Oxford — Bill Gottshall wasted no time lining up a renowned national speaker to deliver the first lecture in a series at the University of Mississippi’s Ford Center for the Performing Arts.
Gottshall, who left his position in August as chief of staff for Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss) to become the first permanent executive director of the Trent Lott Leadership Institute at the University of Mississippi October 1, recruited former Vietnam POW and 2000 Republican presidential nominee candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to deliver the first lecture under his watch, sponsored by the Trent Lott Leadership Institute Lecture Series.
McCain is slated to visit Ole Miss November 18 and discuss current affairs beginning at 3 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session.
“We have a priority of instituting the Lott Leadership Lecture Series, and we’re very excited to host Sen. McCain this week,” said Gottshall. “We have other great opportunities before us, and I look forward to pursuing each and every one.”
Returning to his alma mater was “a blessing,” said Gottshall, who earned a business administration degree from Ole Miss before serving in the U.S. Army, first as a lieutenant in Germany, where he was in the special weapons command, and later as a captain in Korea, where he was involved in the Hawk missile command.
Following military service, Gottshall returned to Oxford and worked for 25 years at First National Bank, resigning as CEO in 1998 to accept the leadership position in Lott’s office. “Serving as the chief of staff to a U.S. senator is a collective education in management, conflict resolution, people skills and sensitivity training,” said Gottshall.
Bret Boyles, who took over the chief of staff position in Lott’s office, called Gottshall “such a gentleman.”
“He was well respected by other chiefs of staff on the Hill — Democrats and Republicans alike,” said Boyles. “His attitude was to work hard, keep smiling and enjoy it the whole way.”
Gottshall grinned. “It was a pretty special order being part of that group,” he said.
Under the leadership of Ole Miss chancellor Robert Khayat, provost Carolyn Staton and interim director Bob Haws, the institute has been built and cultivated from the ground up.
Gottshall, who hit the job running, said the transition from Capitol Hill to Oxford has been smooth. “The training of leaders for our country couldn’t be more important in this day and time,” he emphasized.
The institute, which offers an undergraduate minor in leadership studies, provides various programs to promote the ideals of good leadership, including a summer institute for high school leaders, a symposium for national and international business and government leaders, and professional seminars for contemporary leaders in education, law and nonprofit organizations.
“Our founding fathers recognized that leadership is not an aristocratic birthright,” said Lott. “It is an acquired quality, attainable by anyone with the patience, courage and conviction to meld the energies of many individuals into a single force for the pursuit of common goals.”
This year alone, the institute has awarded 10 four-year $10,000 Lott Leadership scholarships, and Gottshall said he hopes to announce 10 more recipients of the prestigious scholarships in the summer of 2006.
“Another area we’re exploring is a student exchange program between Ole Miss students and students in South Africa and Mexico,” he said. “We hope to add two more countries within the next year, China and Russia. This will be about a three-and-a-half week program with half the time spent in the U.S. and half the time spent in South Africa and Mexico. As we develop relationships with sister universities in China and Russia, we’ll incorporate those into the program.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.