A Blessing and a Limp

The latest episode of NetVUE’s podcast series Callings features a conversation with Marjorie Hass who became the president of the Council of Independent Colleges last July. Dr. Hass previously served as president of Rhodes College and of Austin College. In her responses to our questions about calling, leadership, and times of personal as well as institutional crisis, she drew upon a set of images and metaphors from her own Jewish tradition. For her, calling is first and foremost about responsibility—that is, our ability to respond—as Abraham and others did.

Her recent book, A Leadership Guide for Women in Higher Education, stems from conversations with women leaders over many years. She writes about how being a leader is both deeply personal and a kind of spiritual discipline:

As a leader, my values—not the ones I might give lip service to but the ones I am actually willing to go to the mat for—are constantly on display. Opportunities for self-deception are few since my actions are broadly visible and open to public evaluation. Having to make daily decisions about the best way to use limited resources, about which of the infinite problems deserve part of my finite attention, and about how to navigate criticisms and not be swayed by praise is a near-constant lesson in character building. These hard choices force me to reckon with my limitations and motivate me to make the very best use of my strengths. Like the biblical Jacob, I wrestle nightly with angels and almost always walk away with both a blessing and a limp.

Marjorie Hass, A Leadership Guide for Women in Higher Education, p. 66.

This attention to some of the paradoxes of leadership emerged in our conversation with her. She also talked about how a love of language and its power led her to study philosophy, and offered some helpful advice for young adults. “You can’t have it all,” she offered, because trade-offs and choices are inevitable. “This is a time for ruthless interrogation of what and how you want to live,” she emphasized.

The podcast can be accessed at the link below and through Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and other podcast platforms. We invite you to listen to this and other episodes of the NetVUE podcast, and ask you to share them with your friends and colleagues.

The episode that features Marjorie Hass is entitled “Wrestling with the Angel.”

Click here to listen to the full episode of our conversation with Marjorie Hass.


Hannah Schell was a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Monmouth College in Illinois from 2001-2018. She is the author of “Commitment and Community: The Virtue of Loyalty and Vocational Discernment” in At this Time and In This Place: Vocation and Higher Education, ed. David S. Cunningham (Oxford University Press, 2015), and, more recently, “Loyalty in the Time of Catastrophe: Anthropocene Reflections” (co-written with Mark Larrimore). Currently the Online Community Coordinator and the editor of this blog, she is also a campus consultant for NetVUE. Click here to see other blog posts by Hannah.

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