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Noble Work


In 1977, a new and distinct paradigm of leadership—noble work—began to guide people, organizations and society’s hearts and minds when Robert K. Greenleaf proposed that service should be the distinguishing characteristic of leadership. In keeping with that principle, servant leaders strive selflessly and purposefully to empower, uplift and shine a light on people and causes. Servant leaders in history include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Albert Schweitzer.

Event to Spotlight A Standout in Noble Work

In November, the University of St. Thomas and eight co-sponsors spotlighted one such local leader, Laurence “Larry” J. Payne ’72. Payne’s love of service extends into leadership roles across education, nonprofit, public and religious settings. At a special dinner on campus, 200 friends and nonprofit, religious and business leaders gathered to celebrate Payne, who received the inaugural Servant Leadership Award named in his honor. All recognized Payne for his tireless, ongoing efforts, vision and civic leadership to promote equity in communities throughout the Houston region.

“It was a great pleasure and my good fortune to work with a group of extraordinary leaders to plan Larry’s event,” Russell Richard, senior vice president for the Center for Houston’s Future and chairman of the Friends of Larry Payne Committee, said. “I hope Larry and the newly created award inspire all of us to do all we can to make the community a better place to live, work and be in harmony with our fellow citizens.”  

In an email to the planning committee, of which she is a member, Fran-Victoria Stephens, president of Story Square wrote, “The design of the program showcased and revealed the deepest parts of who this servant leader genuinely is.”

Payne Is Gifted With “Human Capital Insight”

Payne is a man who stands tall with a warm welcome and engaging smile. “He easily connects with people, which many say is his true purpose,” Stephens wrote. “Through the endless programming on issues of equality and justice, this former civil servant imagines and facilitates. He connects people from entirely different walks of life.

“I am awed by Larry’s human capital insight,” she continued. “He knows what and who is necessary to illustrate a landscape that will change hearts and reconcile minds with their pasts and their desired futures to produce each impactful project he imagines.”

Connecting Through the Truth of a Shared Mission

Stephens reminds us of how Payne has “magic that scintillates and disseminates to all he meets to forever bind them together with the truth of their shared mission. He does not endeavor to create alone or lead ventures singularly for the sake of acquiring accolades or credit for himself.”

Regardless, Payne’s passionate drive for social issues near and dear to him has brought him recognition and continues to do so. UST honored Payne in 2007, with its Rev. Vincent J. Guinan Distinguished Alumnus Award. 

The Laurence J. Payne Servant Leadership Award, established in 2021, will be presented annually to an individual whose civic leadership advances equity and social justice in the Greater Houston region.

In 2022, Payne will celebrate 50 years as an alumnus of St. Thomas.  

About the Author — Sandra Soliz, MLA '01 Soliz

AvatarSandra Soliz, director of Communications for University of St. Thomas, has served the University for 20 years in Marketing Communications Department. In her position, she handles media relations and serves as the editor of the Encounter Magazine.

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