The General visits her hometown
Brigadier General Dana H. (Lindsley) Born has traveled many miles, but not always running, like in her days as a track star at Penn Yan Academy.
The 1979 PYA graduate achieved her distinguished rank in 2004, the year she was also named Dean of Faculty at the United States Air Force Academy.
Born was a guest speaker at the President’s Leadership Circle at Keuka College on Feb. 6. It was a “homecoming” of sorts. Born’s father,Theodore Lindsley, was Director of Development at Keuka College for many years.
An informal “chat” with Born was held at Allen House around noon. She was greeted at the door with a big hug from college Trustee Marcia Dugan. Other staff members who remembered her as a child when her father was on campus exchanged memories with Born. Toward the end of the session, Dr. Sander Diamond arrived and the two looked at pictures of her children and his grandchildren.
Born told the small group she was five years old when Dr. Glick brought her father from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. to Keuka. She said her father had told her and her brother that they were going to live in Keuka Park. When the family pulled up to their new home, the siblings asked, “Where is the park?”
She fondly remembers running around Ball Hall and was delighted to see the work being done on the building. “I think I worked in every odd job available around the campus,” she laughed.
From first through 12th grade she attended Penn Yan Schools. When asked what led her to a military career, she said her dad was in the Coast Guard and taught them to salute at a very young age. In her senior year she looked at lots of schools. At a college fair she looked at the Coast Guard brochures and started thinking about a military academy. She decided West Point was out, “I don’t look good in green.” She was impressed with what the Air Force Academy had to offer. Her track coach, Tom Smart, called the academy to make some connections.
Guidance Counselor David Payne said, “You want to go where?” Sensing her enthusiasm he told her, “I guess it won’t hurt to try.” She was surprised one day when her father showed up at PYA and told her she had received a nomination from Congressman Gary Lee. Acceptance into military academies had only been signed into legislation by President Ford in 1975.
“I was still thinking, it is a tough school, but a great opportunity.” She said her father had already paid her tuition to Hartwick and of course she could have gone to Keuka. But it was her decision. She could go the day after graduation and if the summer session didn’t work out, there was always Hartwick.
At the time she entered the academy only 12-15 percent of the cadets were women. Today that number has slowly risen to 20 percent.
Born has watched the progress of the co-ed environment over her career. When she began there were only one or two women in each squadron. She said the men were like a “band of brothers.” They would brag to other squads that their “woman” was faster or better. She said that made it hard to have women as friends. Finding a model to fit in was a sensitive issue. The women didn’t want to be “too feminine or too masculine.”
When she began her career, females could not get married if they intended to make the military a career and advance through the ranks. Her husband retired from the Marines and he is a “stay at home dad,” who takes care of their two daughters. Born will be leaving for duty in Afghanistan soon. “We all take our turn doing overseas duty. Unless you are in school, in transit or incarcerated, you are deployed.”
Born’s appointment as Dean of Faculty came shortly after the Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal in 2003. A wave of inquiries by the Department of Defense was initiated to look into incidents in all the military branches. It was estimated 20 percent of the female cadets had been sexually assaulted.
As a professor and head of the academy’s Behavioral Science and Leadership Department, Born had insight into the problem. She said a survey taken revealed the need to offer a program for reporting assaults in an easier way. Under the old system the victim was often penalized for drinking or being off campus.
Under Born’s direction a counseling center was opened for women to come and talk openly without fear of repercussions. She said the focus is on human respect and dignity. Peer counselors are cadets. “We are assessed a lot since the scandal. But there is a much higher rate of reporting and fewer incidents now.”
Following the scandal, women wanted to talk more about their issues. It started a dialogue about some everyday matters. The female cadets asked why they had to wear a uniform dress to a ball when non-military dates of male cadets could wear ball gowns.
They asked Born about when she was pregnant how she felt about wearing a uniform. They wanted to know how she found a place to breast-feed. On 9/11 she was in an office in Washington taking care of duties while her children were in the Pentagon Day Care Center. How did she handle both?
Of her present position she said, “We’ve always had men in the high positions at the academy. Now we have two women. But we have a shared vision of what we are working for. We need to unleash in the individual their picture of the potential of what they can do.” Born is the first female Dean of Faculty; there were nine men before her.
Born said she would speak to the President’s Leadership Circle in the evening about “Leaving a Legacy.” Speaking about leadership and influence, she would pose a question to the students, “What do you want to leave to Keuka College? I would like them to think about personal change and more about significance than results.”
Born was excited about visiting the area. She had only returned one other time, for her 10th class reunion from PYA.
Last summer she attended a class at Harvard and started talking to some other attendees. They discovered they had an area connection. One was Keuka’s Dean of Students James Blackburn. The other was a Penn Yan graduate Dr. David Brailow, whose mother taught at Keuka. Born accepted an invitation to visit. She says she has always been passionate about Keuka College and Penn Yan.
Her career has taken her around the world. She was an exchange officer with the Royal Australian Air Force. She has a Doctor of Philosophy Degree from Penn State. Staff assignments include: aide to the Secretary of the Air Force, Deputy Chief of the Personnel Issues Team, Commander of the 11th Mission Support Squadron at Bolling AFB in Washington,D.C. and speech writer and policy issues analyst in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.
But it all started here, which is an inspiration to area students. Born shied away from the “Be all that you can be “ motto, but she certainly exemplifies it.