Tag Archives: frank fear

Sketches of an MSUE Retiree in Portland (Oregon)

F.X. Rosica, former county Extension director in St. Clair County, made news in Portland, Oregon, recently and it triggered a Google alert for Michigan State University Extension. Mr. Rosica was featured in a news article in The Oregonian for sketches he has made of passengers on Portland’s public transit system. Some marketing folks for the transit system discovered his pastime, and now they are featuring the sketches in their promotions of the transit system. Mr. Rosica’s career with MSU Extension was included as part of his biographic sketch and the reporter included a link to our website.

I’m always impressed by the diverse interests of Extension professionals and the variety of paths we follow through our lives. Some of you may remember Mr. Rosica – I never had the good fortune to meet him – and I thought it would be fun to share this story as another in a series featuring MSUE’s retirees. Thanks to Frank Fear, professor emeritus and former senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, for finding the article and sharing it with me.

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Retired CANR associate dean to receive public diplomacy award

Dr. Frank Fear, retired senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will receive the Charles A. Gliozzo International Award for Public Diplomacy April 3 in the Huntington Club on the fourth floor of Spartan Stadium on the Michigan State University campus. This award recognizes a member of the greater MSU community, who is making significant contributions to public diplomacy through educating, training or promoting knowledge and understanding between faculty, staff, community members and international students, scholars and visitors. You may recall my December 15, 2011 Spotlight article on Dr. Fear. Nothing seemed to animate Frank more than when he had a group of international visitors on campus and was connecting them to Spartans who shared a common interest.

Congratulations, Frank!  This is a very fitting recognition of your efforts to connect people from around the world.

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It is what it is: Reflections on a land-grant personality

Over the past two years, we have seen a tremendous number of colleagues leave our organization, either through retirement, resignation for other opportunities, death or staff reductions. It’s difficult to not feel devastated by the capacity we have lost as an organization and even more by the personal connections and collaborations with our colleagues. I’ve attended too many farewells, and although with each one, I am reminded of how rich we have been and how much we have been strengthened by our colleagues, I always walk away thinking, “How are we going to get our work done without this person’s skills and passion?” We’ll cope and move on, but it’s tough to swallow.

 So a few weeks ago, I found myself at another one of these receptions and found myself called upon to speak to the person’s career and personality. And as has been so often the case over the past 15 years, my good friend and colleague Frank Fear, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, helped to remind me of what we do when we leave the retirement reception: we move on. We pick up and continue the work.

 The reception was for Frank. Dr. Fear is retiring from Michigan State University, and although he will be carrying out a number of projects over the next year as part of his retirement consultancy, he will be stepping down from the administrative role he has carried since 2005. There is so much to say about Frank, much of it humorous, but here’s what struck me during his retirement reception: Frank embodies the land-grant spirit. He truly is all about getting the work done that is put before us, whether we like it or not, whether we have all the resources we need or not. Because the ultimate resource we need is within each of us – our compassion and commitment to serve others.

 One of the things I’ve learned from Frank is that whatever situation you find – maybe it’s solvable, maybe it isn’t – the only response that makes sense is to address it. You can analyze it, try to determine the best course of action, base your analysis and action on sound principles, values and up-to-date understanding of how things work, and then act, do, pursue, try, but don’t quit. That’s what I’ve learned from Frank Fear. That’s a bit of what he has taught me about being a land-grant professional. That is his Spartan Saga.

 One of Frank’s many therapeutic phrases (for his therapy or for others, I’ve never been sure) is “It is what it is.” For me, “It is what it is” really captures that spirit of resorting to the only thing we really control – our own actions and our own commitment to serve others. At the end of analyzing a tough situation, as frustrating as a predicament may be, as intransigent as an individual may be, “It is what it is” means that a land-grant professional accepts the circumstance as it is. Angst spent on the circumstance is angst wasted. Gnashing of teeth may be therapeutic, but doesn’t accomplish anything more than wearing down the enamel on your incisors. Angst spent on figuring out how to address the circumstance, how to do so with respect to the individuals involved, that is angst well spent.

 This place won’t be nearly as fun without Frank’s wit to spice up meetings. But inevitably, I know that there will be many times in meetings when we’ll find ourselves stuck with frustration over the predicament we’re in and someone’s going to be Frank and say, “Well, it is what it is, so let’s deal with it and get done what needs to be done.”

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Discovering optimists from a war-torn country

Earlier this summer, I had the honor of addressing a group of scholars from Iraq. They were faculty members from several Iraqi universities here for several months on a Fulbright-sponsored program to learn from each other and with Michigan State University colleagues about how to create universities anew from within a nation that has been the focus of strife for decades. Dr. Frank Fear, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was one of several MSU administrators who helped to create and conduct the extended study group throughout the summer, and he invited Dr. David Schweikhardt, professor of agricultural, food and resource economics, and me to give an overview of the land-grant university system. My part was to explain the cooperative Extension system and how we conduct Extension in Michigan. It was an engaging conversation with the Iraqi participants, some of whom are from agricultural disciplines and some of whom are from engineering disciplines.

 Dr. George Silva, senior Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, took the group on a tour to learn about agricultural practices in the Lansing area in late July, and from all accounts they were enthused to get out of meeting rooms and into the real world where they could learn directly about agricultural practices in Michigan. George wowed them with his thoroughness and hospitality.

 I had some follow-up conversations with several Iraqi colleagues and particularly with Dr. Sardar Sardari, professor of poultry science at the University of Salahaddin in Erbil in northern Iraq. Dr. Sardari is working to establish a cooperative Extension program at his institution that would help to bridge applied research to the needs of farmers in northern Iraq. Dr. Sardari and I met for lunch one Friday to discuss some of his ideas about building Extension into his home college, the College of Agriculture, and I was overwhelmed by his enthusiasm, his positive outlook and his profound gratitude for the opportunity to learn and to build something anew. I was humbled to realize that as difficult as the past two years of restructuring and budget reductions have been for us, our challenges pale in comparison with what he and his colleagues face. His guiding perspective is based on the faith that out of considerable destruction and disorder, the human spirit that we all share, when bonded together in common purpose, can create tremendous results. And when that common purpose is centered on extending information and understanding in a way that helps people to improve their lives, the world is transformed, one person, one family, one farm, one business, one community at a time.

 It was rejuvenating for me to spend time with Dr. Sardari and his colleagues, to be reminded of how profound our mission is and how that mission can overcome tremendous challenges in transforming lives. After our lunch, I walked with Dr. Sardari through a construction zone on Harrison Street in East Lansing to show how to get to the Islamic Center for the Friday prayer service. The walk was a poignant one for me. The disruption of a street closed for construction with sidewalks broken and crumbling was of no consequence compared to the faith that drew him to prayers. I realized that broken concrete and disrupted traffic were the norm for the life he has experienced over the past decade. As I returned to my office, I was imbued with new hope and determination for his country and for ours. The positive outlook, persistent faith and commitment to serve I witnessed can help each of us as we continue in our process of remaking MSU Extension.

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