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How leaders handle circumstances often determine how they are perceived.
“If you are in a position of leadership, anybody that is in education or placed in a position of leadership should recognize there are people looking to them to see how they handle situations — particularly adversity,” said writer/actor/speaker Thomas Gossom, Jr., an Auburn University alum, who addressed members of the Faculty of Color Conference Thursday, May 30, at Lowder Hall.
“They look to see how they handle things that may change, or things that are beyond the status quo or require you to move to new traditions or a new reality. If you are going to be that person who moves people to follow your lead, you have to come up with an attitude that makes people want to emulate you.”
Gossom, who appeared in movies "Fight Club" and "Jeepers Creepers 2", and played roles on a number of hit TV series, including In the Heat of the Night and NYPD Blue, is best known in Auburn for the role he played on the football field at Jordan-Hare Stadium from 1971 – 74. As a receiver for the Tigers, the Birmingham native was the first black athlete to graduate from the university.
“The 1970s was probably the biggest cultural change in my lifetime,” said Gossom. “That was difficult for some people. Things may or may not be going well at times. You use that to make you stronger and make you grow as a person.”
Gossom’s address Thursday evening kicked off the 2013 Management Faculty of Color Association-Marketing Ethnic Faculty Association, sponsored in-part by the Auburn University College of Business. Twenty-one educators from a variety of colleges across the nation descended on Auburn for three days of networking and fresh ideas.
“It was amazing,” said Dr. Millicent Nelson, MFCA President and Associate Professor in Management and Marketing at Middle Tennessee State, said of Gossom’s presentation. “He was a minority at a school where people either didn’t know him, or didn’t want to know him. He had positives in college in terms of learning, but there was the social part of it, and that’s what he lacked and he resented that.
“We are all professors, and in many cases, we are the only minorities in our departments. Some of us have that resentment from being the only person there. Part of being a colleague is being able to interact. You spend as much time at work as anywhere else.”
Dr. Garry Adams, Associate Professor in Strategic Management at Auburn University, served as local arrangements coordinator for the conference.
“He (Gossom) relayed back to us that this is a chance for us to be role models and make a difference in the lives of the people we encounter,” Adams said. “It was a really good talk.”
Gossom earned a bachelor's degree in Communications at Auburn, but considers himself to be “an entrepreneur.”
The author of “Walk-On,” a book released in 2008 about his experience on the Plains, Gossom now operates the communications and marketing firm Best Gurl Entertainment.
“For me, business was taking a product that I believed in and putting that product in the marketplace to see if, in fact, I could sell it,” he said. “That product was myself. It’s worked out fairly well.”
For a photo gallery of last week's conference and Gossom's visit, follow this link: http://bit.ly/10VR1OH