Photos: Retired Brigadier General Dick Abel; also, HSU Provost Dr. Tommy Brisco; theatre chair Larry Wheeler; dean of Logsdon School of Theology, Dr. Don Williford; and Dr. Chris McNair, dean of Holland School of Sciences and Mathematics, during singing of God Bless America, led by dean of College of Fine Arts, Dr. Robert Brooks
Though he is the author of two books on the subject of leadership, retired Air Force Brigadier General Dick Abel asked audiences during the inaugural Fletcher Lecture Series at Hardin-Simmons University to consider leadership principles from another work—the Bible.
Drawing his words and inspiration from the third chapter of Colossians, Abel told students, faculty, staff, and community leaders, “‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.’ Do the right thing, do it the right way, for the right reasons, for the right master.”
Abel was the featured speaker in a series of four lectures, March 21, 2013, held on the HSU campus.
Established last year and named for Hardin-Simmons University President Emeritus Dr. Jesse C. Fletcher, the Fletcher Lectures is an annual opportunity to invite inspirational speakers to campus to inform, challenge, and inspire.
“During his exceptional career in the Air Force, he was a skilled pilot who taught others to fly,” said HSU President Dr. Lanny Hall during his introduction of Abel.
Abel led the Warhawk jet acrobatic team. He was chief of public affairs for the Air Force Academy and was an assistant football coach at the Academy. Since his retirement from the Air Force, Abel has served on the senior staff of the U.S. Olympic Committee, as national president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and for 14 years as executive director of the Military Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
“Those 14 years, coupled with his 30-year military career, makes him a 44-year servant to military members and their families who are focused on protecting the freedoms and the way of life we enjoy today,” said Hall.
Abel, the founder and president of the organization Leadership Is ALL About People, is also the author of two books, The DNA of Leadership, which focuses on the 18 characteristics that develop leadership qualities, and Vector Corrector, a collection of weekly ethics lessons to help stay on course with one’s character.
Abel remembers his days in sports, pointing to the audience, he says, “Do you remember that guy in the locker room that everyone called preacher boy? ‘Hey preacher boy,’ they would say, but it was that person everyone would turn to when there was a crisis in someone’s life. If you are that kind of person, people will be drawn to you. They know you are different. They need you to put your arm around them and tell them, ‘God loves you, I love you,’” said Abel.
Alex Montgomery, a nursing student who claims both Midland, Texas, and Los Lunas, New Mexico, as hometowns, said Abel captured his full attention with his animated presentation and numerous descriptions of his experiences. “I really thought the simplicity of the message was also its biggest asset,” said Montgomery.
The four lectures included a luncheon, a leadership development session for HSU faculty and staff, and a leadership development session for students.
The noon lecture brought community leaders to the campus, including former Dyess Air Force Base wing commander and now a key leader in the development of the City of Abilene, retired Col. William Ehrie; retired Major General Mike McMahon, also a former Dyess Wing Commander, and now president of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce; and former Abilene Christian University president, Dr. Royce Money, and his wife Pam.
Abel said of leadership, “It is never about the leader, but about the people who are served. Your legacy is about the people you meet, about what you do to invest in peoples’ lives. I decided long ago that it is my duty and my honor to make a positive impact on someone’s life each day; to be a blessing.”
The Fletcher Lecture Series honors Dr. Jesse C. Fletcher, who served with distinction as president of HSU from 1977 to 1991 and chancellor from 1991 to 2003, and is now president emeritus.
Fletcher is credited with building Logsdon Chapel and the Logsdon School of Theology, as well as the Johnson Building, the Mabee Athletic Complex, the pond, the John Hunter Baseball Field, the Frost Center for the Visual Arts, and many other campus improvements.
“The earnings from the Fletcher Lecture Endowment have made this day possible,” said Hall, “along with the generous support of two HSU graduates, Keith and Cherry Griffitts.” Griffitts is president and owner of Western Petroleum Resources, Inc., in Dallas, Texas, and a long-time member of the HSU Board of Trustees.
“If there’s one nugget you can take with you today, know this: be a servant leader. Be a lover of man and woman, boy and girl, and you will make a difference for eternity,” said Abel.