Big Tent Main Event Recap

On October 29, the Kansas Leadership Center convened a special family gathering, bringing together all major work areas for the first time under one “Big Tent.” After a full day of meetings, participants joined alumni to gather in Konza Town Hall for the Main Event, an inspiring evening celebrating the KLC family, highlighting the year in review and looking ahead to the future. Mary Hale Tolar, interim vice provost of student success at Kansas State University, provided the keynote. Ed O’Malley remembered Thomas Stanley and recognized Steve Coen, retired president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation, who helped found the Kansas Leadership Center. To see more photos from the evening, view the album on Facebook.
KLC Director of Creative Technology Thane Chastain welcomes guests to the Big Tent Main Event, the first event of its kind in the history of the Kansas Leadership Center. “When you leave tonight . . . I want you to see how we can all work together for a stronger, healthier Kansas.”
Kansas Leadership Center President and CEO Ed O’Malley remembers Director of Business Initiatives Thomas Stanley, acknowledges the Board of Directors and reminds us of the larger purpose of KLC — mass scale leadership development for the common good.  “We have a belief that the whole of KLC – all of us here tonight – is greater than the sum of its parts. And we think that what happened today – different people meeting throughout this building and beyond, and this celebration tonight, is a way to bring that whole to fruition.” Learn more about the Kansas Leadership Center.
Chris Green is managing editor of KLC’s civic leadership magazine, The Journal. Green notes the Journal’s greatest year in its history, winning state and national awards and launching discussion events with the release of each edition. Earlier in the day, the Journal team met with the civic engagement advisory committee and alumni to plan 2020 issues covering the election and immigration in Kansas. For additional photos, view our album on Facebook.

Director of Civic Engagement Shaun Rojas stresses the importance of civic engagement alongside leadership development. “We know leadership programs are not enough to transform the civic culture in Kansas. We know it takes people on the ground, doing work. . .  trying to tackle issues in the community to make change.” He recognizes the newly appointed civic engagement advisory committee, lifts up alumni in public service and calls on Kansans to host or participate in discussions on guns and public safety. Earlier in the day, KLC teacher Donna Wright guided participants in how to host Journal Talks. For additional photos, view our album on Facebook.

KLC Teacher and Director of Research Dr. Tim Steffensmeier offers an update on the work of Third Floor Research, a KLC partnership with Kansas State University’s Staley School of Leadership Studies and research institutions including Harvard University, the University of Kansas and the Universidad Adolfo Ibanez in Santiago, Chile. Tim introduces the research team and their projects and shares emerging learnings. Earlier in the day, the research team came together from as far as Alabama and Chile to advance the work of four pending research projects. For more photos, view our album on Facebook.

Director of Creative Technology Thane Chastain recaps the State Tour in June and explains how KLC serves Kansans by working with partners around the state, including community leadership programs, transformation grant partners and clients from the business sector who retain KLC for customized leadership programs.

CLP Program Chair Racquel Thiesen explains the role of local leadership programs in the creation of the Kansas Leadership Center and the mutually supportive relationship between them. “If KLC has two parents, one is the Kansas Health Foundation, and the other is the CLP network in Kansas.” CLPs convened their first summit at KLC in several years, imagining the next phase in local leadership programs. For additional photos, view our album on Facebook.

Custom Program Chair Kevin Bomhoff describes KLC’s customized work with companies, “where our framework for addressing problems is equally adaptable to the challenges faced by companies in the profit sector,” he said. With 15 clients including INTRUST Bank, Emprise Bank and NetApp, KLC has trained more than 750 people in 2019. Revenues from custom trainings support transformation grants and community leadership programs around the state.

Program manager Ashley Longstaff recognized 33 new and 30 ongoing recipients of Leadership Transformation Grants, a three-phase partnership to help organizations make lasting culture change. New grant winners representing the sectors of community-minded business, education, faith, government and nonprofit met for orientation and strategy workshops at KLC. Meanwhile, continuing partners gathered at the Drury Plaza Hotel for a day of visioning, hard work and future planning.

Strategy workshops for incoming and continuing grant partners

For additional photos, view our album on Facebook

KLC President and CEO Ed O’Malley notes the global reach of the Kansas Leadership Center.  KLC has trained people from 44 states and 56 countries on six continents.


Vice President Julia Fabris McBride recognizes KLC teachers and coaches and announces a new KLC Path to leadership, a 3-step journey for leadership development. Beginning with individual growth in Your Leadership Edge, the sequence continues with mobilizing others in Lead for Change, then culminates with organizational change in Equip to Lead.


Mary Tolar Mary Hale Tolar, interim vice provost of student success and long-time director of the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University, gave the keynote. “We want to improve the civic culture of Kansas. That’s a big ROI.  The glory about tonight is to see all the activity taking place … There’s urgency in this work. And yet, we have to be patient. Life on this planet, as we know it collectively as humans, is in peril. It’s changing for sure. What we need more than anything else is to learn how to be better with one another. It’s simple, but it’s hard.”

Ed O’Malley returns to the front of the room to recognize Steve Coen, retired president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation, who helped found the Kansas Leadership Center. “The Big Tent that this has all become is simply an amazing thing. We had no idea it would ever be this big and so successful,” said Steve Coen.

Ed O’Malley closes the evening with an observation New York Times editorial columnist David Brooks made during his visit to KLC in September. “’You all are figuring out how to get a set of ideas to be the norms of how people operate together.’ As we celebrate the Big Tent that is KLC, just know that none of us know where this is going, but it’s going someplace really fabulous … and if we keep doing what we have doing … incredible things will happen. Thank for being part of this, and we’ll see you next year under the Big Tent again.”