By Peter Tormey
Gonzaga President Rev. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., was delighted to hear that Bill Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will speak to Gonzaga’s Comprehensive Leadership Program students on Wednesday (Oct. 15). Fr. Spitzer was pleased for good reason. After all, this leadership program resulted from Fr. Spitzer’s vision and was hatched following a University Charrette in 2002. Now, a half-dozen years later, the CLP has blossomed into one of the best programs of its kind in the West, as evidenced by its ability to attract Bill Gates Sr. as a speaker.
“I listened to the data coming out and I thought, ‘Boy, we need an undergraduate leadership program,’” Fr. Spitzer (’74) recalled. “Mary McFarland, dean of the School of Professional Studies, ran with the ball and it became the Comprehensive Leadership Program. Joe Albert took it over for a while and now it’s Josh Armstrong running it and it’s doing extremely well.”
The CLP program is intimately connected to another undergraduate leadership program, the Ignatian Leaders Scholarship Competition. Each spring, Gonzaga hosts this intense scholarship competition for incoming freshmen committed to academics, community service, character and leadership. The CLP students help with the Ignatian leadership competition and its selection process. Many of these Ignatian Leaders Scholars participate in the CLP as enrolled students.
As most in the Gonzaga community know, Fr. Spitzer will step down as president following the current school year. A national search is under way for his Jesuit replacement. In reflecting on Fr. Spitzer’s service as Gonzaga’s 25th president since 1998, one naturally thinks of leadership. Not merely Fr. Spitzer’s leadership and vision in taking Gonzaga to greater heights, but for the leadership programs he has envisioned and helped start.
“The Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program was really my first project,” Fr. Spitzer said in a recent interview. “This was the result of a conversation I had with Ed Hogan early on. I put the idea to Ed that we needed an entrepreneurial leadership program and Ed went for it like there was no tomorrow. He could see the vision. He wanted to create contributive leaders who would give back to society and not just be venture-capital animals. We all came together: Paul Buller, myself, Wayne Powell and Bud Barnes. We assembled this program. Because of the incredible leadership of Paul Buller, just steadily shaping this thing, it has become a tremendous program and now Tom Tilford has it. Tom is just expanding the program in so many different directions it’s quite remarkable.”
Another Leadership Initiative Coming
A third leadership initiative that Fr. Spitzer has been keenly involved in will be made public soon and will add to Fr. Spitzer’s legacy of leadership here at Gonzaga, his alma mater. The vision for this program involves reaching out to "a large swath" of undergraduate students and providing them with some academic coursework to go with their many opportunities to gain leadership experience, Fr. Spitzer said. The program will add to the plethora of leadership programs currently offered throughout the University, and which includes programs in the schools of Professional Studies, Business Administration and Education.