Centenary College of Louisiana Founders' Day 2007
Comments by Nancy Boone Word '70
January 25, 2007, Brown Memorial Chapel
Comments by Nancy Boone Word, Class of 2007, following her introduction by Dr. Virginia Kilpatrick Shehee, Class of 1943
"What an honor it is for me to follow Virgina today. I did some 'googling' on you in preparation for Founders' Day and my favorite nugget that I found about you was in your Senate tribute on Oct. 18, 2000. While describing your amazing contributions related to establishing the Biomedical Research Institute, your fellow senator said 'nothing could capture the indefatigable energy of Virginia more than the words of a lapel button, which someone distributed to the participants of an industry-hunting trip led by Virginia — which said: 'I survived Shehee's march!'
When Ken asked if I would speak today, I thought how much fun it would be to reminisce with you all about Centenary and in the process, reflect on how my experience here shaped my life. As I was collecting my thoughts for today, I started by refreshing my memory of what it was like back in 1966 when I graduate from high school at the ripe old age of 17. Here is what my world looked like back then when Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States and Charles DeGaulle was President of France:
* The U.S. population was bout 197 million (vs. 301 million today)
* The Dow Jones high was 950 and hit a landmark 1,000 briefly in February
* Average cost of a new home was $23,300
* Cost of a first-class stamp was 5 cents
* Cost of a gallon of regular gas was 32 cents
* Our average life expectancy was 70.2 years
* The Supreme Court decided Miranda vs. Arizona resulting in Miranda rights
* Medicare bean on July 1st
* And Dr. Christiaan Barnard and a South African team performed the first successful heart transplant
But some of my best reminiscing was around these factoids:
* The first Star Trek episode aired on Sept. 8th
* Best Picture was Sound of Music
* Some of the top songs of 1966 were Cherish, 96 Tears, You're my Soul and Inspiration and Reach Out I'll Be There
* Mission Impossible, Get Smart, The Brady Bunch, Batman, I Dream of Jeannie, Daniel Boone, Gilligan's Island and the Andy Griffith Show were some of the most-watched TV shows
Getting to Centenary
Once I got a grip on what the world looked like in 1966, I proceeded to think back on how we went about selecting a college for me. There was never a question of if I wold go to college for in my family that was just a given. My mother graduated from Rice in 1937 and my father graduated fom OU in 1933 — he worked his way through school in the depression by mopping floors in a mental institution. So, how did a girl from Dallas, Texas find Centenary College? My mother had a friend whose daughter was at Centenary and liked it — so off we went to see the campus. I remember the beautiful gardens, the cozy campus, but the real decision maker for me was strawberry pie — yes, I ate at Strawn's and my life was forever changed.
Now I'm In
I had no ideas what to expect once I got to Centenary but from the moment I arrived, I felt right at home in James Dorm room 201L. I decided to major in math just because — I really can't remember why... but I have to tell you that the liberal arts part of my education here turned out to be every bit as important as my math major. I went to what I thought was a very good high school in Dallas. I was fairly confident of myself from an academic perspective and I graduated in the top 10 percent of my class. It never dawned on me that I didn't know how to write a paper, but it apparently dawned on Dr. Labor immediately. The first time I "wrote" a paper in his English 101 class I was mortified to see an "F" on it — I nearly had a heart attack! I was perseverant, however, and braved it into his office for a little "one on one" consultation.That was the second thing that changed my life. I am happy to report that "I totally got it" when Dr. Labor told me where I had missed the boat — really that I didn't even have a clue where to go to catch the boat. I found a mid-term exam that I saved from English 201 ith a grde of "98" on it and I quote — "a gold star exam — I've given a 98 only once before, and 97's only twice." I am hoping I still am tied for his highest grade given on his mid term.
As I tried to sum up what were the most important things that I took away from centenary, besides the love of my life, Brown, I found there were three distinct building blocks that were immensely important in my professional and personal life. No single skill is cited more often by employers as being important than the ability to communicate effectively in oral and written form. During the time I was at Centenary, we had what most today would consider a very primitive method of communication — you had to go talk to the person. There was no email, no voice mail, no electronic anything except a typewriter so we all spent a lot of time talking one-on-one with our professors. I received so much knowledge and reassurance from my professors — and in the process I learned how to communicate whether it was writing a paper or giving a speech in front of the student body or performing at Spring Sing in the amphitheater. I am very fortunate to be on the board of a retail company, The Container Store. We have foundation principles by which we manage all aspects of our business. One of them is "Communication is Leadership" — I have found this to be ever so true throughout my career and personal life.
And that brings me to the second most important thing I gained from Centenary — confidence. Because of the small, nurturing environment here, I became involved in so many activities and areas of study that I would have never attempted on my own without the encouragement of my professors and classmates. You might think there is no relationship to surviving a drill by Don Danvers on the definition of a Topological Space and standing in front of the CEO of a large corporation and explaining how you are going to rectify your multi-million dollar technology project that is overdue and over budget. Believe me, the experiences were very similar in that they definitely built strength of character!
Perhaps my most important Centenary take away was the ability to collaborate — at all levels. As I was thinking back on what was so unique about Centenary, I decided that it was that atmosphere of openness — a strong sense of community — where we were encouraged to work together whether it was pursuing knowledge, fun, better ways to self-govern or lead. My ability to engage people, work cooperatively with them, motivate them, and deal well with conflicts certainly began here at Centenary. Ultimately, collaboration made me more flexible — I actually became well known for being the Queen of Plan B...
My career evolved from being a programmer (that degree in math paid off her) responsible for only my own work to being a Vice President for Computer Sciences Corporation where I was in charge of teams and of very large technology projects. Every step of my career involved collaboration inside and outside of CSC — and communicating with confidence along the way.
while I was in Centenary I never felt I was treated any differently because I was female. I was made to feel my possibilities were endless. Women have made tremendous progress in so many ways — it's hard to believe there was a time when companies had beauty pageants where nominated female employees were paraded on a stage at the annual family picnic. This was a tradition in 1970 with my first employer, Exxon. Thank goodness those days are behind us!
* Women will account for over 50 percent of the growth in our labor force over the next 10 years;
* Women in the U.S. have purchasing power of more than $3.3 trillion annually;
* 95 percent of family financial decisions are made by women;
* and women are projected to acquire over 85 percent of the $12 trillion in growth of U.S. private wealth between 1995 and 2010. We just flat out live longer than men. Thankfully, all doors are open to women now — and the benefits of a liberal arts education, which were available to me back in 1966 are even greater today.
I would like to close with this quote from Lee Iacocca regarding his liberal arts education:
In addition to all the engineering and business courses, I also studied four years of psychology...I'm not being facetious when I say that these psychology courses were probably the most valuable courses of my college career...I've applied more of these courses when dealing with the 'nuts' I've met in the corporate world than all the engineering courses in dealing with the nuts (and bolts) of automobiles.
Thank you, Ken, for inviting me here today.