This article shares a real life example of overcoming adversity. It will show how overcoming adversity has help shape a prominent leader. This article tells the background and story of one of the leader's success at overcoming adversity (in fact she faced the multiple adversities of racial, sex, and age discrimination) and then becoming a very successful leader.

This article shares some of the groundbreaking Doctoral research results, as to how to overcome adversity and become a successful leader. The sixteen prominent successful leaders who overcame adversity that were interviewed included: Dr. Tony Bonanzino, Jack Canfield, William Draper III, Mark Victor Hansen, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R- UT), Monzer Hourani, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), J. Terrence Lanni, Dr. John Malone, Angelo Mozilo, Larry Pino, Dr. Nido Qubein, U.S. Army Major General Sid Shachnow (Ret.), Dr. John Sperling, Dr. Blenda Wilson, and Zig Ziglar.

Several internationally known, well-respected leadership scholars, as well as best-selling authors all offered their academic peer debriefings and reviews of the leadership and adversity research findings including: Dr. Kenneth Blanchard, Dr. John Kotter, Professor James Kouzes, Dr. Paul Stoltz, and Dr. Meg Wheatley.

This is a short version of a biography of one of the principal leadership and adversity research participants who generously contributed her valuable time and her keen insight for this important research into the secrets and insight of how to overcome adversity and become a successful and effective leader.

Dr. Wilson's journey is a story overcoming adversity, in fact multiple adversities, staying totally focused and driven to accomplish and realize her dreams. She did not grow up in the deep South, but rather grew up in the North in a small New Jersey town in the 1950s. Most people believed that the best Blenda could hope for was a low-paying office job, and that college was unrealistic and beyond her economic reach.

The Wilson family had unfortunately already experienced the painful sting of racial discrimination. Blenda's mother in spite of having a college degree from a normal school in the Deep South faced major discrimination in segregated ‘deep south’ during the Depression. To add insult to injury the schools in the northern United States would not accept her teaching credentials from a normal school in Georgia College, so she was never able to be a teacher..

Her mother having grown up in Georgia, in the then very Segregated Deep South, had first hand experienced living with massive racial discrimination because she was black, including having to stepped off into the curb if a white person was walking down the street.

Blenda Wilson's said that her father suffered from discrimination in the northern part of the United States. He had completed his training at a local vocational technical school, and earned his certificate as an electrician. However, to become an electrician, or to do his electrical apprenticeship. But because he was black no on one would hire him as an apprentice. So he became a just a laborer not an electrician.

Blenda Wilson then described her own experiences with not only racial discrimination, but both gender and age discrimination. Despite her having earned membership in the National Honor Society at her high school in Woodbridge, New Jersey, her totally unhelpful high school guidance counselor just refused to even to talk to Blenda about going to college. Her counselor had told her she was not going to college and learn to type so many she could become a secretary.

Wilson recalled that she had heard that women's colleges were providing scholarships for smart black students. I thought. She following up on that information she was focused on finding a good college that would pay for her tuition, books, room and board.

Young Blenda wrote many colleges to see who would pay for her entire college costs. After many letters she received scholarship offers from several major colleges, but initially they offered only one-year scholarships with a series of renewals. She wanted more and was determined to get a full four-year scholarship, with all tuition, books, and living expenses covered. One college offered her full four years' tuition, room and board, plus even a travel budget, plus a work study job. She graduated with a dual major in both English and Secondary Education. She went on to earn a Master's degree in Education from Seton Hall, and then earn from Boston College her Ph.D. in Higher Education.

Then multiple forms of discrimination came to Dr. Wilson from all fronts, including some she would never have expected. Early in her working career she experienced gender and age discrimination surprisingly from Black males, both in the community and within her organization. In spite of the fact that she was more qualified and more educated than her male Black competition, there was major opposition to her getting the job as Executive Director of the local Economic Opportunity Corporation. Dr. Wilson share with me that during her life she had experienced several kinds of prejudice, and some from unexpected places: She saw prejudice because she was young from everyone; prejudice from men, there's prejudice from black men, and of course prejudice from whites.

Dr. Blenda Wilson left the EOC, and when into higher education, only to face age discrimination because she was so young at the time. She became the Graduate School of Education at Harvard, youngest Senior Associate Dean. She again experienced discrimination because of her young age.

After several intense but wonderful years she left the Harvard University, School of Education. She then went to work for Dr. John Gardner, which was a major growth experience to learn directly from him." After working for Dr Gardner, she became the youngest Chancellor of the prestigious, University of Michigan.
I first met her when, Dr. Wilson then moved California, to become the new President of California State University, Northridge, where she served as President from 1992 to 1997. One of Dr. Wilson’s biggest her challenges that she face, as President of CSUN, was to lead and guide the university's recovery from the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake. The Northridge earthquake caused damages to the CSUN campus was well over $370 million.

Dr. Wilson has accomplished much more than just in higher education, as a Dean (School of Education Dean at Harvard), Chancellor (University of Michigan), and President (CSUN). She has served the communities that she has lived in many capacities, including work on non for profit Board, like the Getty Foundation Trustee, serve a chair of the American Association of Higher Education, as trustee of the College Board, and served as Deputy Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Dr. Wilson recently retired as the President and CEO of the Nellie Mae Educational Foundation in Quincy, Massachusetts.

She has demonstrated how to overcoming adversity and become a successful leader. Dr. Blenda Wilson’s life story is a heart warming story of overcoming adversity. You can read more about her and the full story of overcoming adversity by nine prominent leaders in Dr. Haller's book, "Leadership and Adversity: The Shaping of Prominent Leaders."

Author's Bio: 

Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.
Professional Keynote & Motivational Speaker, Award-Winning Published Book Author, University Professor, Author "Leadership and Adversity: The Shaping of Prominent Leaders" & Leadership Academic Scholar

Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.'s groundbreaking overcoming adversity and leadership research was published as a book in late 2008: "Leadership and Adversity: The Shaping of Prominent Leaders," by VDM Verlag Dr Müller AG & CoKG. This book has received great reviews which can be seen online at Amazon in the US, Canada, UK and Germany.

The 16 prominent leaders who overcame adversity and even major trauma, that were personally interviewed by Dr. Haller included: Dr. Tony Bonanzino, Jack Canfield, William Draper III, Mark Victor Hansen, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, Monzer Hourani, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, J. Terrence Lanni, Dr. John Malone, Angelo Mozilo, Larry Pino, Dr. Nido Qubein, U.S. Army Major General Sid Shachnow (Ret.), Dr. John Sperling, Dr. Blenda Wilson, and Zig Ziglar.

Five internationally scholars and best-selling authors peer reviewed and concurred with Dr. Haller's research findings in this groundbreaking overcoming adversity and leadership findings: Dr. Ken Blanchard, Dr. John Kotter, Professor James Kouzes, Dr. Paul Stoltz, and Dr. Meg Wheatley.

Dr. Howard Edward Haller is a award-winning published author: • Keynote and Motivational Speaker to Corporations, Associations and Colleges • He is a Professional Member of NSA • He is a successful Executive Coach & Mentor to Corporate and Non-Profit Senior Executives in the US & Canada • He is Expert on Leadership, Overcoming Adversity and Personal Success • He is a US Presidential National Award and Prize Winning Essayist. • He is an Accomplished Screenwriter, Television writer & Member of the WGAw. • Dr. Haller is a major expert on Overcoming Adversity and Leadership.

Dr. Howard Edward Haller is a well-respected academic writer, editor, scholar and major University Trustee, University Graduate Business School Professor and past President of University Board of Trustees.

Dr. Haller was selected and appointed a member of the Editorial Peer Review Board of the prestigious “International Journal of Servant Leadership,” along with world renowned leadership scholars & best-selling authors.