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April 2018

McDermott Scholars with Ted McPherson in Leadership Series conducted by the University of Texas at Dallas

Last month I was honored to make remarks and conduct wide-ranging discussions with the McDermott Scholars, who are students in one of the most selective undergraduate merit award programs in America, as part of the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) Leadership Program.

In 2000 Margaret McDermott endowed $32 million to provide rigorous education, cultural enrichment, global travel, and leadership experience to the world’s best and brightest students in honor of her late husband Eugene McDermott, co-founder of Texas Instruments and the University of Texas at Dallas.

Each year 25 entering students, or fewer than 4% of 650 special applicants, are carefully selected to receive a full four-year scholarship to UTD as a McDermott Scholar.

The University of Texas at Dallas, now with 28,000 students, is ranked the #1 University in the United States under 50 years old and is well on its way to being a Tier I Research University.

After offering thoughts about “The Value of Being Unreasonable”, reinforcing one of Mrs. McDermott’s themes of achieving Big Goals, I then told stories about “Character” necessary for achieving valuable results in the real world.

A free-wheeling discussion of many topics then tapped into the voices, viewpoints, various experiences, academic priorities, and diversity and inclusiveness of this pleasant and remarkably accomplished group of young men and women. Far better for me to simply be a facilitator of and contributor to the discussion, rather than over extend my role as “a sage on the stage” with this group!

The McDermott Scholars are special to my wife Sally and me, having added many unique dimensions to our lives.

Our relationship started nine years ago when Mrs. McDermott, then at age 97, now still issuing instructions to UTD officials at 106, visited at Sally’s invitation with us in my historic family home in Gettysburg, PA, never having been to Gettysburg.

Mrs. McDermott stayed four nights, during which time she:

  • Toured the 140,000 square foot Visitor Center and Museum, viewing the 22-minute film A New Birth of Freedom that describes the causes and consequences of the entire Civil War period in America, as context from 1860 through the 13th Amendment that prohibited slavery;
  • Saw the stunning, massive Cyclorama Painting of Pickett’s Charge that is four stories high and 377 feet in circumference done in 1883.
  • Travelled key portions of the 6,000 acre Gettysburg Battlefield, including standing on the summit of Little Round Top;
  • In fact, Mrs. McDermott was so struck by the significance of the events at Gettysburg that she made it possible since her own visit for Sally and me to host every McDermott Scholar class in our Gettysburg home for the past nine years. The Scholars also participate in the full day In the Foot Steps of Leaders program conducted by the Gettysburg Foundation, and are expected to continue to do so for many more years.

Incidentally, Mrs. McDermott also:

  • Gave a dinner party in a house on the Battlefield;
  • Received the key to the town presented by the Mayor of Gettysburg at a party we gave for her with local friends in our home built in 1870;
  • Walked through President Eisenhower’s entire home while viewing his farm at Gettysburg;
  • And wrote a thank you note to each guide and person who added to her visit — simple acts of gratitude doing what’s right in the McDermott Scholar and Texas Instrument way still mentioned throughout the Gettysburg community.

You can understand why she wore me out such that I took a nap as soon as she left for the airport!

… and why the McDermott Scholars are people of competence and character.