Exeter Summer offers a variety of courses to enrich students’ knowledge in all fields; among them, the leadership program is one of the most significant. It is designed to foster opportunities to reflect upon the characteristics and contexts of effective leadership. The founder of the program, Charles J. Hamm, PEA ’55, visited the campus last Friday and shared with the students some of his own experiences related to leadership.

After Phillips Exeter Academy, he attended Harvard University. He later on became the president, chairman and CEO of Independence Community Bank Corp. As a successful businessman, Mr. Hamm has his own opinions about leadership and his own ways of mastering it.

When asked about the reason for funding the leadership program, Mr. Hamm answered, “I thought there was a lack of appreciation for equipping important roles, which is leadership and follower-ship.” He went on to encourage people to realize the significance of leadership at a young age, stating that himself thought about being a leader even before high school. Mr. Hamm stated the definition of a leader as “if you found something to happen that would not happen without you, then you are a leader.”

The  students were excited to meet Mr. Hamm. The Friday leadership class was filled with interactions and enrichment. Each student brought up insightful questions as Mr. Hamm shared his experiences patiently, and they took down notes while Mr. Hamm gave his instructive answers. Words like “inspiration” and “affect” popped up multiple times during the conversation.

Some of the remarkable questions asked by students were: How did your experiences with banking, marketing, and art affect your view as a leader? What was the process of being a leader like? How long did it take? What would you say about leadership from the aspect of business?

Mr. Hamm gave a story with each answer, making his comments more relatable and easier for the students to comprehend. He summarized his tips for being a good leader as “know yourself, and pursue character in the highest level you can.”

The class was extended for the students to ask anything else that they were curious about, which shifted the focus to Mr. Hamm’s personal life. For example, his time at Exeter, the change of Exeter culture, and the college application process.

Mr. Hamm answered each question with patience and honesty. When it was time to end the class Mr. Hamm was surrounded by a big group of students asking for a picture together. The impact of Mr. Hamm’s words could clearly be seen as each student lingered in the room, trying to squeeze the most out of every last minute of discussion.