In 1991, Jack “J” Taylor walked across the stage at Southwestern Oklahoma State to receive his bachelor’s degree. With one goal reached, another was waiting right around the corner. While obtaining a master’s degree was a lifelong dream for Taylor, he took a step back to focus on his family and career.
“Once I became an assistant fire chief in Irving, Texas, I began pursuing every fire chief designation that was available,” said Taylor. “This took a lot of time and tremendous focus to achieve; however, I still had a desire to obtain my master’s.”
Although he wasn’t quite ready to start his master’s program yet, his drive and motivation did not go to waste. Instead, he decided to use it to encourage his crew members to pursue higher ed.
“In 2020 arriving as fire chief in Trophy Club, Texas, I began pushing our firefighters to obtain their next level of higher learning whether it be Associate bachelor’s or master’s. I constantly spoke to them about the importance of professional growth and the benefit in setting yourself up for future opportunities. Irving Fire Chief Victor Conley is also a CSU alumnus and was a huge advocate and mentor regarding higher education and professional development.”
As a result, several firefighters from Taylor’s former department enrolled in college courses. As of today, even more from Trophy Club have followed suit and committed to earning a college education.
While Taylor preached the importance of a degree, his goal of earning his master’s was still unfinished. As a start, he paired his passion for leadership with CSU’s master’s degree in organizational leadership in May 2020.
“If we are going to talk the talk of leadership, we must be prepared to walk the walk,” said Taylor. “I believe it is important for the leader of an organization to be the tip of the spear by being the first to embark on new visions or procedures.”
A portion of Taylor’s leadership abilities come from his time as a college football quarterback. Taylor continued the love of the sport as a referee at the division one collegiate level for 17 years. He has worked in the Western Athletic Conference, the Big XII Conference and the SEC.
“The friends, experiences and people skills learned from officiating and playing have had a profound effect on me as a leader,” he said. “Constant interaction with coaches and players who are stressed in the battle while being the calm in the storm is a unique skill that has benefitted me greatly as a leader in the fire service.”
In addition to setting an example for his fire family, Taylor’s family at home knows that he never asks them or anyone else to do that which he wouldn’t also do himself.
“Hopefully, my sons have learned these and other leadership traits I’ve tried to pass on to them. I also have a personal goal to achieve my master’s before my youngest son achieves his.”
And he did just that. During CSU’s 2021 fall commencement ceremony, Taylor walked across the stage to accept his master’s degree. The new CSU graduate says the key in leading by example is to simply be willing to pay it forward.
“Find a mentor that is successful in the field you choose to pursue,” he said. “Then, when you have become successful and respected, you should take any opportunity to mentor those following your path. As my greatest mentor, my dad, used to say, don’t be mediocre, be a go-getter!”
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