By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
During her first semester of college, University of Findlay President Katherine Fell was a student worker on the farm at Southern State College (now Southern Arkansas University), and she did not enjoy being pecked by hens when she collected their eggs.
Her first solution, she told Findlay Rotary Club on Monday, was to wear “big, rubber kitchen gloves” — which nobody else did.
“By accident, I learned a better method for solving the pecking problem better than the gloves,” Fell said. “I dropped an egg, and every hen in the house ran to eat it.”
“So I then learned to throw an egg across the house, clear my row of nests, get the eggs from it, and no pecking occurred.”
That was the unplanned lesson of her one-semester farm job.
“The intended lesson was to learn how farming works. The takeaway lesson was I had made the right decision to be an English major, and I also learned that unintended consequences can be very good indeed.”
Fell was speaking to Rotary on “What College Has Taught Me” — both the expected and unexpected, from her time as a student in Arkansas through her current role at UF.
As an English professor at Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport, Fell learned that teaching requires more than “subject matter expertise.” It also takes “character, compassion, patience, emotional intelligence, caffeine.”
She then became a development officer at Centenary College.
“I found that perceived differences between faculty and administration are unhelpful and, for the most part, untrue,” Fell said.
“Like teaching, fundraising requires relationship building, flexibility, patience, creativity, a clear and compelling articulation of the case under consideration and, for sure, a sense of humor,” she said.
Fell said Findlay — both the university and the city — have taught her more lessons than could fit in one Rotary presentation.
She talked about the university’s tradition of freshmen walking under the arch in front of Old Main as a new student, and then never walking under it again until graduating.
About students who break tradition, she joked: “We don’t even know what happened to them.”
Students also shouldn’t step on the brick circle around the oil derrick fountain, Fell said.
The supposed penalty for students who do is failing their next exam.
“If you step on enough of those, you don’t have to worry about the arch,” she said.
A more serious lesson Fell has learned is that “when good people come together, in spite of their challenges, and give of their time, talent and resources to work toward a larger goal of making a community better for all, amazing things can happen. And nobody does that better than Findlay-Hancock County.”
The number of student Christian groups at the university has increased in recent years, she said, though students are not required to be Christian or attend chapel.
“We do require that matters of faith be treated with respect,” Fell said.
The university will soon purchase the Winebrenner Theological Seminary building. The seminary will remain in the building, and UF will move its admissions offices there.
The university’s new Center for Student Life and College of Business building is “maybe the most visible example of community collaboration and support,” she said.
It includes six food stations, which Fell emphasized the community is invited to frequent.
Also inside is a veterans honor wall, which is open to any Findlay College/University of Findlay attendee who serves or has served in the military.
“This has been a very, very well-visited aspect of our new building and I hope you can come by and show your respect,” Fell said.
To submit a name for the wall, contact Diane Rowland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-434-4517.