Freddye Webb-Petett (KNFP 4), Emeritus Assistant Professor, Clinton School of Public Service, University of Arkansas.
This article originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
Freddye Webb-Petett has made it her life’s work to create opportunities for people who traditionally have not had them. During her 14 years at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, she held several positions, most recently coordinating the Mid South Delta Initiative, championing community-driven efforts. After retiring from the Foundation in 2004, she became Assistant Professor of Leadership and Philanthropy at the Clinton School of Public Service, and then was asked to become the founding director of the school’s Center for Community Philanthropy, designing its role in helping communities become their own best advocates.
”Wherever I could, I’ve made sure there was a diversity of voices around the table,” says Freddye. ”With the Mid South Delta Initiative, my goal was to get ideas and action from people in the region in partnership with the Foundation. I was able to engage people in the Delta who traditionally hadn’t been active to help develop the initiative and implement programs in their local communities.”
Part of Freddye’s strategy was to provide emerging leaders from the Delta with networking experiences in other areas of the region or the country, even internationally, to give them a broader perspective of the issues they faced locally. She sponsored trips to Africa for young adults from the Delta, allowing them to connect with people in community-based organizations there who were grappling with similar problems.
”They gained a different perspective on their own communities and began to think of their region as having assets, not just deficits. It was a milestone,” she says.
Her measurement of success has been not just accomplishing goals, but celebrating progress. ”Change invariably occurs in incremental steps,” she says. ”It can be measured in terms of progress as well as accomplishments.”
When she retired in Spring 2007, Freddye vowed to step back for a year from all but her most essential volunteer commitments and pursue more personal matters of wellness and spirituality while assessing what she wants to do next.
”At this stage in my life, I’m constantly asking, ’What’s the common good?’ I have to ask myself, ’Is this something I enjoy? Am I only saying yes because someone has asked?’” Freddye is realizing, ”Taking care of myself also means saying no.”
To other Fellows transitioning to retirement, she says, ”I would advocate taking that time to assess and reflect on where you’ve been and what’s really important to you as you make the transition to move forward. I do want to stay engaged in the issues that are important to me in some way, but there needs to be a reflection time about what’s the best way to do that given our maturity of life and leadership role, to determine how best to contribute without just jumping into something.”
She adds, ”I don’t believe it will be an easy transition for any of the Fellows, particularly because they’ve all been highly engaged in leadership roles. It’s not easy; it takes time. But it’s important.”