The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 5, 2013

Speaker emphasizes building leaders ‘the right way’

JOHNSTOWN — Evan Offstein took a look at 50 or so high school students in front of him Tuesday and saw the next generation’s educators, business administrators and community leaders.

Then, the author and Frostburg State business ethics professor challenged the teens to lead “the right way.”

“If you’re here, chances are you are going to be leaders in college and your careers, too,” Offstein told a group of Bishop McCort, Conemaugh Valley, Forest Hills, Greater Johnstown and Richland students that was mostly comprised of class officers and student council members. “I’m asking you today to make a commitment to do it right – to lead with honor and integrity.”

That’s the West Point way, said Offstein, a West Point graduate and former military intelligence officer who wrote “Stand Your Ground” about the elite New York-based U.S. Military Academy’s leadership-based education in 2006.

Offstein served as keynote speaker at a Pennsylvania Highlands Community College leadership program Tuesday as part of its annual John B. Gunter leadership series. High school students attended a day of events that included a panel discussion with local educators, business and manufacturing leaders.

“We talked about taking initiative,” said Louis Vuckovich, a program organizer, saying one workshop focused on building resumes beyond jobs and titles.

“That bottom section of the resume – where it shows what you’ve really done in your community.”

Now is the time for the young leaders to start, Offstein said.

Leading, he said, means doing what it takes to make those around them better, not just personal goals.

Enron’s leaders, then-Chairman Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling were intelligent executives who built the energy company into a billion-dollar powerhouse, but then watched it slip through their hands thanks to greedy decisions, he reminded them.

“They didn’t tell the truth,” Offstein said.

Oftentimes “small decisions” are the ones that truly build character, he added, saying gossiping, cheating on tests and buying fake IDs are simply a matter of right and wrong.

“Take the high ground,” Offstein said.

Robert DeLusa, a Conemaugh Valley senior, called it “sensible advice,” the kind that will help guide him toward his goal of becoming a teacher in the years to come.

“It means a lot, given my leadership goals in life – and what it takes to be successful,” he said.

Offstein praised Penn Highlands’ program Tuesday.

“I took a couple like this in high school and it shaped the trajectory of my life,” he said.

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