Eighteen years ago, Paragon Leadership began supporting Women in Leadership in a bold way. The inaugural Executive Leadership Experience for Women, which quickly become known as the ELE, ran successfully for seven years and impacted the lives of many senior leadership women. A key to the success of this unique offering was our fearless leader, facilitator, educator, and coach, Dr. Mary Vielhaber. Mary had an uncanny way of teaching impactful life lessons, encouraging women to overcome their fears and speak their authentic truths, and challenging the thinking of women leaders to expand their learnings and limits they all too often set for themselves.
After Mary passed the baton to Diane Ring, another gifted Paragon legacy coach and consultant, to support the women participants of the ELE, she continued to inspire women and next-generation leaders through her coaching, mentoring and educating. In addition to supporting the clients of Paragon, Mary served as Professor of Management, Acting Associate Graduate Dean, and Co-Director of the Master’s program in Human Resource and Organization Development at Eastern Michigan University throughout a span of 42 years of service. She also co-authored several leadership books.
Perhaps of greatest importance, however, was the many hearts Mary touched by always finding the time to give to others when her plate was already full. I credit the completion of my Graduate degree to Mary, as she helped me find a way for the university to make an exception of not having to take additional classes when I transferred from the MBA to the Masters of Science in Organization Development program at EMU. Or when my friend was told she would not graduate as she was shy a couple of credit hours, it was Mary who helped her secure the graduate requirements by sponsoring her in an independent study. Over the years, these stories become common, as Mary was the one person others would go to in a time of need, and she always found the time.
Whether you were a student, coachee, mentee or simply a friend of Mary’s, and were touched by her selfless acts of kindness, her commonsense advice, or down-to-earth approach of teaching, I am sure you were as saddened as I was to learn of her passing last week.
On behalf of all of us at Paragon Leadership, may Mary’s life, and all she stood for, be an encouragement for all of us to take just a bit more time to give back to others.
Family members and colleagues of Mary’s have established a scholarship fund for women pursuing business degrees at Eastern Michigan University in memory of Mary. If interested in donating toward this fund, you may write a check to the Eastern Michigan University (EMU) Foundation with a notation for the Mary Vielhaber Scholarship Fund, and send to 850 Cross Street, Ypsilanti, MI 48196.