President's Economic Forum Employs Huge Volunteer Effort

  • News Photo 476
    Bruce Zanca, White House media consultant, meets with a group of volunteers who acted as "shepherds" for Cabinet Secretaries and Forum participants.
  • News Photo 490
    Baylor Student Government officers (L to R): Bradley Pierce, internal vice president; Ade Ifelayo, student body president; and John Hill, external vice president.
  • News Photo 491
    Some of Baylor's many volunteers learn about their duties during a meeting Monday, Aug. 12.
Aug. 14, 2002

by Lori Scott Fogleman

With a little more than a week's notice to prepare for the President's Economic Forum, hundreds of Baylor University personnel and volunteers joined forces with White House staff to accomplish the flawless meeting Aug. 13, the success of which did not go unnoticed by government officials.

"I started this morning complimenting Robert Sloan on Baylor's beautiful campus and the hospitality here. It could not have been any better," said Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. "Every building was spectacular, the people were nice, and I can't imagine a better place to have had a meeting like this."

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said he felt "well-taken care of."

"You have remarkable facilities," Secretary Thompson said. "For Baylor University to pull off a meeting at this level of complication in this short of time is phenomenal."

Groundskeepers spent the week sprucing up the campus grounds, while housekeeping staff gave an extra shine to windows in the Baylor Law School, McLane Student Life Center and the Bill Daniel Student Center, where the President and his guests gathered for a luncheon. Food service employees with ARAMARK, who contracts with Baylor, kept coffee, water, sandwiches and snacks available from sunup to sundown to media, White House staff and Baylor volunteers.


Baylor's facility services "never told us no," according to several White House staffers, as they provided the facilities, phone lines and networking capabilities for the government and the media, and facility workers who set up tables, chairs, staging and platforms, and hung the huge red, white and blue forum banners at all three campus locations.

Five Baylor staff members who spent days planning and preparing the forum sites were Bob Hartland, director of systems and networks; Don Bagby, director of facilities management; Stacey Benningfield, coordinator of telecom operations; Bill Lechner, coordinator of network special projects; and Chris Krause, director of university operations.

"As a manager, you are only as good as the people who work for and with you," Hartland said. "I have an incredible group who work with me, and at the end I was very proud but not surprised at the effort. Because everything was so well coordinated, all I had to do was make sure the lines were clear, which let them take the lead and get their jobs done."

Dr. Kim Scott, Baylor's director of campus recreation, surveyed the scene Tuesday from the SLC's main desk, where student workers and professional and support staff members helped with many duties from security to general directions to office operations.

"This was the personification of what teamwork is. Everyone did their job and pulled together for the ultimate purpose," she said. "We went to countless planning meetings, did what we needed to do, then sat back and watched this national forum come off without a hitch."


A group of about 20 Baylor faculty, staff and students were assigned as a "shepherd" to each Cabinet member and forum participant as they came to the SLC for media interviews. "No one missed an interview," said a White House media affairs staff member.

One shepherd, Melanie Smith from academic advisement, had an experience she'll never forget. A conversation about the origins of Dr Pepper between Smith and her assigned Cabinet member, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, led to a spur-of-the-moment tour of Waco's Dr Pepper Museum. The secretary, Smith said, is an avid Dr Pepper fan.

"I told her that Dr Pepper was Baylor's official soft drink and that it was invented in Waco. I also told her the Dr Pepper Museum was just down the street, less than five minutes away," Smith said.

That's when things got interesting. Secretary Chao, who Smith described as "delightful," talked to her security and arranged for transportation, while Smith called the Dr Pepper Museum and set up a 15-minute tour.

"We were met at the door by three museum employees, who walked the Secretary and her staff through the museum," Smith said. "Secretary Chao took pictures with everyone. She was so happy and excited and told me she didn't know when she had had so much fun."

At the conclusion of the tour, the museum staff had Dr Pepper floats ready for Secretary Chao, her security, staff and driver.

"She even told me, 'I think President Bush should have his library here because everything is so nice here in Waco. His dad's papers are in College Station and President Johnson's papers are in Austin, this would be a perfect central location,'" Smith said.

Another shepherd, Rosemary Townsend, took advantage of a 15-minute break between interviews to give a tour of the SLC to her assigned Cabinet member Secretary Thompson.

Townsend, the director of health center business affairs and community partnerships, said the Secretary was "so gracious, interested" in Baylor's approach to holistic living. The Student Life Center's mission is to assist the Baylor community in achieving a productive lifestyle and optimal health, physically, mentally and spiritually, through quality fitness programs and services.

"We are one of only four universities in the country that place our health center in a wellness facility," Townsend said, as she showed the Secretary the health center, the indoor pool and the fitness center.

"He remarked that Baylor is doing so many innovative things and that we've realized health care is all about prevention," Townsend said. "We exchanged cards, and later his staff person came back and said they would be getting in contact with me."


John Hill, Baylor's student body external vice president and junior political science major from Arlington, described his assigned Cabinet member, Treasury Secretary O'Neill, as a "very nice and very real person," who gave Hill an insider's look at the life of a high-level government official and the inner workings of his staff.

"I have a much greater respect for what they have to do," said Hill, who plans to attend law school after graduation and pursue a career in public service.

Bradley Pierce, Baylor's student body internal vice president and a junior history major from Dickinson, was assigned to Chief of Staff Card, who he described as "really personable."

"I met him at the luncheon and he didn't know he had any interviews," Pierce said. "He and I walked out with his security detail, he jumped into his car, and I jumped into a state trooper's car with the lights going, and we made it over to the SLC."

Baylor Student Body President Ade Ifelayo, a senior economics major from Sugar Land, took a short break from studying for his medical school entrance exam to meet President Bush at the Baylor luncheon.

"It was an honor for me to be able to meet him and to find out that he was just as good a person as everyone says he is," Ifelayo said. "He treated me with the same respect as he did everyone." Ifelayo also spent a few minutes talking with the President about Baylor's athletic facilities, including the new softball complex and tennis center.

Other media relations volunteers were Cynthia Jackson, director of communications and marketing in the business school, who was with Commerce Secretary Evans; Randy Woodruff, director of Internet services, who was assigned to Director Daniels; Kevin Kirk, associate director of admission services, who was assigned to Ambassador Zoellick; Janet Knox, director of telephone services, who was with Chairman Hubbard; Dr. Randy Lofgren, associate vice president for alumni services, who was responsible for Energy Secretary Abraham; Rachelle Meyer, an education doctoral student assigned to Education Secretary Rod Paige; Dr. Rusty Pippin, professor of health, human performance and recreation, who was assigned to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman; and Brenda Ramey, alumni services event coordinator, who was with Director Lindsey.

Kirsten Escobar, assistant director of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, and Megan Holmes, a journalism graduate student, were responsible for shepherding various participants, from CEO's to small business owners, to interviews with their hometown news organizations.


Dr. Sloan singled out the hundreds of Baylor faculty, staff and students who each had a part in making the forum at Baylor an extraordinary success.

"Everyone saw the beauty of the campus," Dr. Sloan said. "But everyone also noticed the accomplishments of hardworking people with a servant-like spirit. President Bush said, 'We'll do some more things here.'"

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