Things are only impossible until they’re not.
– Jean-Luc Picard
Volume 73 | Issue 2
March 2005

From the President: Eye on the future, hands on the present

Daniel Maxwell

Editor's note: Ann Claussen, Moravian College, will not be assuming her role as ACUI president for personal health reasons effective March 24, 2005. ACUI President Daniel Maxwell will continue his term through March 2006.

About this time last year, I had traveled to Washington, D.C., a couple of days prior to my “check in” time with the Board of Trustees for the annual conference. My sister and her family live in Springfield, Va. I am blessed in many ways and treasure the fact that my family remains close and we enjoy one another's company. While visiting them, my nephew Anthony (age 5) asked when I was moving to Washington, D.C. I shared with him that I was only visiting for a while because of my conference, but that someday I hoped to move to be closer to them. And with a very “I know what I am talking about” expression on his little face he replied, “I thought when you were president you had to live in the White House in Washington, D.C.”

It has been an amazing 12 months serving as ACUI president. While I never got to live in a white house in Bloomington, Ind., I have enjoyed all aspects of my presidency. I had an amazing role model in Michael Henthorne, and each of the past presidents have, in their own way, provided guidance and support. As Henthorne (2004) shared, “We all wear many hats in the profession, and we have each developed a style of leading that works for us” (p. 8). He went on to talk about his use of metaphors. I would have to say that I use a balance of humor, straight talk, and a touch of political finesse. I would like to think that it is okay not to agree, but there is always a need to move forward and be respectful.

It is always important to keep your eye on the future, your hands on the present, and your heart and mind balanced between the two. Throughout my last two years on the Board of Trustees, I have seen, to name a few, the creation of the ACUI Education and Research Foundation, the completion and implementation of the Recreation and Leisure Activities Task Force, the completion of the 2000–05 strategic plan, the first-ever webinar launched and the success of this new genre for the professional development of our members, an enhanced and ever-improving Web site, increased participation in the ACUI Registry Employment Service, and stronger and growing corporate partnerships. While we have been challenged financially during that two-year period, I am proud to say that the leadership of the Board of Trustees, the experience and determination of our executive director, and the tightening of the fiscal belt by the Central Office staff brought us through on top. This past fiscal year has permitted us to contribute to the reserve 5 percent of our dues income, which has not happened in several years, and we will pay off 20 percent of the Corporate Partnerships start-up costs.

Through this past year, I have learned it was and will continue to be important to me in this role to:

  • Trust the process. A few years back, the leadership of the Association led us all through a transformation with the implementation of the strategic plan, which included constitution and bylaw revisions and enhancing how we do business on a day-to-day basis. While it was not always an easy process, the vision created opportunities for every individual member to voice his or her thoughts, to be involved, and to make a difference. We have made great progress during the last five years, and I feel proud of what our Association has accomplished. However, our evolutionary process is not over, and we must remain engaged in the process and speak up.
  • Stay the course. It is not always easy to remain on a path that one did not develop for himself or herself. At times, we want to move in an easier or more comfortable direction, but it is best to remain on the path. We might not complete each task because of new insight or knowledge that was not available when we chose the path, but we must still complete the process in getting to the end point. As we come to the end of the current strategic plan, we recognize that not everything outlined was attempted, completed, or successful. Yet, we stayed the course and are better prepared to develop the next five-year strategic plan for the betterment of the Association.
Control what you can and let most of the other stuff go. Have you ever read “Don't Sweat the Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson? In his introduction Carlson (1997) writes:

Whenever we're dealing with bad news, a difficult person, or a disappointment of some kind, most of us get into certain habits, ways of reacting to life—particularly adversity—that don't serve us very well. We overreact, blow things out of proportion, hold on too tightly, and focus on the negative aspects of life. When we are immobilized by little things—when we are irritated, annoyed, and easily bothered—our (over-) reactions not only make us frustrated but actually get in the way of getting what we want. We lose sight of the bigger picture, focus on the negative, and annoy other people who otherwise might help us. In short, we live our lives as if they were one great emergency. (p.1)

Not everything is a big emergency, and we do not need that much drama in our lives. What is important is to determine what the concern is, how to deal with it, and move on. Drama is drama no matter how well it is acted out. Let it go.

  • Enjoy the small wins. It is not always about the big win. When I was a child watching my dad coach football, I would get all wrapped up in the score of the games. The bigger the win, the happier I thought my dad would be and, therefore, I should be. What I learned from my dad and a few years of working in higher education is that a win is a win. It is not always pretty and it is not always by a wide margin, but I have learned to appreciate those wins and move forward. The flip side is that we don't always get the big wins we think we should, and, therefore, we must take joy in the wins we receive regardless of their size.

  • Take calculated risks.While I have always been comfortable with taking risks, I have relearned the importance of making time to inform and educate those around us in preparing to take those calculated risks. Not everyone is comfortable with change or with risk-taking behavior; it is important not to ignore those feelings.

  • Things work out best for those who make the best out of the way things work out. This is actually a mantra of my father's that, sadly, I learned of after his passing in 1998 of cancer at the age of 61. A number of his former football players shared this philosophy with my siblings and me. We can waste a lot of time worrying about what did not happen, or we can simply move forward and make the best out of the way things worked out. It is not always easy, but when I remind myself to do this, I find many reasons to smile.

Please feel free to drop me a line if you should ever have a question or comment. I look forward to the opportunity to serve you again through this next year as your president.


Carlson, R. (1997). Don't sweat the small stuff. New York: Hyperion.
Henthore, M. (2004, March). It's all about the hand-offs. The Bulletin (72)6, p. 8.