ND graduate Ahearn emphasizes development of whole person, moral compass
Emily McConville | Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Retired U.S. Air Force general, engineering consultant and Notre Dame graduate Joseph A. “Bud” Ahearn spoke to engineering students and faculty Monday night in DeBartolo Hall on the importance of social and moral consciousness in engineering.
The 90-minute talk, titled “Enjoying the leadership journey from good to excellent to extraordinary — performing in the flow,” focused on the development of the whole person and a moral compass and the applications of those qualities to careers in engineering.Ahearn spent several decades in the Air Force before joining the engineering consulting firm CH2MHill. He was also a founding director of Engineers Without Borders and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Notre Dame Engineering Advisory Board.
Great leadership arises from the development of “whole personship,” beyond simply talent and technical competence, according to Ahearn.
“If you think consciously about being a whole person, a whole leader, a whole follower, a whole team member, you’ll find that the community is very significant,” Ahearn said. “That’s why we have this remarkable . . . service program [at Notre Dame] going on. We want you to take that topical learning, that partial experience, those courses and take them to your own communities, wherever you end up living.”
Ahearn said engineers should be aware of the factors that influence “whole personship.”
“If you go to work for somebody who won’t let you bring the whole package — family, lifelong learning, great jobs, great opportunities, participation in the profession, allowing you to speak about the guiding principles of your faith framework and go have some fun — if they don’t make those measures, don’t go there,” he said. “They’re a bunch of jerks.”
“Whole personship” was also influenced by one’s “inner compass,” the moral principles and outlook that guide performance and leadership, Ahearn said.
“The inner compass definition is that you own it,” he said. “Nobody else owns it. It’s yours, and it’s what you bring to market, and it’s the offering of how you can multiply the force of you the person.”
Applicable to engineering, the inner compass included Fr. Theodore Hesburgh’s principles of “character, commitment and caring,” as well as talent, vision, ingenuity and a positive worldview, Ahearn said.
“You become known as the clarifier, the engager, the highly-competitive, highly-reliable, highly-attractive and worth a hell of a lot of money,” he said. “Let me tell you, these folks are really good to organizations.”
The event was organized by the Engineering Leadership and Community Engagement Program. Director Gary Gilot, said the program was founded in September after engineering faculty members, including dean Peter Kilpatrick, encouraged service and connectios with the South Bend community. Gilot said the talk, program retreats and design project are meant to help engineering students develop social consciousness in their work.
“We’re trying to awaken sort of the whole student, the spiritual side as well as the intellect and get them engaged with community,” Gilot said. “South Bend is a community with a lot of needs. We want to open people’s hearts a little bit, see the challenges within the community as an opportunity to learn, how to work in teams, how to do multidisciplinary stuff, how to get things done.”