Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Caring Manager

Last Saturday evening, while Ellen was attending events in the Brattleboro Literary Festival, I drove over to Bennington, to attend a reunion of students and staff of Southern Vermont College. I was on the faculty of SVC from 1981 to 1994.

Southern Vermont College

My experience there had a lot of positive aspects to it, but also some negative ones. On the positive side, I had the opportunity to develop a course which came to mean a great deal to me: Management Ethics. I taught it for over ten years, and in it,  I created the concept of "The Caring Manager."  I actually started writing a book on that idea, but events intervened and it never was finished. However, if you Google "The caring manager" and scroll down two or three items you'll find one with a URL of  "" which is an article I published in 1985 on "Caring  Managers." The course was very much appreciated by adult students who came into it with some work experience and had seen things that had troubled them. Younger undergraduates had more ambivalent feelings about it - they wanted to make money, and they weren't sure they wanted to hear about concerns that might affect the bottom line negatively!

I won't go into the negative experiences at SVC now, but just say that my contract was not renewed before I had a chance to announce my retirement. That was in 1994. But I made many friends there, and one was Tom Gee, who was President of SVC in the earlier years that I was there, and had been the one to bring me there in the first place. I went to the reunion last Saturday primarily because it gave me an opportunity to see Tom again, after many, many years. And it was great to see him and his wife, Sue. I sang at their wedding some 25 years ago. We promised each other we would not let so much time go by before seeing each other again.

Tom Gee
(from his Facebook page) 

But there was an unexpected contact. A woman came up to me and introduced herself, Jeanne Sidell, and she told me right off that my course in Management Ethics had had a big influence on her life. "Wow!" I said. "Tell me about that." She said that one thing she had taken from my course was the importance of working for an organization that held values important to yourself. I had stressed that a satisfying, fulfilling work experience, especially if you hoped to become a "caring manager," really was contingent on working within an organization which shared your values. She and her husband had researched an organization that they felt expressed their values, and they found that organization in Ben and Jerry's. So they bought a franchise in Ben and Jerry's, and have run that franchise for 25 years, in Manchester, VT. And evidently very happily. So that was a very gratifying thing to hear. One rarely knows, as a teacher, just how you might have influenced someone's life.

                               Jeanne Sidell (on left) and her friend

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