As a young student at Ohio Wesleyan University, Norman Vincent Peale was self-conscious and shy. He was such an introvert that a professor asked him to stay after class one day to discuss it.
Peale’s daughter, Margaret Peale Everett, shared the story during an April 12 Ohio Wesleyan event to celebrate the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Peale, a 1920 OWU alumnus who went on to impact millions of lives with his uplifting sermons and his 43 inspiring books including The Power of Positive Thinking.
Everett, herself a 1955 OWU graduate, told the packed audience in Beeghly Library that her father was asked to stay after class by Ben Arneson, a fixture in the Department of Politics and Government from 1917 to 1953. Arneson told the shy young student from Bowersville, Ohio, that his feelings of inferiority “stick out all over” and “in the name of heaven, be a man.”
“I don’t remember Dr. Arneson,” Everett added with a smile, “but I’m glad I didn’t have a run-in with him.”
After Peale’s uncomfortable meeting, he considered dropping out of school, Everett said. But instead, Peale turned to prayer, asking for help in overcoming his shyness and fear of public speaking. With that prayer, Peale found peace and the strength he needed to begin changing his life.
And with the power to change his own life, Peale—in partnership with his wife, Ruth Stafford Peale—ultimately found the power to change countless lives worldwide with his positive messages and stirring sermons.
Seventy-two years after his graduation, Peale returned to Ohio Wesleyan at age 94 for the final time. He delivered the commencement address to the Class of 1992, reminding the new graduates to always “shoot for the moon.”
It was advice that shaped his life, Everett said, because he knew that “even if you don’t make it, you will land among the stars.”
Ohio Wesleyan’s Peale celebration was conceived by OWU alumnus Ron Glosser, a 1955 classmate of Everett’s, who became friends with the Peale family and learned much from the respected clergyman and his business-minded wife.
“I am just overflowing with joy tonight,” said Glosser, author of The Genealogy of Friendship. Glosser told the crowd, which included Peale’s daughter Elizabeth Peale Allen, that he was happy to play a role in ensuring that future generations understand the tremendous impact of Peale and his ministry.
Glosser also introduced keynote speaker, Ken Blanchard, Ph.D., best known for his One Minute Manager books. Blanchard and Peale collaborated to write 1988’s The Power of Ethical Management, a primer designed to show business managers how to restore integrity to the workplace with practical, ethical strategies that support long-term success.
“He loved this place,” Blanchard told the crowd of Peale’s affinity for his alma mater. “He loved his [Phi Gamma Delta] fraternity. He loved life.”
Blanchard recalled that before he and Peale began collaborating, Peale read several related self-help books but found most to be too esoteric. He wanted easily accessible messages that would resonate with large numbers of people. After their book was drafted, Blanchard organized a community breakfast to allow diners to give feedback on the text prior to its publication—a practice he followed with all of his books.
When people realized that Peale would be attending, they crowded the event—creating a breakfast bill for 300 hungry eaters and readers. Peale assessed the surprising situation with his usual good humor.
Blanchard recalls Peale stating: “I’ve never been to a free-for-all like this. When I finish a book, Ruth and I pray. Ken doesn’t trust that process.”
A key component of The Power of Ethical Management is its three-step ethics check—a list that Blanchard believes remains relevant more than two decades later. The list asks:
- Is it legal?
- If I do what I’m thinking of doing (and nothing else), is it fair?
- If I do (or don’t do) what I’m thinking, how will I feel about myself? (How would I feel if my conduct were published in the local newspaper?)
Blanchard said he believes too many people ask only whether an activity is legal, failing to consider whether it is fair and how they will feel about their actions.
Ohio Wesleyan President Rock Jones, Ph.D., concluded the evening, noting that the University intends to hold additional events to honor Peale and celebrate his enduring legacy as “one of the most articulate spokesmen of the 20th century.”
Learn more about the Peale legacy.
More Photos from the Event
(Photos by Mark Schmitter ’12)