Martin M. Rhodes: Time Flies, When You're Having Fun Leading

Twenty-four years have passed since I graduated from the Chamber’s Leadership Greater Little Rock – then known as the Greater Little Rock Leadership Institute. As a member of Class III, I was privileged to be a classmate of future Mayor Mark Stodola, City Director Dr. Dean Kumpuris, Chamber Chairman Mike Coulson, Arkansas Foodbank Chief Executive Officer Phyllis Haynes, State Senator John Riggs IV, my own business associate, Bill Cobb, as well as many others who remain good friends and community leaders to this day.

If memory serves, our tuition in 1987 was $400. There were 46 people in my class, and we had eight monthly sessions, which remain highly comparable to the eleven held today. Back then, the retreat was one day, not overnight. We only had one military day. We didn’t get to fly in a C-130 or Blackhawk helicopter, and there was no Leadership Challenge ropes course. As they are at present, sessions were held at different locations throughout the community, hosted by businesses/organizations which recognized early on the value of the program, and led by an all-star roster from business and public service.

Twenty-four years later, the classes have been hosted by hundreds of businesses, organizations and institutions across the region, including a succession of Arkansas Governors at the mansion – a tradition begun by then-Governor Bill Clinton. Sessions have been led by a Who’s Who of leaders from the private and public sectors, including the current United States Secretary of State. It is estimated that 2,500 presentations have been given over the past 27 years.

Today, Leadership Greater Little Rock is governed by a 19-member Board of Trustees and has graduated over 1,300 alumni. Then as now, members of my class forged lasting friendships that continue today.

We soaked up everything we could learn from a stellar list of community leaders who inspired us with a simple truth – no one needs permission to be a leader. Not only were we encouraged, but we were challenged to dive into service, to learn everything we could about our community, and to get busy making it better.

That simple truth endures, and it is the challenge I pass to Class XXVII. Take what you have learned this year, find your niche, lean on your fellow alumni, and get busy making Little Rock better than you found it.

Our fondest wish is that one or more of you will be writing this letter a whole lot sooner than 27 years from now.

Martin M. Rhodes (Class III)

Stephens Insurance