7 Leadership Lessons from Gene Tempel

Last night I had the incredible honor of attending the retirement celebration for Gene Tempel.  Gene is the Founding Dean of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, former President of the IU Foundation, among the Nonprofit Times’ 50 most influential people in the nonprofit sector for 13 years and much, much more. Eugene_Tempel

1. Be a true builder

Charles Bantz, Chancellor of IUPUI, shared the podium and told of Gene’s early years at IU where he built strong, lasting and trusting relationships. He spent time with people that others wouldn’t…or couldn’t.   Gene nurtured those relationships for the betterment of the institution and those involved.  It laid the foundation for what would come over the next several decades.

2. Say what you feel…and then listen

Clay Robbins, President of The Lilly Endowment, reminded the crowd that Gene was quick to share his opinion on any matter – but just as quick to listen and consider the perspectives of others.

3. Be a ‘practical dreamer’

Diana Aviv, President of the Independent Sector, called Gene a ‘practical dreamer’ – one that shares and communicates a vision that is truly inspiring but based in real possibility.  ‘He dreams big but also has the makings of a plan in place before shopping that dream around’.

4. Complete, utter dedication

Caroline Altman Smith, an alumna and mentee of Gene’s, now working at the Kresge Foundation, reminded us that without decades of dedication, there wouldn’t be the world’s first school dedicated to learning about giving.

5. Humility always wins

In a touching tribute, Gene’s son Jonathan reminded us that Gene grew up on a farm in southern Indiana, on the edges of poverty and was the first in his family to graduate high school, and then college.  “Above all is Dad’s humility – tempered with a quiet confidence to see things through”.

6. Pass the baton when it’s time

Gene closed the evening with his own heartfelt comments and humble gratitude.  He challenged the room, including a few of us ‘rookies’ – to take control of the future of philanthropy – and don’t let go until we’ve accomplished what’s needed.

7. When something is right, keep pushing forward

Today, because of Gene Tempel, philanthropy is recognized as part of the academy and society – 25 years in the making.  Because of ground breaking work over the last several decades, not only does IU have the first Masters in Philanthropic Studies (1997), the first Doctorate (2003) and the first Bachelor’s program (2010) – today over 200 universities offer degrees and 340 universities have courses in nonprofit management and philanthropy – worldwide.

An incredible journey – and we’re all glad it’s not over. Thankfully, Gene will remain a faculty member – getting back to the classroom he loves. Thank you Gene, from all of us.

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