Randy Massengale ’78
December 12, 2005
Inspired by Books
Last September, C-SPAN’s big yellow school bus rolled to a stop outside Building 34 at Microsoft’s corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Randy Massengale beamed with pride as five young managers and directors climbed aboard to be filmed talking about books, technology, and leadership. Each was an original member of the “book club,” an executive mentoring program Massengale launched at Microsoft in 1997 for African American men.
“I have two passions: developing technology and developing people,” says Massengale, now president of Spinoza Technologies in Seattle, a firm that specializes in networking solutions. “I am fortunate to be doing both.”
Massengale garnered the attention of C-SPAN by writing a winning essay about one of the network’s programs, “Booknotes.” (C-SPAN sponsored the essay contest in celebration of its 25th anniversary.) Massengale says that “Booknotes” inspired him to read more and to act, create, and engage in life on a deeper level. Biographies, which are often featured on the program, are his favorite genre and a mainstay at Microsoft’s book club meetings.
“Listening to authors discuss people who have influenced history, we experience a sense of growing with those individuals and sharing in their struggles and triumphs,” Massengale says.
One of the books on the club’s reading list was Ralph Ellison’sInvisible Man: A Casebook, by John Callahan. (Callahan, Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities at Lewis & Clark, is the executor of Ellison’s literary estate.) The group studied the book for insights into the evolution of race, culture, and leadership in America.
“We learned that Ellison’s views evolved as the novel gained acceptance and was reinterpreted through generations,” says Massengale. “Life and the issues we debate are not static.”
The “Booknotes” muse struck again in 1998 as he listened to an interview with Howard Gardner, author of Extraordinary Minds, an analysis of traits shared by and unique to great achievers such as Mozart, Freud, and Gandhi. Following an intensive self-study of the book, Massengale (who had no prior university teaching experience) became an adjunct professor at the Albert School of Business and Economics at Seattle University in 2002. For three years running, M.B.A. students in his popular course Extraordinary Leaders have been exploring the principles that give birth to extraordinary performance.
“I value the opportunity to bring a liberal arts view of leadership to this business program,” he says.
Massengale shares his own leadership skills with Lewis & Clark College as a member of the Board of Trustees.
—by Pattie Pace