University of Akron President Scott Scarborough resembled a preacher more than a public college leader Monday.
Speaking at the 22nd annual Greater Akron Speaks Out for Values Breakfast, he quoted the Bible and Pope Francis and even Teddy Roosevelt as he talked about the importance of failing in life and how failure can help you achieve your full potential.
“What matters most is what we learn from our failures and how those lessons make us better,” Scarborough said in his slight Texas drawl. “I believe moments of failure are when we are most receptive to actually hearing what God has been trying to say.”
The event, held at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron and put on by Heart to Heart Communications, attracted about 650 business, government and community leaders.
Scarborough’s speech was titled, Crushed to Wisdom: Finding Promise in Our Failures.
Often, people struggle with failure and are embarrassed by their own and judge others by theirs, he said.
“Rather than view failure as an inevitable reality and the opportunity for personal growth, we demonize it as the just desserts of bad people or bad decisions,” said Scarborough, who took over as UA’s 16th president last year.
He cited failures in his personal and professional life. He spoke briefly about how devastated he was when his first marriage fell apart.
He also talked about being in charge at the University of Toledo Medical Center when a nurse accidentally threw away a kidney that had been set aside for donation. The mistake brought a swell of negative publicity on the hospital.
Too many people are quick to pile on and criticize in times of failure when they should be supportive, added Scarborough, who grew up in the Baptist faith.
He cited the famous biblical story of an adulterous woman being brought to Jesus. The accusers wanted her stoned to death, but Jesus remarked that anyone without sin should cast the first stone.
Scarborough, who revealed during the talk that he’s a fan of the television show American Idol, also mentioned how the pope, when asked to describe himself, replied: “I am a sinner.”
The Rev. Norman Douglas, executive director and co-founder of Heart to Heart, found humor in Scarborough’s reference to the pope.
“It’s a new day when a born Baptist quotes the Catholic pope. Hallelujah,” he said to laughter.
UA student Jack Jennemann, 22, a senior accounting major who performed at the event with the university’s Concert Choir, was impressed with Scarborough’s talk.
“I thought it was a very clear message,” he said. “I’m personally not really religious, but I enjoyed the stories. Failure is in all of our lives and it speaks to everybody.”
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.