The “Unfinished” Business of Dr. Doris Slaaten
Last Tuesday evening, Dr. Doris Slaaten was honored with a banquet at Minot State University. Her accomplishments as a professor and generous contributor to the University have been exemplary. I have had the privilege of knowing Doris for 30 plus years-and what a delight! I did not have her for an instructor while attending Minot State; however, she was the advisor to our Phi Beta Lambda Chapter. Phi Beta Lambda is a professional business fraternity chartered in 1958 in Iowa. The PBL mission is to bring business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs.
I had the distinct pleasure, and certainly yielded a great learning experience, of serving as the president of our local leadership-all under the guidance of Dr. Slaaten. The very first thing that she advised me to do was to get a very good grip on parliamentary procedure. Therefore, I would want to be on the PBL Parliamentary Team, which she coached. It was a most worthwhile learning experience and one that has helped me greatly. I have been asked to serve as president several times since my PBL days, and always when conducting a meeting, I hear the direction of Dr. Slaaten’s voice.
She guided our team through main, subsidiary, privileged, and incidental motions along with much other parliamentary knowledge to the point where our team could perform with excellence. She also informed us from the start that we needed to take a sincere interest in this on our own and to arrange for practice sessions. Our team grew to adore Robert’s Rule of Order, and while residing in Crane Hall, all members of the team were only allowed to visit in parliamentary fashion. Granted–John Berger and I received some odd looks while having conversation, but boy did our skills improve.
The goal of Dr. Slaaten was to coach our team to first place in the state of North Dakota. Once she realized we were keen on the idea, she let us have it with both barrels. She would say, “Chuck, you should second the motion right now!,” “Now John, you be more aggressive when addressing the chair,” and “Nancy, I want you to rise very proudly and ask for a question of privilege- that for sure will give the UND team a real run for their money!” Like a coach guides their team from the sidelines, she was calm when the competition was getting tense. It was these words that sent us into the preparation room with a purpose, “Listen kids, you know this stuff. Don’t let that UND team walk over you. Let them know that Minot State is here in force!” We not only won the parliamentary procedure award, but claimed the overall sweepstakes award as well! We were all jumping up and down, and with the amount of elation that was shown, you would have thought we had claimed a gold medal at the Olympics!
Dr. Slaaten was also very amusing as an advisor. During homecoming, we decided we should have a car for PBL in the parade. All of us club members were driving old junkers. John Berger’s 1963 Ford Fairlane not only served as his car, but his extended garage. His parents had moved from Columbus, and whatever John wanted to keep, it had to go in his car. I will admit it was rather fun to cruise around with a Hamilton Beach mixer and blue enameled roaster in the back seat! Coming to our rescue was Dr. Slaaten when she offered her car for the Homecoming entry. Little did we know that when we went to her home she would give us the keys to her lovely copper-colored Lincoln. She even said to feel free to take it to the dorm – in fact, even cruise down Broadway – then just drop the car by her place after the parade. What fun we had – not only in the parade – but with the trust she put in us the night before.
We attended several state conferences with PBL. Also helping with the duties of advising PBL was the intelligent and razor-sharp Mavis Williamson. These two ladies made a smart duo, capturing the essentials of good advisors: knowledge, leadership, enthusiasm, inspiration and fun. Barry Manilow was doing a concert in Bismarck during one of our leadership conferences. Our entire chapter including our advisors (who were dressed very smartly in their business suits and pumps) attended the concert. We knew the true grit of our advisors when they stood and cheered very tastefully with us as Barry came out wearing white pants and a hot pink shirt while riding on a huge pineapple and singing “Copacabana”! They knew it takes guts, plus a good figure, to pull this act off and Barry was doing a brilliant job of it!
Dr. Slaaten shared with us her pet peeve of parliamentary procedure; that being those that refer to unfinished business as old business! In her words, “If you take anything away from these lessons, it is to remember we never, never, and I mean never, say old business!” Over the years, I have had the delight of sitting in on business meetings with Doris. She will very politely make corrections to the running of the meeting when they are out of order. In early years, I witnessed her doing a terrific job of handling some men who thought they knew everything, and that business was a man’s world. She played her cards very well, and when they made a parliamentary procedure mistake, she, with grace and firmness, sliced them like ham! In future meetings, these men refrained. I would be willing to go as far as to say that they suspended the idea that business was only a man’s world. For you see, Dr. Slaaten knew and shared that when we correctly practice Robert’s Rules of Order, the minority has a voice and the majority rules. Her lofty standards for how a business meeting is to be run were a revelation to me.
Dr. Slaaten’s most recent donation to Minot State University will be used to update the Slaaten Learning Center with the latest technology. How wonderful that the business agenda of Dr. Slaaten takes great pride in the “unfinished business” of bringing this to Minot State University. Her sincere and extraordinary devotion to teaching, continuing education, along with her wide-open heart for community, church and the Lake Metigoshe Christian Center, has made her a lifelong inspiration to many! Thank you, Doris.
While in PBL we held many a bake sale fundraiser on the third floor of Old Main. We had great success in selling goodies to students and faculty between classes. I share with you a very simple, but delicious, cookie recipe that we rolled out and put in the letters of PBL or a big M.