Couple Establish Fordham Visiting Professor of Leadership
Lynn Fordham is passionate about the need for leadership throughout society. His world-view approach to the subject recently found a local focus when the Lexington resident, a retired research scientist, corporate executive, and entrepreneur, along with his wife, Joellen, established the Fordham Visiting Professor of Leadership at Transylvania.
Fordham sees training and motivation in leadership concepts and skills as essential for college students preparing for meaningful careers. The professorship will give Transylvania students those opportunities.
“There are many college graduates who are bright, and nothing else,” Fordham said. “That’s why I stress the importance of the non-intellectual aspect of leadership. It has been a critical quality for me throughout my career.”
The visiting professor program, which will be funded through a charitable remainder trust established by Lynn Fordham, will bring leaders of international prominence to Transylvania to teach and interact with students, faculty, and staff. There will also be lectures and presentations to the wider public community. The appointment will be for one or two full terms, or for May term.
Although Fordham’s research and corporate background is in science and technology, the scope of leadership training offered under the professorship will be broad. Special attention will be given to the areas of education, technology, and economics.
“Mr. Fordham’s interests are broad enough that the visiting professors can be very diverse in their backgrounds,” said vice president and dean of the college William Pollard. “We could invite people like the recently retired president of Yale University, the CEO of Procter & Gamble, or the poet laureate of the United States, for example. The possibilities are virtually endless.”
As much as possible, there will also be a distinctly futuristic look to what the visiting professors bring to campus.
“The selection committee will give preference to those who have demonstrated the Fordhams’ interest in leaders who can set projects and ideas in motion before they become generally popular, and who can see the way things will happen,” Pollard said.
“The addition of the Fordham Visiting Professor will place our students in classroom contact with world leaders and innovators, established leaders who model the creative skills so thoroughly based in the liberal education ethos. This is going to be a very exciting program for our students, as well as for the Transylvania community and the public.”
Fordham, a native of Canada, was educated at the University of Western Ontario and held research and corporate positions at diverse companies, including the Polymer Corporation in Ontario, Monsanto in Massachusetts, and the Diamond Shamrock Corporation in Ohio and Texas. His research into free radicals attracted international attention among research chemists. He provided the technological leadership that led to the creation of substantial wealth in both product and service businesses.
After surveying several locations in the U.S. Southeast, he and Joellen chose Lexington as their retirement home and moved here in 1995. They now focus mainly on investing and philanthropy. Fordham is widely read and keeps up with important political and cultural news and trends around the world.
“I consider myself to be a broad-based technologist,” he said, “as well as a good businessman, well qualified in a variety of subjects such as income tax, estate planning, healthcare, investing, asset protection and philanthropy, all self-taught, using the basic beginnings I got in my education years.”
Fordham has increasingly come to value the liberal arts aspects of his college experience at Western Ontario, even though his major was in chemistry and physics. That was a motivation when he and Joellen were choosing a college for a major donation. Also, they chose Transylvania in part because of their appreciation of the University’s historic role in providing national leaders, including two U.S. vice presidents and a Supreme Court justice.
They were very impressed with the University overall, especially the Transylvania students they met.
“The reason we picked Transylvania over any other college is that we are so impressed with the way it stands out as a unique educational institution,” Fordham said. “It also represents the values of the past, which modern society constantly needs to keep in focus. We hope our donation will act as seed money, to inspire others to create similar opportunities.
“The students who are attracted to Transylvania are a special group. They have outstanding student qualities as exemplified by their courtesy and humility, and are well suited to be worthy representatives of a class institution. They are finding that special relationship with their Transy professors that can only occur at a small liberal arts college. You carry your messages through the young and the educated, and Transylvania’s students are very worthy of this professorship.”
Though neither he nor Joellen had a previous personal link with Transylvania, they now feel they do. They enjoy attending various lectures and cultural events on campus.
“When you get involved with an institution like Transylvania, you develop a personal connection,” Fordham said. “You’re not a graduate, but you become a friend.”