The Courage to Go Where No Campus Has Gone Before

Hear from Frederick V. Moore, J.D., President Emeritus, Buena Vista University

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The Courage to Go Where No Campus Has Gone Before

By Frederick V. Moore, J.D.,
President Emeritus, Buena Vista University
CampusWorks Executive Advisory Board Member

In 2000, I was in my fifth year as president of an institution known as a pacesetter in learning technology. That spring, in a Technological Task Force meeting, a faculty member with phenomenal expertise in the field floated the idea of becoming a totally wireless campus. Today, nearly all colleges and universities have ubiquitous wireless systems. But a quarter century ago, wireless was still in its early stages. We studied the issue extensively, but knew we had to decide that spring when no other institution had done what we were exploring.

The experts on our team advised that based on early testing such a system was likely to work, but there were no guarantees. Should there be unanticipated problems that resulted in failure, the impact on campus and in the educational press would be devastating. On the other hand, success would differentiate us in the marketplace.

Frederick V. Moore, J.D.

Fred Moore served as president of Buena Vista University for twenty-two years and was named president emeritus in 2017. He is currently a search consultant with AGB Search. Prior to his service at BVU, Fred was vice president for development and general counsel at North Carolina Wesleyan College. He has served on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Council of Independent Colleges, and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. He holds a Juris Doctor with Honors, an MBA, and a BA from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Courage, though a necessary characteristic in leadership, is not sufficient without a team of experts who can advise the president in a collaborative manner and a communication strategy that ensures stakeholders know why a decision is being made. Bold presidential action with these elements is the real formula for success.

After balancing all the risk factors we could account for, we elected to move ahead. As the cutover to the new system proceeded, we held our breath until our IT Director gave us the word that the system was working — and a brand-new era dawned at the University.

We had rave reviews from all quarters, and the University was featured in a national advertising campaign that brought us publicity we could never have afforded to purchase. Enrollment shot up quickly as we began a new chapter in the University’s history – ubiquitous computing.  

When one thinks of courage, phrases such as bold action, calculated risk taking, and decisions absent perfect information come to mind. Those terms certainly applied in this case. But we could have never succeeded without careful analysis, as well as collaborations and communication that built the case for the decision we made.  

Technological advances over the last quarter century mean that new presidents will not face decisions exactly like the one we made. Nevertheless, new chief executives will encounter decisions where there are no guarantees, where the information is not perfect, and the risk of failure could have monumental consequences. In those moments, new presidents must have the internal constitution to take bold action when necessary. However, courage, though a necessary characteristic in leadership, is not sufficient without a team of experts who can advise the president in a collaborative manner and a communication strategy that ensures stakeholders know why a decision is being made. Bold presidential action with these elements is the real formula for success.  

Learn more about Fred and CampusWorksExecutive Advisory Board »