DEANS’ MEMORIAL LECTURE
Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions
March 13, 2008
St. Petersburg, Florida
My remarks today begin with some brief historical meanderings, a
propensity into which we seniors are prone to lapse, and for which you youngsters
are generally forgiving and patient---as I trust you will be with me today.
The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions has been integral to my
life for so long that I cannot recall with any certainty when I first became a member.
It was likely in the early 1980s when I was named the Acting and soon thereafter
Dean of the College of Health Sciences at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical
Center, now Rush University Medical Center. At that time, the name of this
organization was the American Society of Allied Health Professions.
The Society’s membership was diverse across most of the allied health fields,
and it was much larger, consisting of most of the leaders in the health professions as
well as many faculty and practitioners. As I attended ASAHP’s meetings in my
early decanal years, I floundered around in them and felt little comfort or
collegiality. They appeared to me highly, perhaps mostly, political, and I would
depart each one with the sense that I had gained little that would improve my
capabilities as a dean of one of its schools nor my capacity to become a meaningful
member of the organization. At the time, I was also serving as the Dean of Rush’s
Graduate College, and while I felt obliged to support both allied health and
graduate education, I contemplated if my investment of time and resources would
not pay greater dividends to me and my institution in the Council of Graduate
It was fortuitous indeed that as I was pondering that question, the Midwest
Deans of Allied Health in Academic Medical Centers held its annual meeting at
what is now Rosalind Franklin University of the Health Sciences---which is just
north of Rush’s home in Chicago. Unlike what I experienced at the Society’s
meetings, here I found a friendly, welcoming, inspirational group of deans whose
agenda was largely void of politics and focused keenly on helping each other become
better at what we love to do---deaning. Of course, the Midwest Deans organization
discussed ASAHP issues at its meetings, which reinforced the important relationship
between the two. I have always maintained that the regional deans/college of health
deans were a source of great strength for ASAHP, despite a few occasional tensions.
As the years passed and I persisted in my involvement in ASAHP and the
Midwest Deans, the number of my colleagues in allied health leadership across the
country grew large. Without question, I became a better dean as I learned from
them. I was provided with many opportunities to work on committees and task
forces to address numerous issues in allied health, accreditation, doctoral education
and others. I proudly represented ASAHP in many of those instances.
In the early 90’s, the Society once more became the Association of Schools of
Allied Health Professions as we ended our relationship with the management
enterprise that had controlled much of our administration, learning at the time that
we owned nothing and had very few resources. Not long after we entered our new
stage of organizational development, I was elected your treasurer for two terms and
then your President.
As I assumed those leadership roles and each year at our meeting reviewed
the growing list of those to whom we pay tribute today who have passed away and
as I listened to those who delivered the Deans’ Memorial Lectures, I had no doubt
that I would one day have my name added to the first list, but I wondered if I would
also have the honor of being on the second list. I deeply appreciate the compliment
that you accord me this afternoon in inviting me to deliver the 2008 Dean’s
Before I move into what I would like to share with you today, would you first
join me in a few moments of silence to acknowledge our colleagues on the list whom
we are remembering and honoring today through this continuing lecture series for
their contributions to their institutions, to our organization, to the nation’s
extraordinary progress in allied health education, research and practice---and,
perhaps most importantly, for their gifts to those of us who have known them, been
guided by their wisdom and enriched by their friendship. (PAUSE)
I have often said---though perhaps not as often followed my own guidance----
that the best advice about oratory is first to be sincere, second to be brief and third
to sit down. Today, especially after our lunch and our desire to enjoy this beautiful
location, I promise to be sincere and will do my best on the latter two
Last year, we so enjoyed Steve Wilson’s lessons on leadership; his natural
sense of humor combined with his powerful counsel on mastering the art of
leadership provided a memorable address. Steve cannot be here today, and I know
that you join me in missing his presence and wishing him well.
For the next few minutes, I would like to share some personal reflections with
you on two related themes: the first are three retrospective considerations about
being a dean; and the second, three prospective propositions about being a retired
The dean’s role is a mighty responsibility and an equally colossal privilege. I
am certain that I did not fully understand the depth of those parameters when I
assumed either of the deanships at Rush at the youthful age of 40. However, at the
conclusion of the more than two decades that I served as dean of the College of
Health Sciences and the Dean of the Graduate College, I have from time to time
over the past couple of years reflected on what had contributed most to my success--
--assuming you allow me that egotistical professional denouement. I would likely not
have cited these three those many years ago.
Of course, success derives from a multiplicity and interaction of personal
qualities, the challenges and opportunities of the times, and the environment. These
I highlight today seem important to me as I think about my years as a dean,
although not in any ranking order. I could have cited others as well. They are
rather elementary so do not expect philosophy, theories or metaphysics.
My professional career began in 1962 at Robert E. Lee Junior High School in
Orlando, where I taught 8th and 9th grade English and civics for $3,500 annually. I
was unmarried when I started, but I soon became wedded to the school and my
students. After a short time I knew then my calling was to be a teacher; I, as many
teachers who have taught me and whom I have known as colleagues, was genuinely
dedicated to making a positive difference in people’s lives. But, it was soon clear
that I could not make a living as a public school teacher. I had student loans, and
my income---even with my simple lifestyle---was inadequate. So, it was on to
graduate education at the University of Florida. Before I went to Rush University, I
had a number of jobs and most were not in universities.
One quite memorable was at Middle Tennessee State University, where I was
assigned for the academic year to an inner-city school to supervise student teachers
and to work with the school’s instructional staff on curriculum improvement. In the
summer, however, I was hired to teach, and oh---what a summer it was! I taught
five graduate level courses, none of which I had ever taught before (including, for
example, Public School Finance, the Law of Public Education, the Secondary School
Principalship (having never been a school manager) and two others, six days a week
for ten weeks to aspiring school administrators, many of whom were the same in all
five of my classes. For each course, I was compensated $110. I also had to
participate in summer commencement---95 degrees in black gowns for two hours on
the sweltering football field in Murfreesboro, Tennessee! It was a grueling summer,
but I look back on it today as a terrific opportunity, a significant challenge and
wonderful experience. It reinforced for me how much I enjoy teaching.
In most of the positions I held outside the academy through those early
years, I sought and gained teaching positions as adjunct faculty---in one case driving
through the West Virginia snow-covered mountains to get to my evening students
for the College of Graduate Studies.
Then I arrived at Rush. With no healthcare background, I was concerned
that I would not find a niche where I could teach. But, we began a program in
Health Care Administration soon after I arrived, and I found that my background
in education and administration was a unique complement among so many with
clinical backgrounds. From 1978 until I retired in 2006, I always was an active
My first retrospective then is that deans should always teach. In no other
way does our appreciation for our faculty become as understanding and sincere; our
faculty also senses that we better comprehend the stresses that they experience.
Teaching also reminds us regularly of the daily strains and pressures on our
students. Teaching---just one course a year, a seminar series, an on-line
instructional unit, occasional lectures---keeps one grounded in the university’s
educational mission in a way that no other activity quite does. I believe it also
brings substantial personal rewards unlike few other accomplishments one may
At the last graduation celebration for Rush’s program in health care
administration two weeks before my retirement, the alumni association named me
its first honorary alumnus. I was truly overwhelmed. What a marvelous way of
saying thanks to me for all of those years of preparing lesson plans, grading papers,
directing master’s theses, advising students on career decisions, and filling the host
of other roles that teachers are called to perform. I communicate still with many of
my former students and am currently serving as a mentor to one of my former
faculty who is pursuing her doctorate. My first retrospective then is deans should
always be teachers.
In an organization like Rush University Medical Center, characterized best
as a big hospital with a primary mission of patient care and a supporting mission of
hosting a university dedicated to education and research in medicine, nursing and
health sciences, leadership opportunities are endless and boundless.
I joined the Rush team in 1975; my boss, Executive Vice President Gail
Warden, whom some of you may know, hired me to help design, organize and staff
the infrastructure for this new senior-level health professions university, established
just prior to my arrival. He asked that for the first six months I complete an
evaluation of what needed to be accomplished and at the end of that time, he would
create a position and a title for me within it. It was a challenge for which I felt
uneasy as I had spent little time since completing my doctorate in a university and
none of it had been in the health sciences. Nonetheless, I moved forward on that
task with zeal I hardly knew I possessed. It was exhilarating. Today, I am
exceptionally proud of the university that Rush has become and the contributions
that it is making to its community, its state and the nation.
My opportunities for leadership roles were numerous. First, I become a
director, then an associate dean, then an assistant vice president, then the Dean of
The Graduate College, Vice President for Academic Services, followed shortly by
being named Dean of the College of Health Sciences and in the final years, Associate
Provost. For more than a decade I served as Chairman of the Medical Center’s
Budget Committee. I served as the University’s self-study coordinator on three
successful ten-year accreditations for the Higher Learning Commission of the North
Central Association. I was co-director of Total Quality Management. I filled the
role of Acting Chairman of the Department of Health Systems Management for four
marvelous years. There were many, many other leadership roles that I filled at
Rush. I was also abundantly active in local, state, regional and national
I review these with you not as a braggart but rather to illustrate my second
retrospective on deaning: seek and accept opportunities to be a leader. Each one
will increase your intellectual capability, expand your talents, broaden your circle of
colleagues, heighten your decision-making influence, and lead to greater
opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those you serve. Do not be fearful
of failure; no one bats a 1000. Do not be fearful of time; you can manage it.
Each of the successive appointments that I received was a vote of confidence
by colleagues and supervisors that trust in my judgment and confidence in my
integrity were justified. As one looks back over a career, few rewards could be
neither finer nor more sustaining? My second retrospective then is you will be a
better dean by seeking and accepting many opportunities to lead---especially in roles
outside your comfort zone.
My third retrospective is one that I learned much later than I should have or
wished that I had. Caught up in the excitement of managing an enterprise with a
sizeable professional and support staff, millions of budget dollars, lots of space,
equipment and other resources---all directed at making a positive difference in
other people’s lives---as the responsible and accountable individual for all that was
happening under my watch, I failed adequately to recognize publicly that the
enterprise succeeds not because of you, although you are important element in the
equation, but because of the vast profusion and plurality of the individuals and
teams with whom you work. I used to teach about satisfiers and dissatisfiers, but in
hindsight, I did not fully and enthusiastically adopt this management philosophy
into my practice. In those early years especially—without conscious negligence of
others----I suspect that I assumed too much of the credit for successes such as living
within or doing better than budget, raising the mean GPAs of entering classes,
increasing retention, hiring faculty stars, competing for external research awards
and honors, getting programs accredited------the list of opportunities for bestowing
recognition and rewards is nearly endless, as you know.
Working with students for so many years, I learned that focusing on and
communicating progress and positive behaviors serves as a powerful motivator of
future effort. Every ceremony---not just those for students and graduates but also
for faculty and staff and colleagues—provides creative moments to consider how to
recognize individuals and teams.
The esteem accorded the dean carries with it a magic that one can use in
powerful ways to influence behavior. One of my preferences for recognition was to
handwrite personal notes (sadly an art that is fast disappearing in the age of text
messages and electronic mail). Often I would make a copy of the note and send it to
the student’s or faculty member’s chair or to someone else who would provide third
party reinforcement. The many expressions of “thank-you, Dr. Trufant, for your
note” that I received helped me to realize how much others seek and enjoy the
dean’s recognition, commendation, praise and acclimation.
Who among us has not felt the burning glow of having a respected colleague
highlight one of our accomplishments? And how long does that glow continue
burning compared to the last time one was informed of a modest salary increase?
I recall an incident as though it occurred yesterday from the 2004 Deans’
Memorial Lecture that was delivered by Dr. Larry Abrams of Thomas Jefferson
University. Toward the end of his lecture, he was emphasizing the significance of
the quality of integrity in leadership, and in illustration of his point, he said
something to the effect, “leaders with integrity like Jack Trufant.” I was astounded.
He went on briefly to describe why he used me to make his point. That moment is
etched indelibly in my memory. I daresay that everyone here does his/her utmost to
be honest, fair and truthful; it is an entirely higher dimension of demonstrating
those traits to be singularly identified in front of the colleagues one most admires for
exemplifying such qualities.
So, my third and final retrospective on deaning is to be lavish in your praise
and recognition of students, faculty, and colleagues. Nearly everyone has an
accomplishment worthy of commendation or a quality worthy of emulation. It is the
creative dean who will seek them out and use the tactics that fit her/him best to
recognize and reward excellence. Each of us has tremendous leverage to use the
magnitude of our positions in this remarkable way.
And now, I shall move on to my three prospective propositions about being a
When one sets out on a career, the date of one’s potential retirement seems
eons away. My first job following college was in 1962---retirement was not even until
the next century. It also seemed so enticing when one is in the daily flurry of getting
to work everyday, doing one’s best to get ahead, raising children, buying a house,
saving money for their college educations, trying to squeeze in vacations, and so
forth. How many of my young and younger colleagues and friends when learning
that I was preparing to retire or had already done so remarked, “How envious I am!
I can’t wait to get there.”
What at 45 or 50 seemed so distant arrived much faster than I ever thought
that it would. And, as that imminent time drew nearer, the allure was not as
magnetic as it had been in those early career years. That said, I was nonetheless
eager---perhaps slightly nervous---about what lay ahead.
My first proposition about retiring derives from a lesson gained from
observations about a very dear colleague who was much older than I. For many
years, she was at the top of her game---successful researcher and author; admired
administrator; acclaimed teacher; internationally renowned innovator and orator;
she had achieved what many of us envy. She was universally liked. She and I
worked closely together for many years, and I knew and loved her well.
As she moved into her late 60s and continued to hold her high-level decision-
making position, it became clear to all of us who worked with her that her capacity
to manage the huge responsibilities under her administration was diminishing. She
lived largely in the past and on her previous achievements. She became irascible
and petulant when her proposals for new programs or budget requests were
questioned or denied. In management meetings, she became long-winded and often
digressed into unrelated tangents. She failed to read materials that would prepare
her for an upcoming event. Students complained about her teaching.
Unfortunately, she felt as though her vigor, alertness, skills, and energies
were as robust as ever. One day, the President informed her that a search would
begin for her successor; she could, of course, continue her professorship and she
would be provided with an office, a budget, and needed support services. Most of us
expect that that conversation with our supervisor will occur one day, and many of
us even look forward to it. Apparently, she did not.
Her reaction to the President’s pronouncement was outrage. She shared her
vexation widely over the next year as the search for her replacement proceeded and
then concluded. While she located to another office in another building, she rarely
occupied it, and her presence on campus quickly dwindled.
She and I have seen each other occasionally over the past 25 years, and many
other colleagues have seen her as well. We have all shared the same conclusion
following our interactions with her. Her resentment of the injustice that she believes
was inflicted on her has never abated; in fact, her indignation has magnified with
the passage of the years. I wish I could report a happy ending to this tale, but it is
not to be. For all of her marvelous talents and contributions, she remains bitter and
angry toward the institution and its officers.
No career coach nor personal tutor could have provided as stark a lesson in
how not to conclude one’s professional life as I witnessed in this friend and
colleague. As is so often true in many aspects of our lives, others can discern our
foibles, weaknesses, and shortcomings, but we cannot. Or if confronted about them,
we frequently lapse into disbelief or denial.
From that time nearly 25 years ago until July 1, 2007, my retirement goal
was crystal clear: announce your departure before anyone wonders and concludes,
“When is he going to step down? He’s lost the edge.” How does one know when
that moment arrives? I cannot answer for you; each of us must conduct his/her
Unlike my crestfallen colleague, I entered retirement elated. I was proud of
what I had accomplished. I felt deeply grateful to the institution and its leaders for
providing me with a career more rewarding than I had ever imagined. My
recollections of my long service are happy; my friendships remain lasting and
Retirement proposition one is not to wait until someone has to inform you
that your time has passed. How much better for a host of reasons to be somewhat
early than to be somewhat late!
Now on to retirement proposition number two. Reading the popular
journals about preparing for retirement would lead one to conjecture that
retirement must be filled with stress and anxiety. First, you have to adapt to the
psychological condition that now you are no longer someone important as you once
were. You are warned that you and your spouse cannot possibly be with each other
so much of the time without arguing and growing to dislike each other; divorce
rates of seniors are cited. You are told that your days cannot be happy unless you
have them filled with volunteer work, golf-outings, hobbies, and numerous other
activities to keep you busy and exhausted. You’re advised that you won’t have
enough money to maintain your desired standard of living and do the things that
you would like to do. Travel will be best in tour groups or on cruises so that you
don’t get lost or robbed. And, of course, you’ll have to think about giving up your
privilege to drive and start to explore alternative living arrangements. Expect that
you will have more ailments, and your health care costs will exceed your income.
Those of you in retirement or approaching it could add to the list. All that golden
age loquaciousness tarnishes retirement prospects; what could be more
unattractive---better to stay put!
Speaking just from my now nearly two years of retired experience, this phase
of life has so many rewards and joys. Of course, one faces a few travails; those
mirror all other stages of life. However, while we have our individual activities,
being with my wife day in and day out is wonderful; I believe we share more
common interests that we ever have. We rarely have a disagreement. For me, the
days are never long enough to finish all of my projects; I do not have enough time
to read everything that I want to read. I enjoy my exercise routine more than I ever
have. The opportunities to fish, canoe, hike, and do the others things I often
neglected are now unlimited. I sleep more restfully than I have in decades. Our
travels are for longer periods of time with no sense that the end of the vacation is
growing too close. And we have yet to go on a tour bus (although some highly
recommend them)! I have more time to spend with our children and friends. And,
ah, morning coffee that isn’t in a metal carry mug with time for a newspaper that
one can read beyond the headlines is among the treasures of this magical time. I
was enthralled with my work; I am delighted with retirement.
My second retirement proposition, therefore, is to understand that this time
of life is what each of us wants it to be. The expert pundit’s “The Retirement
Handbook” was likely written by a 40-year old who relied on tables and charts to
guide his recommendations. Write your own handbook and edit it everyday!
My third retirement proposition, rather pedantic, I fear, is closely related to
the second: life makes no guarantees about tomorrow so take full advantage of
today. Do not defer---either before retirement or after----all of the secret yearnings
that you have. As I approached the beguiling age of 65, several of my friends and
colleagues of similar maturity experienced life-threatening illnesses; some became
incapacitated; and indeed some passed away. We tend to think that such tragedies
will not fall upon us. So my counsel---as I passed my 67th year yesterday---is:
splurge on something that you have always wanted but thought was too
extravagant; travel to that destination that you always thought was too far away or
too expensive or, maybe even, too dangerous; contact an old friend and reconnect;
begin to write that book that you always knew was possible but never started;
exchange your wedding vows again and go on another honeymoon; order Dom
Perignom on a special occasion; in other words, treat yourself as someone special
because you really are!
Before I close. I trust that you will indulge a digression to allow me to
address one of my passions: the ASAHP Scholarship for Excellence Fund. At our
annual meeting in Charleston, S.C., now probably ten years ago, six of us adjourned
to a local watering hole after a long day of meetings. On the second round, we were
discussing new initiatives that we might undertake for the Association. The idea of
creating the ASAHP Scholarship Fund was suggested, and all of us agreed it was a
great idea. The six----Steve Wilson, Rich Oliver, Hugh Bonner, Chris Bork, David
Gale and I each contributed $100 to have ASAHP T-shirts created that we could sell
at our meetings to begin to raise the funds. Well, that part of the idea didn’t work;
Tom used to or may still have boxes of ASAHP T-shirts hanging around the office.
However, the ASAHP Scholarship For Excellence Fund at the end of FY 2007 had
over $73,000 in it, and over the years many of our students have been awarded these
scholarship honors. Three of my former students received them, and I can assure
you that the honor of being named an ASAHP Scholarship recipient rivaled the
I had the privilege of announcing the first awardees at our annual conference
some years back on behalf of the original six. It was a glorious moment. Soon after
that meeting, I received the most wonderful note from Dr. Gordon Green, then
Dean at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, informing
me that he had made a $100 contribution to the scholarship fund in my name. He
could not have selected an honor that suited me more. Since that time, I have
contributed to the scholarship fund to honor Dr. Steve Wilson, Dr. Richard Oliver,
and Dr. Tom Elwood, all of whose contributions to the health of this society, the
education of tomorrow’s health care workforce, and the promotion of allied health
in our nation have been formidable.
The lecture today has a $500 honorarium associated with it. I am requesting
that the honorarium be deposited in the ASASHP Scholarship for Excellence Fund
in honor of the following colleagues and friends:
Dr. Gordon Green, who demonstrated through word and deed that
physicians could be the allied health practitioners’ best partners and
Dr. Ronald Winters, whose commitment to helping ASAHP become a
more data-driven organization has elevated the national status of our
Dr. Frances Horvath, whose understanding, commitment, and
promotion of the value of accreditation to the quality of our programs
was a model for all of us.
Dr. Larry Abrams, a leader of unparalleled energy, who raised the
prestige of the allied health professions in countless ways.
Dr. David Yoder, whose wisdom and counsel, patterned in a life of
honesty and good works, serves as a beacon to all of us.
I would like to encourage all of you to consider making contributions to the
ASAHP Scholarship for Excellence Fund in honor of someone whom you admire
and respect. It’s a wonderful way to express your esteem.
I hope you enjoyed my three retrospectives on deaning and my three
prospectives on retirement. I thank you for giving me this brief window of time in
your life to share my perspectives with you. I am genuinely very honored. Now, I
suspect that I have not been as brief as you would have preferred, but I promise that
I have been sincere, and I will now sit down.
John E. Trufant, Ed.D., FASAHP
Retired Dean, College of Health Sciences
Rush University Medical Center