Student profiles in leadership: 25 years apart

(March 6, 2020) By GlyptusAnn Grider Jones
Student profiles in leadership: 25 years apart

McConnell Scholars Matthew Webster ('96) and Eric Bush ('20)

When Matthew Webster (’96) thinks back on his undergraduate experience, he said the hands-on, full-immersion leadership development he gained at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center helped prepare him for his career in higher education and public administration.

“By encouraging its students to be engaged, to serve others and invest in our communities, the Center helped shape my understanding and passion to be a servant leader,” Webster said.

Part of the first class to graduate from the McConnell Scholars Program, Webster helped establish the McConnell Scholar Council and was elected by his peers to serve as its first chair.

“We were drawing plays in the dirt because there was no script or history to draw from as we moved forward,” Webster recalled. His goal was to leave an institutional roadmap for future McConnell Scholars to make the program their own, just as his class did.

Today, the chair leads the council and scholar meetings, serves as the group's representative to campus organizations and plays a key role in recommending center programs and events.

“I have the unique challenge of leading a group of confident, articulate leaders. My role is to build consensus, channel information and turn ideas into action," said Eric Bush (’20), the 25th and current chair of the McConnell Scholars.

He looks to past chairs of the McConnell Scholars Program, including Webster, for guidance.

“When I was elected, a number of previous chairs reached out to me, and once I graduate, I look forward to supporting future chairs and remaining connected with the McConnell Center,” Bush said.

Among his accomplishments as chair, Bush helped oversee the addition of a student health and wellness director on the council. He also helped welcome two members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to campus and served as program host for the Australian ambassador's visit to the center last fall.

He will hand over the position to a newly elected chair at the scholars' April meeting. Then he has a revenue management internship lined up at Southwest Airlines following his May graduation.

Webster, the assistant county administrator for Boone County, Kentucky, is a two-graduate of UofL. He earned his law degree from Brandeis School of Law before serving as dean of students and vice president for student services at Thomas More College (now University) for 15 years. 

He said the experiences he gained through the McConnell Scholars Program and his role as chair are innumerable: “There is no other academic or co-curricular offering that is any more rich or impactful than the McConnell Scholars Program at the University of Louisville.”

Alli Wade also contributed to this story.