Early in her 20-plus-year career in higher education, Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., developed a reputation as “the VOR – the voice of reason” – who was the go-to person for getting things done. The more her career evolved, though, she adopted an approach of engaging others in developing and implementing plans.
“Leaders need to be seen as engaging and actively involved. Then, surround yourself with people who are key leaders who are accountable but have the ability to make decisions and be major players on the team.”
That perspective is among many that Dr. Franklin, president and CEO of Des Moines University, shares in a new book, You Are Destined for Greatness, by Aaron Putze, APR, a Waukee, IA-based author and director of communications and external relations for the Iowa Soybean Association. Putze based his book on the experiences and life’s lessons of 27 Iowa leaders.
Other individuals featured in the group include Terry Branstad, Iowa’s longest-serving governor and now U.S. ambassador to China; Randy Edeker, chairman, CEO and president of grocery store chain Hy-Vee Inc.; Wendy Wintersteen, president of Iowa State University; and Kirk Ferentz and Hayden Fry, current and retired, respectively, head football coaches at the University of Iowa.
Proceeds from all direct-from-the-author orders of the book, through August 13, will benefit Junior Achievement of Central Iowa and its support of youth empowerment activities.
Putze’s 2017 book, Chuck Long: Destined for Greatness, was inspired by another University of Iowa football star. Long held every passing record at the university except one – passes attempted in a game – when he graduated in 1986. A Heisman Trophy candidate and a College Football Hall of Fame inductee, he went on to play in the NFL for the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams before transitioning to a career as a football coach.
Putze interviewed several individuals for that book and noticed several leadership themes were emerging. “The origins of You are Destined for Greatness emerged from early conversations I had with individuals for the book about Chuck,” he says. He decided the content of those conversations merited their own book. He categorized the material into 16 themes that make up the book’s chapters, including “Shoot Straight,” “Be Ready,” “Set an Example” and “Authenticity Matters.”
Long, now CEO and executive director of the Iowa Sports Foundation, had met President Franklin and encouraged Putze to include her in the book. “Your leadership experiences would add greatly to these themes and depth of content explored in You Are Destined for Greatness,” he stated in an email message to her in April 2018.
President Franklin talked with the author several times about her background and career. She reflected on the influence of her mother, an English teacher, and father, a business owner, who emphasized the importance of education and “aspiring for things that were bigger and better than where we were.” The South Carolina native majored in psychology at Furman University, earned her doctoral degree at Emory University and worked with families and couples as a clinical psychologist. She was then invited to teach psychology at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. There, she moved from assistant professor to full professor and took on leadership roles including dean of admissions and director of counseling services.
“It was all intriguing and getting involved on the administrative side of education was something more than I thought,” she stated in the book.
Having mentors such as Louis Sullivan, M.D., founding dean and president of Morehouse School of Medicine and later U.S. secretary of health and human services, was key to President Franklin’s pursuit of her professional goals.
“I gathered a lot of people around me because I was open to asking questions and open to their input and what they had to say,” she said. She completed the American Council on Education Fellowship Program and embraced more leadership positions at Morehouse and then at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. She was executive vice president and provost of the college when she was invited to interview for the position of president of an institution in southern California. She had a “wonderful visit” and received positive feedback from the campus community, but – as one of two finalists for the position – she got the impression she was the institution’s “backup plan.” Dr. Sullivan gave her some tough advice.
“He told me, ‘Angela, you should never have to play second fiddle to anyone. Withdraw from the search,’” she recounted in the book. It was meant to be: Within a week, she received a call asking if she would be interested in the DMU presidency. With Dr. Sullivan’s encouragement, she pursued the opportunity and, in March 2011, was named DMU’s 15th president.
“So here I am, almost eight years later, still here and still having a great time,” she said in You Are Destined for Greatness. “I’m having fun; there are real opportunities to continue to grow and transform this organization. It’s a place I’m honored to serve.”
President Franklin says a central concept of the book is that everyone has the ability to do great things. She hopes it will inspire the next generation of leaders.
“Some of us featured in the book didn’t know we could do what we’ve been able to do,” she says. “We had some of the same doubts, worries and concerns that readers may have. Our experiences can provide ideas on how to navigate those.”