Loyola Marymount’s president speaks of the ‘great man theory’ and of the power of storytelling

Loyola Marymount President Rev. Richard C. Blake looked around the lecture hall of the journalism school, and spoke of what it means to be a man.

“Those who are intrinsically vulnerable and don’t feel protected and don’t feel valued,” he said, “they tend to leave more quickly and more easily than others.”

That is the great man theory, which was the subject of a seminar on Thursday night at the University of Southern California. The theory gained popularity when African-American athletes became professional football players, Mr. Blake said. The people left more quickly.

When that was the case, Mr. Blake said, his predecessor, the Rev. Paul F. Boothe, stepped down. Mr. Blake cited a study that showed that 95 percent of graduates of Loyola Marymount were black, yet it did not achieve its intended purpose of helping blacks succeed in all fields of endeavor.

“If there is a great man theory,” he said, “there is going to be the great man paradigm.”

Loyola Marymount, a Jesuit university, has been moving away from the notion of its teacher-led school and towards a model in which the dean of faculties (in this case, Chancellor Brad Dacus, who was brought in last year) called the shots.

But the lessons are timeless, according to Mr. Blake.

“Doing a great man’s job means that you don’t have someone who is going to sit in the wings but someone who is going to actively make the decisions, who is going to manage.”

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