Leadership and service go hand-in-hand for Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee, W’78, commander of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Ft. Knox, Ky. 

Gen. Farrisee came to campus Sept. 26 and 27 to share insights and expertise with students based on her 33-year career in the military. As the Jepson School’s 2011-12 leader-in-residence, she delivered a talk on “Leadership in a Life of Service,” met with students informally and visited classes to discuss various aspects of leadership.

Power and authority, gender and leadership, and collaborative versus authoritative leadership were among the topics she discussed.

“You can use authority and power properly, or you can abuse it,” she told students during the lecture. “We all know there are different ways to tell people what to do, and the way you do it tells what kind of leader you are.”

She revealed that she prefers a collaborative leadership style but added that sometimes an authoritative leadership style is appropriate.

In class, she shared her experience as a young woman in a leadership position in a predominantly male organization. As a young leader, “the first contract that I made with myself was that I would be the very best at what I did,” she said. That commitment has earned her more than a dozen awards during her distinguished career.

“I have to admit, though, when I first joined the Army you could have knocked me over with a feather if you had told me that I would spend 33 years here,” she said. “But I’m passionate about what I do and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. What it comes down to is having a passion for what you decide to do with your life, no matter what that is, and committing to it.”

A career in the Army may not have been what she had in mind before college. But her father, Robert Sgro, R’56, who is in the Richmond Athletic Hall of Fame, convinced her to come to Richmond and to give ROTC a try.

It turned out to be the perfect fit.

“The same UR experience that helped me prepare for the road ahead is doing the same for you.” Whatever career you choose after graduating, you will be well prepared, she said.  

She also encouraged students to be ready for leadership challenges and to make the most of opportunities.

“Each leadership challenge provided an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge. Be ready for those challenges and opportunities.”