In Memoriam Philip Pumerantz: A Final Tribute to Caring

I posted this tribute to Philip Pumerantz, PhD, on April 15, 2015, shortly after he announced his retirement as President of Western University of Health Sciences. In it, I briefly examined some noteworthy leadership traits that I observed in my limited contact with him.

With the announcement of his passing on December 26, 2017, I felt it was important to revisit this leadership tribute and add a few more thoughts in his honor.

Next to the statue of Dr. Pumerantz, across the Esplanade from the Health Sciences Center, is a fountain with the three building blocks of Western University: Humanism, Caring, and Science. I don’t believe that these were mere words for Dr. Pumerantz; these seemed to be a part of his core values. He was a kind, caring man. That was particularly evident than when he was with his wife, Harriet.

WUHS Fountain

And that caring was extended to the faculty, staff and students of WesternU. He loved the students. He seemed energized by them. In his last few years as President, he insisted on being on stage for all 5 commencement ceremonies. He did his best to stand and congratulate each new doctor. I cannot imagine the superhuman effort that entailed. Having participated in five commencements for the College of Dental Medicine, I can begin to understand his love for the students and his pride in their accomplishments.

I have a close friend who served as a consultant when the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific was being organized. He spoke of Dr. Pumerantz as a shrewd business person, and I don’t believe that this was meant as a negative comment. Indomitability, tenacity, and ambition have also been used to describe him. He has also been referred to as a super salesman. Without that, without the drive that goes along with an unconquerable desire for success, Philip Pumerantz could not have accomplished all that he did.

My original tribute, slightly edited, follows.

 

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Recently, Dr. Philip Pumerantz, President of Western University of Health Sciences, announced his retirement. Even though I have not had the privilege of working directly with him, my nearly six years of contact with him as an employee have provided some valuable lessons.

Dr. Pumerantz founded Western University, starting with the humble beginnings of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in 1977. In the intervening years, the university has grown to include nine colleges of various health science disciplines.

These colleges form a well-integrated, innovative university. For example, we have been pioneers in interprofessional education in the health sciences. But each college is also making a name for itself within its own discipline in health education. Our College of Dental Medicine, where I am employed, is a trendsetter in dental education.

Our clinic facility includes clinics for dentistry, podiatric medicine, osteopathic medicine (family practice), optometry, and an interdisciplinary diabetes center, along with a full-service pharmacy. Each is manned by students who are guided by capable faculty and staff.

All of this is noteworthy enough, but by itself, it would not motivate me to consider a tribute. Rather, it is the man himself, Dr. Pumerantz, who inspired me to write this. I believe that we as leaders can learn much from this great man.

 

Allow me to share what has been most significant to me.

Dr. Pumerantz was a man of vision: he was always looking beyond the horizon. He surrounded himself with capable men and women who caught his vision and have helped him to make it a reality. Many of these individuals are innovators in their own right, and have been given the freedom to develop excellence in their own programs.

He was appreciative. Each year, on the anniversary of my hire, I received a thank you note. This was a very pleasant surprise at the end of my first year. In conversations with us, he always seemed to find something to thank us for. His attitude helped me to realize that my contributions do not go unnoticed.

He created a culture of friendship among all university employees. For lack of a better term, he fostered a “Hilton culture” at WesternU, where nearly everyone is happy to help out. Whether it is the maintenance crew, the mailroom staff, security, doctors, or anyone else: we all greet one another and treat each other well. This culture was well established before I joined the faculty, and that made it easier for me to adjust to academia.

Dr. Pumerantz was an example of community involvement and community service. Indeed, this is a key point of our success. We put on health fairs and screenings and serve in many other ways. Applying students must show a track record of service in order to be admitted! Not the least noteworthy here is how we as a university have helped to revitalize downtown Pomona. Because of what Dr. Pumerantz has done in the community, I was once thanked by the Mayor of Pomona for all the good we do for the city.

Dr. Pumerantz was approachable. He didn’t stay in his ivory tower. He often stopped us to chat. Many university presidents can’t be bothered with that. He embodied the principle of MBWA: management by walking around. Many of my co-workers have told stories of kind conversations with him.

Frequently when I was out walking, I heard him call out “Hello, Professor!” He always had questions about how I was doing, how my family was, how the College was doing – he showed an interest. And I always felt appreciated.

At a social event, he stopped me, my wife and my daughter, and praised my efforts in building the university. At that point my daughter wanted to be a veterinarian. When he heard that, he made an effort to track down an administrator who could be a key contact for her. He was unable to locate the individual, but his effort and his concern were very much appreciated.

Dr. Pumerantz was known for his hospitality. He hosted various events for faculty and staff during the academic year. During our orientation week, which he calls Welcome Week, he and his wife hosted an ice cream social because they wanted to greet all the incoming students and thank them for coming here. For many years this was held in his back yard, until we became too big. Now it is held on campus. But in spite of poor health, they continued to attend.

And following our opening ceremonies at the end of welcome week, he hosted a barbecue luncheon for the new students and their families, along with faculty and staff.

Finally, I have never heard Dr. Pumerantz speak publicly without praising his wife, Harriet. She has been his partner and his support, and has shared all of his achievements. He was quick to point out that he would not be where he is without her. If each of us were as quick to praise our spouses, this would be a better world.

 

I suspect that there may be some character flaws lurking beneath the surface. In fact, I suspect Dr. Pumerantz might point that out himself. But I have not worked closely enough with him to observe that. I don’t wish to insinuate anything negative; I just don’t want to claim that he can walk on water. I only know what I have seen; but I have seen enough to make me admire this great man as a leader and as a good person.

I have a deep sense of gratitude for the privilege I have had to work with Dr. Philip Pumerantz, and for the example he has provided to us. His legacy is one that will benefit all of us.

 

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In the two-and-a-half years that have passed since I wrote this tribute, I still feel that deep gratitude for my connection with Dr. Pumerantz, and for the great privilege to be a small part of the remarkable university that he founded.

His passing leaves a hole in the hearts of all who have been a part of WesternU, one which osteopathic medicine cannot heal.

May we all do our best to continue the legacy which he has established, and continue taking the university, and our individual colleges, to new heights. I believe that is what Dr. Pumerantz would want.

I extend my condolences and deepest sympathies to Harriet and the Pumerantz family, and to all who knew and loved Dr. Pumerantz.

Requiescat in pace, Dr. Philip Pumerantz.

 

For further information, please see:

https://www.sbsun.com/2017/12/27/westernu-founding-president-philip-pumerantz-remembered-as-health-care-luminary/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Pumerantz

https://www.dailybulletin.com/2015/09/05/western-universitys-philip-pumerantz-delivered-a-medical-school/

 

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A Good Leader Leads with Love

self_esteem_lion

There are many inspirational stories circulating around the internet. Some of them are true; others we hope are true. The following is a summary of one that is true, and may touch the hearts of the most hardened leaders. Thanks to Jemma Garraghan on the Why Lead Now blog for this summary.

Oh, and the story is true. See Snopes. And the complete story can be found at: All Good Things.

Leaders, look inward for the lessons to be learned from this story. I cannot share all the insights you may gain from reading this and pondering it. But I invite you to share any good insights you may have gained. 

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One day, a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list.

Before long, the entire class was smiling. “Really?” she heard whispered. “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” and, “I didn’t know others liked me so much,” were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. The teacher never found out if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn’t matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another.

That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral of that student.  She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature. The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. “Were you Mark’s math teacher?” he asked. She nodded: “Yes.” Then he said: “Mark talked about you a lot.”

After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates went together to lunch. Mark’s mother and father were also there, wanting to speak with his teacher. “We want to show you something,” his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.”

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times.

The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.

“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.”

All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.”

Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.”

“I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary”

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I carry this with me at all times,” Vicki said.  Without batting an eyelash, she continued, “I think we all saved our lists.”

Tears rolled down the eyes of the humble teacher.  We encounter so many people in our lives, and it’s a precious joy to see the good in all those journeys.

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self-esteem_wont_build_character

Please note that this is not a call for mindless positive thinking. You don’t need to hold hands and sing Kum Ba Ya in your meetings. That has no place in the real world. Instead, it is a reminder that we cannot lift our teams by putting the members down.

Yes, there are times when correction is needed, but it can usually be given with love. Yes, I really said that. Love is a foundational principle of Steve Farber’s Radical LEAP (that’s Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof). Moreover, it is our team members who produce our bottom lines. Do we show them that we value their contributions? Where do our priorities lie?

And now for the homework. If you gained any leadership insights from this story, take some time to determine how you will apply them. And then go to work and sincerely share the love. As in Sister Helen’s story, the changes may not be immediately apparent, but you will reap benefits.

A good leader leads with love.

To Form a More Perfect Union?

I am of the opinion that the presidential election process goes on far too long. But that is not the topic of these posts.

As I listened to the discussions about the “debates,” it occurred to me that there are two questions I would like to ask each candidate. First: “Who are you?” “Do you have a sense of identity?” “What is it that makes you tick?” “Who is the real you?” And second, “Do you understand and intend to support and live by the bylaws of the organization (i.e. the Constitution of the United States of America)?” “How have you demonstrated that support up to this moment?”

Since these are two very distinct topics, I propose to address them separately. This will deal with the second questions. The first, published previously, is called Your Leadership Compass.

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A good leader knows the guidelines and rules that govern his organization.

Every organization should have written guidelines. Most of my leadership experience is in the non-profit sector. Non-profits are required by law to have a set of bylaws, which are guiding principles for the management of the organization. The same is true for corporations and many other organizations.

250

The bylaws or handbook describe how the organization runs, how it is organized, and may include policies and procedures for the organization. It describes the responsibilities of leaders and the various levels, the responsibilities of members, and may describe the steps necessary to becoming a leader.

Best practices dictate that these documents be in place, readily accessible, and followed. The law also has something to say about this. Whether it is a handbook or a set of bylaws, an organization needs to have some written principles to guide its operations. The bylaws should be available to anyone with a vested interest in the operation of the organization.

stock_bylaws

The leader is expected to set the standards: he or she must understand and follow the bylaws. He or she should take the lead in respecting the bylaws and encouraging others to do the same.

And if a leader at any level consistently ignores the bylaws, he or she should be removed from his or her position. Through methods described in the bylaws, of course. Failure to enforce the rules leads to confusion and catastrophe.

A good citizen is aware that our Founding Documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution contain the bylaws for the leaders of the nation. We have not outgrown these documents, nor can I remember a vote by the citizens to do away with them. Is it unreasonable to expect our leaders to follow them?

A good leader knows the rules, and does his or her best to play by the rules.

Gavel%20and%20scales%20of%20justice%20isolated%20on%20white.jpg-500x400

Creating harmony from discord

TSS-ConflictHow do you deal with conflict on your team? Particularly if the team seems to be distracted from its vision? Or if it threatens the progress of an initiative or even of the organization itself? This is a problem we all face on occasion, and when we are initiating change of any kind, it can put a new initiative on life support.

I just finished reading Dana Perino’s book And the Good News Is … Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side. I am not readily drawn to biographies of celebrities, but this book caught my eye for several reasons (no, one of them was not Dana’s picture on the cover). The last section, where she gives favorite advice and shares life lessons is worth the price of the book.

As George W. Bush’s last Press Secretary, Ms. Perino was privy to many significant events. One event that caught my attention was an account of a presidential visit to Israel to help produce a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Bush met with both Peres and Abbas in order to develop this.

At a state dinner hosted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Bush showed his strong side when it was his turn to speak. I summarize Dana’s words: “The President said, ‘Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. We are honored to be here. The relationship between Israel and the United States has never been stronger. And we have an opportunity here to ensure security for your citizens through decisions we have before us,’ he said and then paused as he looked around the room. ‘But I’m telling you right now— if there’s anyone sitting at this table that is waiting in the tall grass with plans to attack this good man’—pointing at Olmert— ‘as soon as he makes a tough decision, please tell me now. Because I am the President of the United States of America, and I will not waste my country’s capital on you if you aren’t serious.’”[1]

There was silence, then “the Israelis started shifting in their seats after the President’s remarks and they murmured, ‘Oh no, no, no, there are no problems here, nothing to see, let’s move along.’”

President Bush followed up with a question: “Tell you what— I’d like to hear more about all of you. Who here was born in Israel?” Only one cabinet official raised her hand. The President then asked, “Well, what are your stories— how did your families come here?”

They went around the table and told their stories. The atmosphere changed as the Israeli leaders were reminded of their common ground, and even discovered ties with each other that they were not aware of. Bush allowed this to progress, and when the conversation began to die down, he said, “I had a feeling you all may have forgotten why you were here in the first place. Thank you for having us. Good night.”

Later on, Dana asked how he knew what was going on. He said that “based on his observations and his gut instinct, he believed they’d become so wrapped up in the daily politics that they’d lost sight of the overall goal of signing a peace agreement. He had a feeling that they’d just stopped talking to one another, so he decided to take a chance to get them to start seeing themselves as allies for a common cause, rather than as individuals fighting their own political battles.”

To me, this is a powerful lesson. In any team situation, be it at work, recreation, or even in our marriages, it is beneficial to remember what brought you there.

Why are you serving on that committee?

Why did you apply for that job?

What was it that first attracted you to your spouse or significant other?

Have you forgotten “your story”?

As you deal with conflict on your teams, is your perspective based on your common goal?

Do you have the courage to follow your gut instincts in developing unity?

Can you look beyond the initiative to see what the real source of conflict is, and then address it appropriately?

Do you feel empowered, or have you been empowered to stand in a position of strength to remedy these conflicts? If not, do you have the courage to stand up for unity?

Of course, differing opinions will benefit the team–to a point. That diversity stimulates creative thought and productivity. But when you come to a divisive moment, or reach a sticking point, then you must remind the dissenters that you are allies fighting for a common cause, and not just individuals fighting your own personal battles.

There is no simple answer to resolving conflict on your team. But it is often helpful to see how other leaders have handled challenging situations.

A leader looks to the example of other leaders.

[1] Perino, Dana (2015-04-21). And the Good News Is…: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side (Kindle Locations 1488-1491). Pp. 111-113 Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition. Additional quotes also from these pages..

Tribute to a remarkable leader

Dr Pumerantz

Recently, Dr. Philip Pumerantz, President of Western University of Health Sciences, announced his retirement. Even though I have not had the privilege of working directly with him, my nearly six years of contact with him as an employee have provided some valuable lessons.

Dr. Pumerantz founded Western University, starting with the humble beginnings of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in 1977. In the intervening years, the university has grown to include nine colleges of various health science disciplines.WesternU

These colleges form a well-integrated, innovative university. We have been a pioneer in interprofessional education in the health sciences. But each college is also making a name for itself within its own discipline in health education. Our College of Dental Medicine, where I am employed, is a trendsetter in dental education.

Our clinic facility includes clinics for dentistry, podiatric medicine, osteopathic medicine (family practice), optometry, and an interdisciplinary diabetes center, along with a full-service pharmacy. Each is manned by students who are guided by capable faculty and staff.

All of this is noteworthy enough, but by itself, it would not motivate me to consider a tribute. Rather, it is the man himself, Dr. Pumerantz, who inspired me to write this. I believe that we as leaders can learn much from this great man.

Allow me to share what has been most significant to me.

Dr. Pumerantz is a man of vision: he is always looking beyond the horizon. He has surrounded himself with capable men and women who have caught his vision and have helped him to make it a reality. Many of these individuals are innovators in their own right, and have been given the freedom to develop excellence in their own programs.

He is appreciative. Each year, on the anniversary of my hire, I receive a thank you note. This was a very pleasant surprise at the end of my first year. In conversations with us, he seems to find something to thank us for. His attitude helps me to realize that my contributions do not go unnoticed.

He has created a culture of friendship among all university employees. For lack of a better term, he has fostered a “Hilton culture” at WesternU, where nearly everyone is happy to help out. Whether it is the maintenance crew, the mailroom staff, security, doctors, or anyone else: we all greet one another and treat each other well. This culture was well established before I joined the faculty, and that made it easier for me to adjust to academia.

Dr. Pumerantz is an example of community involvement and community service. Indeed, this is a key point of our success. We put on health fairs and screenings and serve in many other ways. Applying students must show a track record of service in order to be admitted! Not the least noteworthy here is how we as a university have helped to revitalize downtown Pomona. Because of what Dr. Pumerantz has done in the community, I was once thanked by the Mayor of Pomona for all the good we do for the city.

Dr. Pumerantz is approachable. He doesn’t stay in his ivory tower. He will go out of his way to chat with any of us. Many university presidents can’t be bothered with that. He embodies the principle of MBWA: management by walking around. Many of my co-workers have told stories of kind conversations with him.

Frequently when I have been out walking, I have heard him call out “Hello, Professor!” He always had questions about how I was doing, how my family was, how the College was doing – he showed an interest. And I always felt appreciated.

At a social event, he stopped me, my wife and my daughter, and praised my efforts in building the university. At that point my daughter wanted to be a veterinarian. When he heard that, he made an effort to track down an administrator who could be a key contact for her. He was unable to locate the individual, but his effort and his concern were very much appreciated.

Dr. Pumerantz is known for his hospitality. He has hosted various events for faculty and staff during the academic year. During our orientation week, which he calls Welcome Week, he and his wife host an ice cream social because they want to greet all the incoming students and thank them for coming here. For many years this was held in his back yard, until we became too big. Now it is held on campus. But in spite of poor health, they continue to attend.

And following our opening ceremonies at the end of welcome week, he hosts a barbeque for the new students and their families, along with faculty and staff.

Finally, I have never heard Dr. Pumerantz speak publicly without praising his wife, Harriet. She has been his partner and his support, and has shared all of his achievements. He is quick to point out that he would not be where he is without her. If each of us were as quick to praise our spouses, this would be a better world.

I don’t want to claim that he can walk on water: I only know what I have seen; but I have seen enough to make me admire this great man as a leader and as a good person.

We tend to become like those whom we admire if we really look at why we admire them. A leader chooses his or her heroes carefully.

I have a deep sense of gratitude for the privilege I have had to work with Dr. Philip Pumerantz, and for the example he has provided to us. His legacy is one that will benefit all of us.