Penn State plays Wisconsin tonight in Indianapolis in the Big Ten championship game. Few expected we would be 10-2 at this point in the season, and fewer expected we would be playing for the Big Ten title.

I’m excited for tonight’s game, but I don’t want to write about football today. I want to write about Paul Clifford and the tremendous job I think he’s doing as CEO of the Penn State Alumni Association. He came into his role in January with an energy that I’ve rarely seen in the administrative ranks, and continues to be public-facing, relationship-focusd, and serious about making Penn State great not just in the way it talks about itself, but in practice through the relationships that are the engine of the community.

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These screenshots are from a Facebook Live that Paul did when he got into Indianapolis yesterday, where he visited Hoagies & Hops which is owned by a Penn Stater. He did a short interview with her that you can watch here.

I understand that there’s probably a traditionalist expectation that the head of an alumni association’s job is primarily internal/institutional fundraising, and I’m sure that occupies a big slice of Paul’s time. But what he’s doing through Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and more broadly by being a ubiquitous (and responsive!) public figure for Penn State is the foundational, important work. It will help Penn State earn a spot among the alumni associations of the future, because this being “First Public Booster” is increasingly the role of this figure, if it wasn’t already. And more than that, it makes the hundreds of thousands of regular alumni and friends who follow the Penn State Alumni Association, (or Paul personally) feel genuinely good about Penn State, and about the time many of us are volunteering to help make Penn State better.

Paul’s love is obvious and infectious. I’m positive it’s paying dividends, because building relationships and spirit are the most traditional things a leader must do. I think too many institutional managers have forgotten this. Paul represents a return to form.