Someone held my hand…

My first week as assistant professor at the University of South Florida… so much paperwork, so little time, so many things to do! Twenty-two of us in the Department of Political Science and only two administrative assistants! It was the first day of class, my first day of teaching ever, and I could not find anything–chalk, duster, syllabus, classroom–nothing was in any obvious place or logical order. I was too timid and shy to speak over other voices (yes, you read it right… timid and shy), but someone noticed that I needed help.

Delores, the departmental assistant, removed a big pile of papers from an otherwise empty chair, making room for me, and asked me to sit down. “You need to speak up, Dr. Khator. How am I supposed to know what you need? Let me walk you over to your room.” From then on, Delores took a special interest in me… she would always anticipate what I needed, but she let me ask for it. She would often tell me that I was so special, that I was so blessed, and that I was a breath of fresh air in the department. She would gently (with motherly love) correct my pronunciation, tell me that I needed to eat more, and even told me once that my skirt was a little too short for the office.

Delores–full of warmth, grace and affection–was my first introduction to African-Americans. Her heart was big and her face radiant with positive energy. She would talk about the extensive breakfast she cooked every morning for her family, because she believed in beginning the day by giving all the love that she had.

I often think that if it had not been for Delores, would I have gained the same level of self-confidence that I have today? Would I have developed the relentless drive for many causes, such as student success?

Delores saw me grow and advance in my career during the ten years that I taught in the department before joining the administration. I was there to salute her on her retirement, just as were 400 other people. I was not the only one she treated specially, but she surely made me feel that way. Today, she lives a retired life in Georgia with her two daughters and husband. For me, she has always remained just one click away, still lifting my spirits, still reminding me of my inner strength.

To Delores and all department administrative assistants and secretaries everywhere–thank you. Thank you for supporting and guiding the faculty. You make the world a special place!

Why am I blogging?

For years, I dismissed the idea of blogging. No time, none whatsoever!

But here I am, writing my first blog today. Why? Because as a university president, I get a lot of credit for things I had little to do with. The more I hear these accolades, the more I know that I am surrounded by people who do it all, and yet whose stories remain untold and whose glories remain unsung. This blog is about those unsung heroes. It is not about budgets, accountability, goals, or benchmarks; it is about PEOPLE in my university–for that matter in any university.

In the end, a university is not about bricks and mortar, it’s about people and how they interact with one another to create a magical place–students with their dreams for their future, faculty with their passion for learning, staff with their devotion for service, alumni with their love for their alma mater, and supporters with their belief in the betterment of the society.

As a university president, I witness this magic every day in my life and it fills me with hope and inspiration. Yet, I am too busy to experience it fully…too busy running to my next appointment, or too distracted by that difficult phone call I just had to take, or too lost in my thoughts to solve an unfolding crisis. Admittedly, not every interaction in my daily life is inspirational. I see my share of bad behavior and selfish people, but their interactions are not what I store in my heart.  What I store in my heart is what I will share in this blog.

So, if you are looking for some inside scoop or thought-provoking ideas, you have the wrong address. If you are expecting daily or even regular blogs, sorry again. My blog will be sporadic, but it will be from my heart, and will celebrate all that is RIGHT with our universities today.

Finally, let me mention Nelda Blair, my Board Chair, for inspiring me to undertake blogging. She just started her own blog called ATexanTakesThe5th ( a great blog, by the way) which made me think, “With her incredibly busy life, if she can do it, what’s my excuse?”

So here I go….Should you decide to read my future blogs, happy reading!