Home > Our Projects > Santa Barbara Council for Self-Esteem > Peter MacDougall
Presentation to the SB Council for Self-Esteem - 1/20/12
Introduction by Bob Hodges:
Our guest speaker today is Dr. Peter MacDougall.
Peter began his career path by serving as full-time Counselor Coordinator at Pennsylvania State University while completing his doctorial studies. He continued as Associate Dean of Students and Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, went on to serve as Director of Educational Services for the Los Angeles Community College District and Dean of Student Services at Los Angeles Pierce College.
This path culminated in Peter serving as Superintendent and President of the Santa Barbara Community College District for 21 years, while also serving on many community organizations.
In his series of positions he became a major and positive influence on the education system in California, which will significantly affect our future as graduates enter into the working environment.
Along the way Peter has collected many awards. He was selected as one of the nation's top 50 community college leaders by the University of Texas, named one of the most influential people in Santa Barbara by the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce and received the Santa Barbara News-Press Lifetime achievement Award, to name only a few.
In retirement he has only modified his commitment slightly by providing his service to the community of Santa Barbara serving on various boards. The most notable being Chairman of the Campaign Cabinet that successfully raised over $100 million to build a new Cottage Hospital.
Peter is here today to present his thoughts on his self-esteem and how it helped him to succeed in life and be a major influence in the important field of education.
Please, give a warm welcome to Dr. Peter MacDougall.
The Following synopsis is by Betty Hatch
It was the biggest surprise we had ever received in our 22 year history. With the former President of SB City College speaking on his personal self-esteem, we knew our turnout would be huge. Arriving an hour early to set up, we were shocked to find the parking lot filled and a class in process in the auditorium, where we have held the presentations for years. With the help of the College's Vice President, we were able to get the class to move to another location but they took their chairs with them!
With less than an hour to set up, our nerves were a little shaken, but when Dr. MacDougall came to the podium, things got worse. The audio system began misbehaving immediately. The static made every noise from pops to screams and people began to leave to protect their ears from the racket.
During the next 40 minutes, we had people from the audience, the videographer, the lady in front of me and others who left their seats to see if they could be of help. In the mean time, Dr. MacDougall was focused on his talk and continued to speak. In spite of the activity, he was focused and at ease, stopping only when the sound became too loud for anyone to hear. His speech was an impressive demonstration of what high/healthy self-esteem looks like!
Peter's message was clear. He began by telling us that he had sufficient self-esteem to be confident in taking on new challenges. (I'm sure today was one of them!) He became who he is, in part, by nature (the physical characteristics present at birth), but primarily by nurture, by his life experiences and by his reactions to those experiences. He felt we interpret our situations and draw conclusions about them that then affect future decisions. We make decisions based upon our sense of self and sometimes say yes to activities we really don't want to do (He used the challenge in speaking on one's self-esteem as an example!)
Peter was born in 1939 in a small town in Rhode Island. His mother was a Roman Catholic and every year or two another child would be born. There were finally seven boys and two girls. The family life was functional with all keeping their possessions in tact, doing what needed to be done around the housewhy and contributing to family life. The boys were sent to church and there were few family activities. Each child had her/his group of friends and thus went their own way. Birthdays were low key celebrations, with cake and ice cream and each child receiving a dollar at her/his plate to commemorate this special day. Peter felt his family presented an excellent experience and he learned to co-operate, to be self-reliant and to have limited expectations as to any "entitlements." Today, all family members stay in touch, care about one another and can be counted on in a time of need.
All Peter knew during his early years was his small town; although the family did travel the 11 miles to Providence a couple of times a year, and that was a really big deal to him. His hometown was made up of a variety of ethnic groups--Irish, French, Italian, Polish, etc., and deep friendships developed over time that were valued and had great meaning. Peter developed an identity with his community and respect for what community meant. He recognized how personal involvement was so important to a community flourishing.
Peter identified the three people who were the most important influences in his life: his grandmother; his father and an older friend. His grandmother had the most influence. She had a vital spirit, love of life, was generous and filled with unconditional love and support. Peter's father was a hard worker, committed provider for the family, a person of integrity, who possessed courage and was involved in community service. The third person was the brother in law of Peter's high school girlfriend; they became very good friends. This person had an abundance of love of family, confidence in his ability to accomplish almost anything, impeccable integrity and a positive outlook on life. Peter learned a great deal from talking with him when they worked together. He noted that not one of these three individuals, who most influenced him, graduated from college; however, their impact as "teachers" was profound.
Displaying affection was a limited part of his family life being directed primarily to the new child in the home. Also, few expectations were defined by his parents. Each child was required to find the path appropriate for him or her.
When Peter was a senior in high school, he did not feel prepared to go to college. In his senior year the guidance counselor stopped him in the school corridor one day and discussed going to college and encouraged him to look into it. Though Peter was President of his class and an All State in football player, he did not believe he was ready. He also knew he would be responsible for funding his education.
A big surprise was when his classmates, with money remaining in the class treasury, used those funds to provide Peter with a small scholarship for his college education! Receiving this generous gift from his classmates imbued in him a commitment to not fail. He attended the University of Rhode Island, worked extremely hard on his studies and two jobs, became the President of the Student Body (the Student Senate,) played four years of football and was active in a number of extra-curricular activities. He also participated in ROTC and upon graduation was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the Army.
Because his call to active duty was nearly a year after his graduation, he and a friend decided to attend graduate school at R.I. College, full time, in the fall. In the spring of that year he reduced his graduate work to part time and accepted a full-time graduate, assistant teaching position at the University of Rhode Island.
When Peter entered the Army (May, 1962) he did so with enthusiasm, and with the intent of taking advantage of all the training open to him. Following Infantry Officers training he volunteered for, and successfully completed the Airborne and Ranger Schools. Though he volunteered for it, due to his lack of success on the eyesight test, he was not able to attend training as a helicopter pilot. He was assigned to Korea and had the good fortune of having as the Capt. of his infantry company, an Afro-American West Point graduate (a rarity at that time.) He had a very positive experience and when the Capt rotated back to the states Peter, as a 2nd lieutenant, assumed command of the company. A significant learning experience resulted for him.
Just prior to being discharged from the Army and while serving at Ft. Dix, N.J. he attended the graduation of a friend from a Master's program at the University of Maryland. In their conversation the friend told Peter that the program his friend was completing was one for which Peter was ideally suited (working in higher education.) Though he had received an offer to teach high school in Rhode Island, he decided to explore further his friend's recommendation. As a result he returned to the Univ. of R.I. and though paid as a graduate assistant, worked full-time in the student affairs area.
After that year of experience he felt working in higher education would be an excellent career. On the advice of another friend, he obtained a full-time position at The Pennsylvania State University and acceptance in a doctoral program. He had three very productive and enjoyable years at Penn State and, though offered the opportunity to work as an Asst. Dean, in the fall of 1968 he accepted a position that he felt offered more opportunities for growth at Rutgers Univ. in N. J.
1968-69 was a dynamic time in the nations' colleges and Peter, within a year, was offered the position of Associate Dean of Students at Rutgers. He worked at Rutgers for seven years. Among his group were three Asst. Deans. While conducting a positive evaluation of one of them the individual told Peter he would be leaving to work in a community college. Peter, knowing almost nothing about community colleges, was flabbergasted that the person would leave a great university to work at a community college.
When the person responded with his reason that he felt he could do more for students in a community college, Peter immediately felt the need to learn more about these institutions.
His inquiries confirmed the great potential of community colleges with their open admissions philosophy and teaching and counseling as their core values. He then made a decision to seek employment in a community college and decided California was where these institutions were flourishing.
It was his good fortune to be hired as the Dean of Students (Chief Student Affairs Officer) for Los Angeles Pierce College one of the nine Los Angeles community colleges. Three and one half years later Peter coordinated student services for all nine L.A. colleges and in the last of his six years in that system led an assessment team to determine whether the development of a 10th L.A. college should take place. However, again opportunity and fate intervened.
On a visit to Santa Barbara a few years earlier he pointed out SBCC to his wife Leslie. She commented that if the presidency should open, he might want to apply. Peter commented that would be great, but there would be a large number of candidates and he doubted he would be successful. However, when the position of Superintendent President did open he applied and felt most fortunate to be selected. He remained in that office for twenty-one years and, of all his rewarding experiences, that was the very best. Discussing his self-esteem, Peter explained he has never been over confident but, if given an opportunity, he was always willing to see if he could succeed.
In addition to a most satisfying professional career, and wonderful experiences in serving the community, he feels tremendously fortunate to have a wonderful wife of thirty six years, three children and nine grand-children that bring him great joy, his brothers and sisters who mean so much to him and many loyal and wonderful friends. His gratitude for all these things, and for living in and having the opportunity to serve this special community of Santa Barbara, is felt deeply each day.
Peter's description of the grandmother who had the most influence on him was a woman with almost no material possessions, who loved life, and gave unceasingly to others. He feels it was her unconditional love for him and confidence that he was special, that sustained him in some of the more challenging times in his life.
The most challenging was when Peter's first marriage failed in the early 1970's. In terms of how he was raised and his values at the time, such an outcome was unthinkable; and he could not but ask: "What is wrong with me?" Fortunately, with the support of family and friends he was able to make it through this period while learning from it.
As a leader of an organization or group, he has always appreciated those with whom he has worked. When criticized, he attempts to honestly evaluate that criticism and ask as objectively as he can: "What is best for the organization and those who comprise it?" He feels integrity is the key to long term effectiveness. One should say what he believes and means and then stand behind it. He was aware that just about any thing could make its way to the president's desk and all such matters needed to be addressed with the long-term interests of the organization in mind.
Finally, Peter told us that physically he takes good care of himself. He eats and sleeps well and exercises daily. He recognizes that each day is precious and consciously tries to do what he can to make it a bit better for himself and others! He surely made the audience's day better.
Home > Our Projects > Santa Barbara Council for Self-Esteem > Peter MacDougall