Whitaker Wins Award

Dr. Roger Whitaker, founding dean of The George Washington University’s College of Professional Studies, awarded Julius

Roger Whitaker
March 11, 2012

Dr. Roger Whitaker, founding dean of The George Washington University’s College of Professional Studies, was awarded the Julius M. Nolte Award for Extraordinary Leadership by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) at their 97th annual conference held March 28-30. 2012 in Portland, Oregon.

The opening remarks, which follow, were given by Sue Maes, Dean Continuing Education at Kansas State University.

It is an honor to be allowed to present our association’s most prestigious award, the Jules M. Nolte award. Roger Whitaker is this year’s awardee. Let me tell you about an admired and trusted colleague.

Roger currently serves as a full-time faculty at The George Washington University in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, where he teaches in the Higher Education Administration program.

He was the founding Dean of the College of Professional Studies at GW. One of his colleague said, “Roger’s work in creating the college provides evidence of his broad understanding of higher education and of the need to establish strong colleges, differently conceived, that serve and advocate for adult students.“

Kay Kohl, Past Executive Director of UPCEA says, “the trait that best describes Roger is he is a visionary.” As a resident of Washington DC she witnessed the rapid transformation of GW under Roger who focused on perfecting the “university of the future”. Known as an early adopter of much of what we take for granted in higher education today, Roger has tirelessly led the way to better define the ways in which adult students are served within institutions and to elucidate the ways in which units of continuing and professional studies are defined, governed, and perceived within higher education.

Elected national President of the University Professional Continuing Education Association Roger served 2005-6.

Tom Kowalik, a past president of UPCEA writes, “Early in his career Roger served as a volunteer in Africa with the Peace Corps and this experience shaped a sensitive, bright, articulate professional who possesses a unique view and understanding of adult and continuing education.”

His colleague of over 25 year, Gary Matkin wrote in support, “Roger is an outstanding colleague, always willing to share with others and to be helpful in advancing our profession.”

Another past president, Mark Novak writes, “Leadership guru Mark Sanborn has been quoted as saying that “in the past, leaders were those who knew the right answers. Today, leaders are those who know the right questions.” Dr. Novak goes on to say, “I immediately think of Roger Whitaker when I see this quote and adds, “Roger knows the right questions and used these questions to help shape the UPCEA we see today.”

Pat Book recalls her UPCEA Global Associates travel to Chile, Brazil, Thailand and China with Roger. She witnessed first-hand his commitment to internationalizing continuing higher education.

Currently Chair of the Board of Trustees for The American College of Sofia, Roger has given service for over 20 year to this Bulgarian institution. Roger with his wife Susan moved to Sofia in 1992 as its first President reopening it after it had been closed for 50 years. You must hear this story written by William Williams past chair of the school’s trustee. “The Bulgarian Government handed Roger the keys to a building in 1991. The secret police trashed the building on their way out. Roger, with the help of an elderly pre-WWII alumnus, made the building habitable and reopen one month later. He conducted an entrance exam for over 3,000 applicants for 100 places, recruited a faculty and organized a challenging course of study. What he started is now the best high school in Bulgaria.”

Please join me in standing ovation awarding the Jules M. Nolte Award for Extraordinary Leadership to Roger Whitaker a trusted friend and champion of our profession.”

Dr. Whitaker’s acceptance speech follows:

Since I heard news of this award, I have been reflecting more-and-more about the patterns in my professional life and my connection – for more than 30 years -- to this organization: UPCEA.

Like many of you, I didn’t grow up telling my mom I wanted to be a continuing educator. I wanted to be a professional baseball player. As I quickly realized I couldn’t hit a curve ball and as my teachers said I talked too much (way too much) in class, I thought maybe I wanted to be a minor league baseball radio announcer. That didn’t happen either so now, sadder but wiser, I just want to not finish last in my family’s fantasy baseball league.

But seriously, I found my way to our profession – continuing education – not by accident or happenstance or default, but by a process that on reflection seems predictable -- at least not surprising -- as I wandered through my aptitudes and attitudes, my values and my commitments refining my passion to democratize access to opportunities, -- especially educational opportunities -- and looking personally and professionally -- for a safe harbor and source of inspiration as I followed my curiosities and tried to do things that mattered. That is why I found myself at home in our profession.

I found my way to our association – over 30 years ago -- because my commitments and values converged with so many who are here this morning.

I have been a proud member of the UPCEA community for most of my professional life because I share with you a commitment to WHO WE SERVE – those who by choice or circumstance are considered non-traditional, or perhaps better stated today: post-traditional.

I have been a proud member of UPCEA because of WHAT WE DO. We gather to share the existential challenges of our work, to learn best practices and, sometimes, to candidly share our frustrations and our predicaments.

But beyond whom we are committed to serve and what we actually do, I am especially proud to be a part of this community because of the character of its members: WHO WE ARE.

At our best, we are a restless group – we are impatient improvers – as Bob Dylan once wrote: Halfway Content Most of the Time.

And, at our best, we are friendly to new ideas, prepared to listen and learn and move beyond self-serving assumptions. However inconvenient for the academy, this is what puts us at the edge of innovation with strategic imagination.

Finally, at our best, we are advocates – advocates for the principle that we have a responsibility to enable diverse populations to pursue their hopes and highest aspirations, to take more control over their life changes, fulfilling personal ambitions and developing under-appreciated potential.

We are advocates for the notion that it is our responsibility to prepare a workforce to address enduring and the emerging needs of the globalized economy.

And we are advocates for the principle that we must never waiver in our embrace of the proposition that a civil and stable democracy requires an educated citizenry.

I am proud to consider myself one of you because of who we serve.

I am proud to consider myself one of you because of what we do.

But more that who we serve and what we do, I am most especially proud this morning, to think of myself as one of you. It is for this reason, that I am so honored to accept this award on our behalf. Thank you.