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Alumnus Phil Kirk '67 Speaks on Leadership, Contends Every Teacher Is a Leader

October 14, 2013

Category: Academics, Alumni, Teacher Education


KirkAlumnus Phil Kirk '67 returned to his alma mater on October 10 to deliver a keynote address to students, faculty and staff in Catawba College's Shirley Peeler Ritchie Academy for Teaching. His message was about leadership and his contention was that every teacher is a leader.

Kirk shared this list of qualities of a good leader:

  • Project self-confidence without being arrogant;
  • Humility is important;
  • Have a sense of humor;
  • Be a good listener;
  • Hire people who are smarter than you and then get out of the way;
  • Be willing to say that you don't know;
  • Have excellent communication skills;
  • Have people skills and soft skills, treating people with respect;
  • Have pride in oneself;
  • Know the value of teamwork;
  • Don't worry about who gets the credit;
  • Leaders don't have to be loud;
  • And a good attitude is important.

Kirk also spoke briefly about some issues confronting educators in North Carolina, including the state's elimination of pay differentials for teachers with advanced degrees. "The jury is still out on pay differentials for advanced degrees. Legislators want to see some research on the efficacy of advanced degrees. The trend is moving to less on longevity and less on degrees and more on effectiveness in education."

He noted the importance of educational partnerships with industries and how these can help students. "Schools cannot do it themselves. Teachers must be receptive to outside help."

Kirk, who currently serves as Director of Brady Energy Services, has many noteworthy former positions to his credit. He is chair emeritus of the N.C. State Board of Education and the N.C. Chamber of Commerce. Early in his career, he was a newspaper reporter and a public school teacher of English and journalism in the Salisbury City Schools before joining state government. In 1970, the people of Rowan County elected him to the N.C. State Senate, and he became its youngest member in state history at that time. He later served as chief of staff for N.C. Governors Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin, and for U.S. Senator Jim Broyhill. He also served two governors as Secretary of the N.C. Department of Human Resources. He also served Catawba for several years as Vice President of External Relations.


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