Leadership Institute says goodbye to Director Gleason

Leading leaders: Michael Gleason claps for students, faculty, staff and community members that support the Leadership Institute. Gleason made a strong impact on the Leadership Institute during his time at Washburn.

Morgan Holloway

Since 2013, Michael Gleason has served as a mentor, advisor, lecturer and the director of the Washburn University Leadership Institute. As the Leadership Institute celebrated their accomplishments throughout the past year Tuesday, April 23 at the Topeka Civic Theatre, they also said goodbye to Gleason.

Gleason reflects on one of his favorite parts about the Leadership Institute.

“My favorite part is being able to see students grow, develop and go beyond their self-perceived, self-imposed limitations, try new things and then be able to reflect on that and do even more next time.”

While serving as the director of WULI, Gleason has strengthened the community partnerships and relationships like United Way and the Aleshire Venture Grant Program, helped to develop the Master’s in Communication and Leadership program, worked to create the High School Leadership Academy with the help of the Topeka Community Foundation, worked to make LE100: Exploring the Concepts of Leadership became a general education course and broadened LE300: Leadership Skills Development.

Associate Director of the Leadership Institute, Lauren Edelman, works closely with Gleason. Edelman began as the associate director in 2014.

“He’s worked really hard to help us as a program continue to build our academic credibility, while offering amazing experiences for our students to learn real life leadership, not just in the classroom but in everyday context. He has definitely moved the program forward tremendously in his six years here,” said Edelman.

He has also worked closely with Abby Price, the outgoing Student Leadership Council Fellow. Price has taken on many roles on the Student Leadership Council during her time at Washburn.

“Michael pushed me to be a better student and also to believe in myself, even when I thought that I couldn’t do it anymore,” Price said. “Even though he may not have necessarily pushed me to take risks, he knew that I would challenge myself and he would support me. He is very quick witted and has a timely sense of humor which is something that not a lot of people know about him. He is honestly one of the funniest people I know.”

Not only has Gleason largely impacted the Washburn campus but also the Topeka community. Ron Brown, Chief of Police for Topeka Public Schools, is one of the many members of the community to work with Gleason.

“Michael is an amazing professor who has done a phenomenal job with the Leadership Institute. He has been a pleasure to work with for these years that he has been here,” Brown said. “He’s always positive and upbeat, pleasant and does an amazing job with his students, and as a result of his effort, his students have been successful. He’s a great guy. We’ll miss him terribly.”

Prior to coming to Washburn, Gleason worked at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where he will be returning in the fall of 2019. Gleason will serve as the Irving R. Burling Distinguished Professor in Leadership. He is an associate professor and will also direct the Institute for Leadership Education.

Edelman has worked with Gleason for five years on daily tasks and projects. During their time together, Gleason has positively impacted Edelman.

“Michael has had such a tremendous impact on me as a person and a professional. He has been an amazing mentor, supervisor and friend. He’s one of the most collaborative people I’ve ever met. He’s such a team player. He’s just given me so much confidence and provided so much experience for me to grow, develop and learn. He’s one of the best people that I know,” said Edelman.

While excited for the opportunity at Wartburg College, Gleason will miss the relationships he has made in Topeka and at Washburn.

“I’ll definitely miss the people. Bottom line, the people, in terms of staff and the faculty. I get to work with the students and then also the community members because I think the community members are what makes what we do work. They’re the ones who allow students to come in and do community engaged projects and to practice leadership within those organization and support those students who provide mentorship,” Gleason said. “I think this is a really special place for the way that can happened in the Topeka community. I hope young people understand how they have the ability to craft this community around them and become a part of the action and the change right now.”