Discussing life after being USC president

Former presidents say job requires mix of idealism and pragmatism

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Past USC Presidents

Gillian Anderson looks back on her time as USC president with fond memories. Currently working out of Rome, Italy as an independent consultant for the United Nations, Anderson says she always strived to find work that invoked the same passion she felt as USC president in 1995-96.

“It’s the kind of job that you throw yourself into 200 per cent,” she recalls.

Ryan Parks was president two years after Anderson. Today he lives in Scotland with his family and is working as a teaching fellow at the University of St. Andrews while finishing his PhD.

“The past presidents that have gone before you are pretty impressive creatures ... and then you do it and you don’t think of yourself as so great,” Parks said.

While some may see the president as a shoe-in to the job world, for Parks, this is not true.

“As far as I know, no future employers are waiting outside the USC doors when you turn in your keys,” he said.

Fab Dolan, who was president in 2006-07 and is now an associate marketing manager for the Cheerios brand at General Mills, said one of the greatest values of the presidential position are the skills taken away from it.

“The experience has put me in a place where I’m at an advantage over my peers. I’ve had a lot of experience that other people don’t get at such a young age.”

Parks agreed.

“I don’t think the title of USC president gets you very much, but I think the experience sets you on the right path.”

Tom Stevenson, president in 2007-08 and now a first-year law student at the University of Windsor, also believes the position gave him a greater level of maturity.

“There’s a thing about being on the USC executive. I would say it automatically ages you about 10 or 20 years.”

While platforms and pragmatism are important, former presidents agree a true love for the job was their most essential quality.

“It requires an incredible injection of energy and passion,” Anderson said.

Dave Braun, another former president in 2000-01 and now manager of his family business, Braun Nursery Limited, agreed.

“If you aren’t filled with idealism and enthusiasm in student politics, then there’s something wrong.”

“Obviously if someone [running for USC president] promises that beer is going to be coming out of the water fountains, it’s not going to happen ... but at the same time there has to be idealism,” added Mike Lawless, former president in 2001-02 and currently online sales manager for Sony Canada.

Lawless took a different route than many past USC presidents and left for the Caribbean, where he spent almost two years playing music on cruise ships.

Some former USC presidents have found it difficult leaving their position as a leader to return to academia or enter the job field as a rookie.

“It’s unlikely that you’ll ever get an office that big or have that many administrators reporting to you for many years [after being USC president],” Dolan explained.

However, Braun pointed out that life offers many other great opportunities.

“Being USC president is great and all ... but I think having a kid is just as great,” he said.

For many, the most valuable part of their time as president was the friendships and memories they collected.

Parks and his former Board of Directors still get together twice a year.

“We endlessly retell all the old stories, much to the chagrin of our spouses,” he said.

Anderson said she and her former Board members often laugh over memories from their days in office.

“[USC executive assistant] Pat Weiler often reminds me with a chuckle of the time she caught me having slept in the office,” she recalls.

Braun also maintains a close relationship with many of his former co-workers and even recruited former USC general manager Mark Sellars to take over as president of his family business when his dad retired.

“So many of the people that are close to me in my life I met at the USC ... Mostly it’s the relationships " that’s what I really treasure.”

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