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Farmville Herald Interview

Pat Finnegan Reflects On LU, Leadership, And The Person He Is

By Ken Woodley
July 23, 2010

Longwood President Patrick Finnegan - Photo Courtesy of Farmville Herald (Taken by Ken Woodley) Longwood President Patrick Finnegan
Photo by Ken Woodley (Farmville Herald)

The retired general warmly greets his visitor, welcoming him into an office that has far more unpacked books and personal items still in boxes than on shelves. 

Fifteen boxes came in the day before and Patrick Finnegan, in his first days as Longwood University president, unpacked five of them and there are many more things to bring in. 

The walls are virtually bare but on a shelf is one thing he had put up. Because people are defined by what they choose to fill the space in their offices, the former Dean of West Point is asked about what he put up first.

A framed picture from Disney's The Lion King is now in his hands. Within the frame are two of the film's characters and these four words: Remember who you are.

"I said this to cadets, frequently. And I probably will say it to Longwood students," Finnegan says of those words. "Remember what you're about...Being a student at Longwood, being a graduate of Longwood means something and you should live up to that.

"So that is, actually," he says, "the first thing I put up."

That fact is revealing, in and of itself, but even more so because during the course of the full hour's interview which had just ended, Finnegan had lived up to those words in the frame.

Yes, the very first thing retired United States Army General Patrick Finnegan put up in his office as the president of Longwood University was a framed picture from The Lion King with four words that beat a full house, a straight flush or any other trick of luck.

Not one of his more than a dozen different military awards.

Not the Defense Superior Service Medal, which he won twice.

Not the Legion of Merit.

Not the Bronze Star.

Not the Meritorious Service Medal, which he won three times.

Nothing to show he was the Staff Judge Advocate/General Counsel for the United States European Command for two years, filling the role of principal legal advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, on all matters related to the US Armed Forces in Europe and Africa.

Nope, none of those.

Simba and Rafiki, instead. 

A lion and a baboon-like primate known as a mandrill.

Remember who you are.


The Herald: Why Longwood? What convinced you to apply for and then accept the presidency of this university?

Finnegan: Longwood was very intriguing to me for a number of reasons. I knew a little bit about it because my sister graduated from here in 1976, but it was a very different institution back then-it was an all girls school, primarily a teachers school. So I knew about Longwood College. But that information was dated.

When I was possibly looking for jobs because I wasn't certain I would stay in the Army-the Army hadn't let me know whether they wanted me to continue or not-I had seen an advertisement for the presidency of Longwood University and went on the website, looked at the information and was very intrigued by a number of things. I was captured by their mission to transform young men and women into citizen leaders who contribute to the good of society. I think that's a great purpose of education. I think it's very akin to what we were doing at West Point, and trying to do there, with a more narrow focus, probably. But I think that is what education can and should be about. 

I like the idea of a campus this size, in number of students-5,000-plus but really not intending to grow into an enormous school. So I thought that I would apply and see what was there and what Longwood was about. I went to the initial interview, which I've learned is called 'the airport interview' because it happens at the airport. And met the 13 or 14 people on the selection committee, a variety of people-from members of the board of visitors, to faculty, to staff, to students, some members of the (Longwood) Foundation. And I was taken by two things. 

One, how nice they all were, how pleasant they were to talk to. 

And, two, how committed they were to their school. How much they obviously cared about Longwood and what it meant to people. 

And that's the kind of place I want to be, where folks are committed to what they are doing. Where they care about what they're doing. Where it's a calling as much as a job. And I think I have found that, in all my dealings so far, in a limited time. 

When I went back from that interview, the initial interview in Richmond, sort of the screening interview, I told my wife (Joan) those two exact things. The people were unbelievably nice and that they all seemed very committed to their school, and what the school was about. Within a day or so I was told that I was one of the four finalists and so we were intrigued by that, and knew we were coming for a campus visit in February. 

We had never really been to Longwood, certainly not the newest Longwood. I had visited here very briefly one time when my sister was a student here. My wife had never been here. And so in January we were visiting our daughter in Springfield and we drove down here on Saturday and walked around, just to see what the campus was like, talk to some people. We didn't disclose who we were or why we were doing it. And again we were taken by what the students had to say about the school, that they liked it very much, even though for some it hadn't been their first choice, because of the community feel, of the fact they were in small classes and they got to know their teachers and the teachers knew them and they got to know people on campus. 

That's the kind of place we had been. That's the kind of place that we want to be a part of. And so, I guess if we had come down to Farmville and Longwood in January and said, 'we don't like this place much' we would have felt differently. But we loved the little town. We liked the look of the campus, particularly the new Brock Commons, and other things. We just thought it was a beautiful kind of mini-Jeffersonian type of place, which we're used to, as well. 

And then we came for the campus interview, which could have been a grueling couple of days, particularly because ours was a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, just Wednesday evening a little bit, and then all day Thursday, and then a couple of things on Friday. But the main day was Thursday and you're lined up for seven or eight different groups of interviews, between faculty groups, student groups, staff groups, I can't even remember what all of them were. 

But when I looked at it beforehand I thought this may be a grueling experience, but as it turned out, it's kind of strange to say, but it was fun. I enjoyed the day. I enjoyed talking to the people and again felt the same thing with virtually every group I was in-that they were committed to making Longwood University the best school it could be and they were concerned about the budget and other issues, as well, which are concerns for any higher education institution right now. But more than that they were concerned about how good a school could Longwood be and can it retain the character that it has now and what makes it distinctive now. 

I even enjoyed the open forum and the back and forth questions with the faculty and students and others. And at the end of that day Joan and I turned to each other and I said 'If I'm offered this job I'm going to take it.' 

To me, there's an old saying that the Army has, and I think it's a great one, and it says the Army isn't about people, the Army is people. And to me, in any job you're in, position you're in, the most important thing is the people that you're around and you're working with and dealing with. And so what we found here and what we found in the community is a group of people who are friendly, who have a smile on their face when you walk past, whether they know you or don't. And, particularly talking about the university, everyone we met cares very much about the school. And for the faculty, I think, by and large, the ones I've met, this is not just a job, it's a calling, which education should be. For the students, I hope it's not simply a place to get a diploma but a place to get an education in all kinds of ways, inside the classroom and outside. And that's really the kind of place I want to be. I think Longwood has come a long way in the last 14 years under Dr. Cormier, and has certainly changed its nature and its reputation, and I think it has great possibilities for the future and I want to be part of it.

The Herald: How hard was it to leave your career in the military?

Finnegan: It wasn't hard. I loved my time in the military. I particularly loved the last dozen years at West Point and the last five as the Dean of the military academy. It was a dream job, one I never thought I'd have, but I really think this, unbelievably, has the possibility of being another dream job. 

I found what I really liked best about the job as Dean was being around cadets, being around the students, and I know there are lots of obligations for a university president as there are for a Dean but I'm going to try to continue that, to be around students as much as I can. 

I'll tell you this story about leaving the military. I wasn't sure if I was leaving because the Army wouldn't tell me. The Superintendent at West Point, who's our college president, in a way, was actually originally due to stay another year, so he would have retired next summer. And then about a year ago we knew he was most likely going to retire this summer, right now. Neither he nor I, and we're good friends, thought it would be a great idea for both of us to retire at the same time. And we tried to get the Army to say what they would do with me if he was retiring. 

And I told the Army I was willing to stay as the Dean for another year or two. And they said 'Well, let us think about it' and didn't answer. And didn't answer. In fact, at one point early in the fall I was told 'Don't submit your retirement papers but don't submit a request for an extension.' So I was absolutely in limbo. That is the definition of limbo. 

And so I said to my boss, the Superintendent, 'Okay, then I need to start looking for a job because I don't need it to be April or May for them to say 'So long, it's been fun.' And so I applied for just a very few jobs and this was about the first one. Shortly afterwards I found out I was a finalist, in early December, and about two weeks later, sitting at home, the Secretary of the Army called me at home-I've known him for a while. He's a new Secretary of the Army-and asked me if I would stay as the Dean for an additional year. I told him that I loved being the Dean and loved West Point and that I would definitely be interested in that but I was a finalist for this position at Longwood and that if I was selected for this I would almost certainly take this position.

And he very graciously said that would be fine to go ahead and compete and that if I wasn't selected for Longwood I would stay as the Dean. 

So I had two great alternatives but when I was offered this position, particularly after meeting the people, coming here, I was actually kind of grateful to the Army that they hadn't made a decision, because if they had told me a year ago 'We want you to stay as the Dean' then I would never even have looked for another job at that point and I wouldn't have had this opportunity. 

People would say to me at West Point, or my friends, 'Oh, you must be very sad to be leaving' and 'You must be melancholy' and the truth is we weren't. We loved our time there and really will miss a lot of the people there, but we'll stay in touch with them. We won't see them every day. But I'm convinced the reason we weren't sad or melancholy is because we knew we were coming here. We think this is a great place for us to be and a great opportunity for us, a great new adventure.

The Herald: How did you go about your on-campus undercover re-con of the university?

Finnegan: We probably weren't here for about two hours or so. We drove down, and loved the drive down from D.C., once we got off (Interstate) 95. That's not fun. But driving through the countryside here was-we love this part of Virginia. 

So we came down and our initial thought was simply to walk around the campus. We parked and we had little map of the campus that we printed out from online and just wanted to walk around. So there were a few buildings that were open. The library was open and we went in there and was immediately struck by the-when you walk in one of the first things you see in big letters is the honor code, the honor creed of Longwood, which is virtually identical to West Point. And that was almost shocking, in a way, to see that because we hadn't seen that before. And, again, it was almost an omen or a signal that this might be a place worth looking at. 

We just loved the Brock Commons area and the fountains and just walking around and seeing things. There were not a lot of students, not a lot of activity but there were some and they were walking around. One of the funny things is that one of the young men sneezed and my wife said 'God bless you' and he just turned and said 'Thank you, ma'am.' And, again, we just said ''Hmmm, these are nice young people,' and everyone,  as we just walked by and we'd say 'Hi' and they'd respond so we just stopped a couple of them and just said 'Do you go to school here, tell us about the school' and they probably thought we were parents of prospective students or something, or just curious. 

We walked around. We parked in a couple of different spots and just came away saying this could be a very good place for us.

The Herald: What are the differences and similarities between appropriate and effective leadership by a general in the military and that of a civilian university president?

Finnegan: I'm not sure there are a lot of great differences. I'm sure there will be some but the stereotype of a general in the military-and the reason for the stereotype is that some are like that-is that they come in and kind of bark orders and direct people to do everything and they're very top down micro-managers. 

And there are certainly some leaders in the military and generals in the military who are like that. And my experience is they're not all that effective. Because what will happen is because the military is so hierarchical and if you're a general or the leader and you order and direct things then people will do it. They will. But that's kind of all they'll do is what you order them to do. And their hearts won't be in it. Their spirits won't be in it. They won't give their all to the organization because they're not committed in the same way. 

So the most effective leaders, I think, are more consensus-building. They can make decisions and implement them if they need to but they try and get a sense of the organization and where it's headed and have people buy into where you're going, as well-what your vision is. In most places in the military that's the most effective. It's certainly true at an academic institution at West Point. 

I was a general. I was the Dean. I oversaw all the academic departments and I could have ordered them all around but that would not be very smart. I had 13 academic departments that I supervised, all headed by great, smart, talented individuals with good ideas of their own and who knew more about their organization than I did. So if I had ordered them around they would have done what I told them because they're required to do so but they wouldn't be a part of making the institution better overall. 

So I think, I'm hoping, that that will be very similar here. I've always believed in and tried to practice a very collegial and inclusive style of leadership. I'm not afraid to be the leader. I'm not afraid to make decisions when tough decisions have to be made. But I'm disinclined to make them on my own, without input from people, particularly in times like this where educational institutions are challenged in monetary and other ways. 

You have to get, not only input from people but you have to get buy-in from people and allow them to speak their piece because, first, they may have great ideas you hadn't thought of. Second, even if they ultimately disagree with parts of the decision at least if they've had their say and they will feel a part of the organization. 

One of the (Longwood) Deans was joking with me the day before (he assumed LU's presidency), the night of June 30th (at a restaurant), 'So, is there inspection tomorrow at 8 o'clock?' and I said, 'No it's at six o'clock' but, no, I think I'll bring some of the personal leadership techniques and personal touches that I've brought that I had at West Point and at other places but this will not be a stereotypical style of military leadership.

The Herald: What nuances will your military experience bring to your presidency at Longwood?

Finnegan: I go back to that original saying. I really do think that leadership in the military, for me, and leadership here, is about people, it's about caring for people, it's caring more about what they want to accomplish, what they aspire to, and what the organization does than about yourself. 

This university is not about me. It's particularly about the students who are here and the focus should be on them. But it's about having all of us work together to give the best education inside the classroom and outside the classroom to the students. And so I think that's organizational leadership that is similar to the military and that is it can't be self-focused, by me or faculty members or anybody else. 

You try and set the goals and visions of the organization. I'll tell you these because they're part of my philosophy and staff and faculty and students and everybody else is going to hear these repeatedly for the next several years. Two parts of my philosophy, anyway, and my philosophy, certainly, at West Point is that our main focus always has to be on providing the best education for the students who are here. And that's educating them in the classroom and morally, ethically, physically. That's part of it, but to provide them the best developmental educational opportunity and that's whether we're thinking what's the next building project we're going to do, the fundraising we're going to do, or whatever it is, we have to keep in mind that our main focus is students. If we do that, you're not going to get off track as much. So that's one. 

The second part of my philosophy is this ought to be enjoyable. Education should be a joyful experience. It's not a grim business we're in. At times, right now, it's a challenging business because of money, but, overall, education of young people who are going to be the future of our country ought to be fun. It ought to be a happy experience for faculty, for administrators, for students, and I intend to have fun and I hope that everyone here at Longwood has fun. 

Not every day is going to be a blast and there will be some faculty members who are saying as they're grading 100 exams, 'I thought the president said this was going to be fun.' Well, not every day is going to be like that but overall the experience and the opportunity to work with bright, talented, aspiring young people ought to be fun. And we ought to make it fun for them, as well, and I think there's some great ways to do that.

The Herald: Was President Obama correct to replace Gen. McChrystal (in Afghanistan after the Rolling Stone interview was published)?

Finnegan: Absolutely. And I'm a friend of Gen. McChrystal. I've known him since he was Captain McChrystal and think he is a wonderful officer and a great soldier and leader but I don't think the president had a choice. And I think, I'm guessing, that if you ask Stan McChrystal that he would probably give you the same answer. Given what happened, unfortunately, the president really didn't have much of a choice. 

The Herald: What do you view as your own strengths as a person, and as a leader?

Finnegan: The ability to work with people, the ability to bring people together, and having a sense of humor about things, which helps in tough times, and, I think, a genuine interest in others. And a passion for education, because I think it's the key to the future of our country.

The Herald: What about weaknesses?

Finnegan: I probably try to do too much, sometimes, and I have to be careful about that, not getting involved in too many things because I know there's going to be an awful lot of demands on my time and I've tried to learn, over time, to delegate authority and delegate responsibility and let other people do their jobs. 

My wife will tell you I'm a horrible procrastinator. I try to overcome that, as well. I've learned sometimes that you can't be a procrastinator but I can tend to be that, as well. And, I don't know if it's a weakness but it's something I'm going to have to keep an eye on, and that is I have spent my entire life essentially in the military. I grew up in a military family. My dad was in the Army. I went to West Point and I've been in the Army since and so I have not worked or been in what is a fairly completely civilian environment before and so there may be traps out there I'm not aware of, that what may seem normal to me is going to seem strange to other people. But I'm going to be careful about that to make sure I'm being sensitive to those issues.

The Herald: Who, within your own realm of personal experience, has most effectively demonstrated leadership-how and why?

Finnegan: There's a man that I worked for for almost two years, General Bill Garrison, who's become a little bit famous because he was the commander of forces that were in Somalia in the book and movie Blackhawk Down. I worked for him in the two years preceding that. I was involved in some of the original planning for that operation, although I had left...He was just a tremendous leader. He focused on what needed to be done, doing it the right way and making sure that his people were taken care of. 

He wasn't a particularly personable guy, which was kind of funny. I had friends who'd worked for him before and they just raved about him and said he's not arm around the shoulder all the time, or anything, but people trusted what he said. In fact, I have a quote about leadership that I keep with me (and Finnegan gets up, goes to his desk and pulls out a card that contains a handwritten quote) and it probably describes General Garrison. People would say he's charismatic, as well. He wouldn't say he was. (And then Finnegan reads the quote). 'Leadership isn't so much a matter of charisma, which can abused, as of character. Only someone who, when he says he's going to do something you know he's going to do it, is worth following.'

This actually is from a book that I read, a World War II veteran was writing about his experiences and he wrote it down and I just...thought this was a good thing..."

The Herald: How does one go about taking the job very seriously without taking themselves too seriously?

Finnegan: I think that's the key to any sort of position, especially a leadership position. If you take yourself too seriously then that's going to be obvious to people right away, that you are self-important. People will see that and will not really want to follow you. 

You have to take the job and the responsibility seriously. I think you can, and I'm not sure how you would do a job like this without a sense of humor. Even in the worst of times there are going to be things that are funny. 

Again, it really goes back, for me, to people and caring about them, talking to them, seeing what's going on with them. But you have to realize in a time like this, and there's probably never going to be an easy time to be a university president, there are some challenges right now that are unique but there are probably unique challenges in every time period. I think you rely on the strengths of the people who are here. There are folks here, I know, you could probably go to higher-paying jobs and maybe to what people would consider more prestigious jobs, but they've been at Longwood and stayed at Longwood because they love this institution and what it stands for and I think that's what you have to focus on and pay attention to and make sure it retains that character even in tough times. 

But I would have a hard time taking myself seriously. My wife wouldn't let me, among other things. That's the best thing-when you're starting to get a little bit too full of yourself, she just reminds you. Remember who you are.

The Herald: What do you know about yourself now that you wish you'd known 25 years ago?

Finnegan: One thing is that you don't have to do everything today. That sometimes, particularly in the setting of an educational institution, it's actually better not to make a decision right away, that it's better to let things sit and maybe become socialized in the community and allow people to weigh in and postpone the decision to an appropriate time. 

And part of that may be a difference between military and civilian because military leaders tend to say 'Give me the facts, give me the information, I'm going to decide and move on to the next thing.' 

Particularly, probably, in my first years as a Dean, and at other times, I wanted to 'All right, let's just decide this thing.'  (But) sometimes it's better to wait and let things develop a little more before you decide which course you're going to go. 

(Also) I didn't know 25 years ago how much fun it was going to be to be a grandfather. I'm not sure I would change anything about that. 

I wouldn't trade any of my experiences but I really love the fact that I was able, at the end of my military career, to spend 12 years in education. I loved being a lawyer. I loved practicing law. I really enjoyed it very much but I appreciate the fact that I got to spend that time in an educational setting and sort of changed my course from where I was going after the Army, where I always thought I'd practice law and I'd probably still be comfortable doing that, but I love the fact that I'm able to stay in education.

The Herald: What is the biggest challenge facing Longwood and how do you plan to deal with it?

Finnegan: Like every college or university these days in the commonwealth, and outside the commonwealth, the biggest challenge is the budget and for Longwood that translates, among other things, into faculty salaries, staff salaries. There haven't been raises for a number of years, and that can be a morale issue. People do stay here, despite the fact they may be paid less, because they feel this calling. But at the same time you have to be sure that they're being treated fairly. 

And so we're going to work hard with the legislature and we have to raise private dollars. We're in the midst of a campaign and we're going to have to find resources of money to make sure we stay at least even because until the economy rebounds I don't know how we're going to do with getting state funds. 

So that's the biggest challenge. I haven't figured out the answers yet but I know we're going to try to work together to make sure that Longwood retains the character that it has and the people that it has and if we don't do something a little bit better on the money side that's going to be hard to do. 

I think the other challenge, in a way, for Longwood, away from the money side, is recognition of its value. And there's a difference between the price and the value. The value of a Longwood education, I think, is well known to people who are here. Not nearly as well known in other parts of Virginia or outside of Virginia. 

This school has changed substantially in the last 20 years, from Longwood College to Longwood University and from a girls' teachers school to a much different kind of place. But I don't know that it's not (still) perceived as the Longwood College of the 1970s and 80s in many places. 

When I was applying for this job, initially, and talking to the person who headed the search group she said 'Do you know about Longwood?' And I said 'I know very little about it.' And she said 'It's a hidden jewel.' And I think she's right, that it is, a gem that people here understand but not many others do. 

And so part of my aim will be to raise Longwood's profile in a way that people understand, more that they understand what's going on here rather than to make it do a whole lot of things differently, but more to say 'This is a great, it is a university with the feel of a small college.' That's what makes Longwood distinctive to me. You get a university education but people know who you are and care who you are. It's not like a school where you're going and every class you take as a freshman has 150 students and you're in a lecture hall taught by teaching assistants. 

That's the value-not the price, but the value-of a Longwood education. And I have to say that I think it's nestled in a lovely little community here, in Farmville, and so we want to be, Joan and I, want to be part of this community, as well, and make sure Longwood and Farmville are tied together. We're going to open up Longwood House probably more so than has been done in the past. We're going to have open houses there. I understand from longtime Farmville residents that there used to be an Easter egg hunt at Longwood House and we're going to try and reinstate that tradition, among others, and do other things to help draw the community and the university closer together.

The Herald: What is your perception of the relationship between Longwood and the Farmville community and how do you plan to reach out to the community in your own administration?

Finnegan: Our original perception was that there weren't any terrible town/gown issues. That's certainly what we were told during the selection and interview process and I don't think there's a great tension between the Town of Farmville and the university. I'm not sure there's as strong a connection as there could be and so we are going to work on that and one of the ways is, and Joan is very excited about this, is making Longwood House a kind of center for all kinds of activities. For the university, certainly, but for the community as well. One of her goals, one of our goals, is we don't want any student to have graduated from Longwood without having visited the president's house.

The Herald: For the right reasons.

Finnegan: (Laughing) "Exactly, with their parents or with their family to say hello rather than their being called there for something else. 

I'm meeting with Gerry Spates tomorrow and I've asked a couple of people on the faculty and on the staff here to let me know what kinds of events in Farmville I can be a part of, that we can be a part of, that will demonstrate to people that we really want to be a part of this community...

The Herald: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Finnegan: I don't know if this is a piece of advice, but I probably got this from my parents, but I really want to go back to my favorite Shakespeare quote and this is, from Hamlet: 'Above all, to thine own self be true.' Be your own self. Be who you are and you can't be anybody else. If you try to do something that is not you people perceive it right away, you look like a sham. So my parents always did tell me be your own person, be who you are. 

But I love that quote from Shakespeare because I think it really says it, and the follow on (the rest of the quote) is that 'It must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.' 

Be yourself. Present yourself in the way that you are and I think that's the best piece of advice, both that I got from my parents and that I try to follow in my own way. 

I think the other thing I learned from my parents, I always told my Mom-my dad's passed away for a number of years-I've told my Mom over the last many years that the two best things, of many great things, that they did for us was urged us to read. They read a lot and they urged us to read. 

And they always had a sense of humor about things. I'm one of 10 children and so I guess if you're the parents of 10 you better have a sense of humor. 

The Herald: What do you do to relax?

Finnegan: I like to run and I do it for my health but I also do it because it's a great time to just kind of think. And I'll come back from a run, thinking about issues, with some ideas.

I love to be with my grandkids, that's a lot of fun.

I'm a big sports fan. I loved watching the World Cup. And I love playing soccer, too. I played some soccer but probably am getting a little too old for that. But I'll be at a lot of Longwood sports events. First to support the students...

I also like to read. I usually have four or five different books going on at the same time so. 

And my wife bought me a Kindle right when they first came out so I use the kindle. But one of the reasons she bought me the Kindle and maybe it will be a good news story for you, is I can download newspapers onto the Kindle. And I can read the newspapers on the Kindle. But she doesn't like it when we go on trips and I have newspapers and I'm reading them on the airplane but I have to have a newspaper. 

Yes, if I have to read it online I'll read it online. I'll read the New York Times on line, if it has to be. But I'm just of the generation that you have to have that newspaper and open it up and read it and I'm notorious, with her and others, particularly if we're traveling on an airplane, I'll have a newspaper or two and then if we have a stopover I'll get the paper from that town and read that. She did not cure me of my newspaper habit by getting me a Kindle. 

The Herald: What matters most about becoming educated and earning an undergraduate or postgraduate degree?

Finnegan: I think I'm going to link that to what Longwood says and that is that the purpose of education, for us, is to create citizen leaders. Because an educated person is someone who can contribute to society and that's what we ought to be about. That's what our country, to me, is founded on-people who cared more about this vision of a nation, about helping other people, about being part of something bigger than themselves. 

And you certainly are better able to do that, better able to serve the community, better able to serve other people, better able to appreciate causes larger than very selfish ones, with education. It opens worlds to you, both in the country and in other parts of the world, and I think that's what's most important about an education-opening your mind to other ideas and allowing you to see how you use your talents to make the community a better place, to make your country a better nation.

And in doing that you improve your life, as well, I think it's personally rewarding when you do that and if you're making your community a better place it's going to be a better location for your family and your children and people who are close to you. 

The Herald: What message do you want to resonate, year in, year out, through the staff and student body.

Finnegan: That's one of them certainly (the answer to the previous question), leave here with an education. As you learned in kindergarten, when you take something out, put it back. If you take a toy, put it back. Well, here you're taking something out. You're taking an education out, so give something back. Use that education to give something back, in your community, in your family, wherever it is.

You're granted this education, you worked hard for it, but use it for more than just individual purposes, use it to be a servant of the people. 

I mean, Winston Churchill said 'We make a living out of what we get, we make a life out of what we give.'

What are you giving to other people? What are you doing to contribute to a better world for everyone else? I think you do that through education.

The Herald: If you could achieve, with certainty of accomplishment, one thing with the rest of your life, what would it be?

Finnegan: In this narrow focus, right now, I would like to help Longwood continue to grow and to be an even better school and recognized for what it is. If I'm not able to accomplish that I'll be sad about it but it won't destroy my life. That's what I'm aimed at doing over the next several years. 

I know I'm no longer able to be the center fielder for the New York Yankees. So I can't accomplish that, a very early childhood dream. 

I'm happy with the contributions that I've been able to make with how my life has unfolded. I really feel like I've been extraordinarily blessed with the opportunities I've had.

I guess if I could accomplish one thing it would be to take best advantage of this opportunity that I have to help Longwood. So if I could accomplish one thing it would be-and I'm not sure what the (specific) answer is to that-but to make sure I give my all and take best advantage of this chance.


In the days following this interview, President Finnegan continued the process of unpacking boxes and filling the shelves, the desk, and the walls in his Longwood University office with those things which further define him-clues and artifacts from his life.

Filling the office book by book, just as he has begun to fill Longwood University, day by day, with who he remembers himself to be.

Some day, Pat Finnegan will retire from Longwood University, reversing the process, boxing everything up and packing it away.

The picture of Simba and Rafiki from The Lion King, with the four framed words, will likely be the last tell-tale sign taken down, and then away.

But if he is able to accomplish his goal for Longwood University, a part of Pat Finnegan will remain behind on campus long after he and the picture have gone.