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When One Leader Exits and Another Emerges: How NLU’s McCormick Center Spent 4 Years Planning For Succession



Paula Jorde Bloom, left, and Sue Offutt pose at an NLU reception in honor of Bloom’s 30 years of service and retirement.


Paula Jorde Bloom founded NLU’s McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership in 1985, and led it for its entire existence until now. So what happens when a founder decides to retire? She follows her own advice, as outlined in her books and thought leadership, and brings in her successor for thorough training (four years’ worth) before she takes the reins.

In their own words, here are what both women had to say about that experience.


The Emerging Leader

by Sue Offutt


When I first came to the McCormick Center people would say, “You have such big shoes to fill in replacing Paula Bloom.”

With our four-year succession plan, I never looked at it as replacing her as much as I looked at it as walking alongside her.  By having this perspective I was able to learn and grow from Paula’s wisdom, yet remain true to myself.

Sometimes it has been too easy to try to change to be more like Paula. When that occurred, chaos began to unfold. This is especially true because she is the McCormick Center founder, and 30 years of embedded cultural norms relating to her leadership style began to surface.

Read more, including Offutt’s five tips on succession planning, here. 

The Exiting Leader

by Paula Jorde Bloom
AUGUST 29, 2014

Today marks an important milestone in my life—my retirement from National Louis University. I came to NLU 30 years ago, lured from a faculty position at Mills College in Northern California with the exciting opportunity to develop and implement a new graduate program in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy. I had been a center director so I knew firsthand the challenges of administration and the need for leadership training in the field. No one else in the country was doing it.

I think of my work at NLU as a unique partnership. From my perspective, it has been the perfect fit for my entrepreneurial spirit and scholarly interests. Shortly after joining the faculty I received a small $600 grant from NAEYC to launch the Early Childhood Professional Development Project and conduct a reliability and validity study of a new organizational climate assessment, the Early Childhood Work Environment Survey (ECWES).

Fast forward 30 years.

To read more, and see a photo of a prank Bloom’s colleagues pulled off, click here