DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Tchotchkes and Greatness

Written by: on September 12, 2019

Last year, the president of our University retired. He was at the university for a total of 43 years and had worked his way up from our facilities team through student life, to the VP of Student Life and then to the Presidency. While it was a long journey, it was one full of legacy and commitment to the students and the institution. As you can imagine, he amassed a lot of stuff – or tchotchkes as he called them – in his office throughout the years, as well as shelves and shelves of books. In a moment of inspirational brilliance one day, he call to tell me that he wanted to donate it all to my office to sell as a fundraiser for our mission teams. I quickly agreed and we arranged a time to set it all up on our main campus thoroughfare to sell. We called it “Take a Piece of Wallace (his last name) With You” and he sat there for 3 hours selling stuff, signing things, and talking with students. In total, we set up 3 tables of stuff, 8 tables of books piled probably 10 deep, and made over $2500 to go towards mission team scholarships.


That day, I watched Dr. Wallace, or “J-Dub” as he was affectionately known by the students, hand books and things to students as he talked to them, sat with them, conversed with them. He told 43 years worth of stories through memento’s and nuggets from each and every one of  those books. He paused for every student, picking out just the right item, just the right book, just the right words, at just the right time. At the end of the day, he pulled me aside. He handed me a book with a red cover and said, “I think you’ll need this and I hope it moves you as much as it did me.”


Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t is a New York Times Bestseller, written by Jim Collins, released in 2001. In the book, Collins and his team, postulate that almost any company can make the elusive leap from being a good company to a great company by applying the principles his team uncovered through five long years of research.[1] Their framework centers on three categories of growth that happen in sequential order. First, growth comes from disciplined people.[2] These people embody what Collins calls “Level 5 Leadership”[3] in their leadership positions, and spend a good portion of time getting the right people in the company, the wrong people out of the company, and the right people in the right positions.[4] Next, great companies focus on disciplined thought, which teaches them to have laser focus on their prevailing end, not losing sight of what is.[5] These same companies get really good at identifying their core businesses and sticking to that, no matter what comes.[6] Lastly, companies spend time on disciplined action through cultivating disciplined people and selectively using technology.[7]


In his follow up work, Good to Great in the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer, Collins takes this framework deeper through reimagining language that better fits the social sector businesses or organizations he’s encountered through the years.[8] While this addendum was quite helpful, it really was a reframing of terminology because, as Collins reminds us, “Our work is not fundamentally about business; it is about what separates great from good.”[9]


As I sat on Cougar Walk that day, watching former president Wallace taking time for each passerby, I realized I was in the presence of greatness. I watched a man who had mastered legislative leadership[10] as he was transitioning out of what he’d known for the last 43 years. I watched him hold his head high through the end of the one of the most difficult years of his life, and never miss a beat. He treated each student as unique as each book and tchotchke. Through that day, and this book, I really do feel like I’ve taken a piece of Wallace with me.



[1] Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 5.

[2] Ibid., 12.

[3] Ibid., 12.

[4] Ibid., 13.

[5] Ibid., 13.

[6] Ibid., 13.

[7] Ibid., 13.

[8] Jim Collins, Good to Great in the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking is Not the Answer (New York: NY, HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), 2.

[9] Ibid., 2.

[10] Ibid., 10.

About the Author


Karen Rouggly

Karen Rouggly is the Director for Mobilization in the Center for Student Action at Azusa Pacific University. She develops transformational experiences for students serving locally, nationally, and internationally. She completed an MA in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about community development, transformational service and helping students understand vocation and service. Karen is also an active member at the Vineyard Church Glendora where she is a small group leader and serves on the teaching team. She is also a mom to two sweet boys, wife to an amazing guy, and loves being a friend to many.

10 responses to “Tchotchkes and Greatness”

  1. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Lovely and touching ode to J- Dub!

  2. Thank you Karen for introducing my name namesake to us and relating Collins book to your experience with him. It takes a commitment to specific goals and discipline to achieve greatness and it does certainly seem like Dr Wallace set a good example as a leader.

  3. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your observations and your experience. Obviously, Dr. Wallace was a great leader whether he met Collins’ criteria or not. Perhaps the impact of Collins’ work in your own life is more about its connection with the great leader who personally gave you his personal copy. I am thrilled you had this great leader in your life and look forward to seeing how this plays out in your own leadership and research.

  4. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Excellent, Karen! What an experience that must have been. You took far more than a book or tchotchke. It seems learning from greatness is better caught than taught and you certainly caught it. I have found the lessons I learn walking alongside great people has transformational impact deeper than anything read. Jesus certainly thought so in his leadership development model. What a treasure you were given!

    • Karen Rouggly says:

      Thanks Tammy – I totally agree. I think we become better when we absorb the greatness we surround ourselves with. The more time we spend with Jesus – the more we start to look like him! Such a good reminder!

  5. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Love it Karen – thank you for this. It sounds like his life provides a definition for greatness that we need.

  6. Jose Brown Jr. says:

    Okay Karen I see you. ???

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