Notable professor created change and inspired others

Dr. Carol Sawyer, retired professor of organizational leadership, served as the program chair of the master of science in leadership management program from 1994 to 2005. She died March 11. / file photo by Meghan Attaway

Jasmine Soria
Staff Writer

Dr. Carol Sawyer, a professor, leader, and a friend to all, passed away on March 11 at the age of 78 in Portage, Michigan. 

Dr. Sawyer was born on May 27, 1944, in Chicago, Illinois. She attended Buchanan High School and graduated in 1962. Dr. Sawyer was the salutatorian and voted “Most Likely to be Successful.”

She earned her bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in history from Michigan State University. She earned a master’s degree in librarianship from Western Michigan University and a doctorate in public administration from the University of Southern California.

Dr. Sawyer was a professor at the University of La Verne. She served as the chair of the master of science in leadership management program from 1994 to 2005.

Carol was a friend, colleague, and most of all, a mentor.  I am actually filling her shoes as the current program director of the MS in leadership and management,” Teresa Martinelli, Dr. Sawyer’s successor, said. “She was a PD while I was in the MSLM program many years ago.”

During her time as the chair, she expanded the program to over nine locations.

Dr. Sawyer established discussion series called Coffee, Cake, and Conversation, where she brought over 50 authors to speak at the University. One of these included Daniel Pink, New York Times bestselling author.

Dr. Sawyer met Pink at a book signing event in 2005, where he promised her to one day speak with the students.

 “Carol Sawyer was a wise leader and an inspiring educator. In my experience, she always — always — put her students first,” Pink said. “She was devoted to helping them comprehend the practical implications of what they were learning.”

Pink was one of the many notable leadership and management authors Dr. Sawyer invited.

Dr. Sawyer was a speaker at the International Art of Management Conference. She enjoyed art and  traveled all over the world, including Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, Prague, Poznan, England, Italy, Switzerland, Czechia, Denmark, and Sweden, attending cross-cultural conferences.

“In the conferences I attended, and where I introduced myself as coming from La Verne, they all quickly asked, ‘Do you know Carol Sawyer?’,” Jack Meek, professor of public administration at the College of Business and Public Management said. “Carol offered incredible energy to the University of La Verne and was certainly one of our most respected colleagues at La Verne and throughout the world.” 

Dr. Sawyer was not only part of the chair, but she also was a professor teaching classes in leadership, management, and business. 

Michael Villaire, a former student of Dr. Sawyer, shared how much Sawyer loved her job and always inspired students to become leaders. She challenged her students, but also believed in them. She would have students write a letter to their future selves regarding their professional and personal lives. 

“Dr. Sawyer was an amazing teacher who was loved by her students and highly respected by her colleagues,” said Seta Whitby, professor of computer science, said. 

Dr. Sawyer was a recipient of the University’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2012 and received the Distinguished Professor Award from the Governing Board of the University’s Alumni Association in 2007.

Jasmine Soria can be reached at

Jasmine Soria, a junior broadcast journalism major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

Meghan Attaway


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