin, a colleague from her days at UMKC. Lakin comes to Baker with a long history of success in fund raising for non-profits.

With all of her accomplishments to date, and those that are sure to come, Long would be most pleased if people know her for one thing.

"I would be happy if people say I'm still the same Pat they always knew, that I've stayed true to who I am," Long said.

Pat's background
1951 -- 1969 Born in Wheatland, Mo., Long was the middle child of three girls. The family lived on a cattle farm then moved to a home on Lake Pomme de Terre when her father started a construction business. A good student, Long also was a cheerleader, homecoming queen and point guard on the basketball team.

1970 -- 1973 Attended Southwest Baptist University where she played basketball, volleyball and majored in mathematics. She worked as a student assistant in the math department where Associate Professor John Smashey became her mentor. Long credits him with helping her finish her degree so she could marry her fiance who was headed overseas.

1972 -- 1974 Married high school sweetheart Dennis Long who, with draft number 30, had enlisted in the U.S. Army. In 1972 she accompanied him to his new station in Germany where she taught soldiers on base who wanted to earn their G.E.D.

1974 -- 1981 Taught in the adult education program in the Kansas City, Mo., School District. During that time she earned her master's degree in adult education from Central Missouri State University.

1982 -- 1999 Earned her Ed.D. in Educational Policy and Leadership in Higher Education from the University of Kansas in 1993 while she was working her way up the ranks at Johnson County Community College.

2000 -- 2006 Left JCCC to become a member of the administrative team at UMKC. At the time she departed, UMKC was without a chancellor and Long, as Acting Executive Vice Chancellor, was one of the top administrative officers. Selected in March 2006 to become Baker's president, Long began her new duties on July 1, 2006.

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