Jeffrey Younggren, the University of New Mexico’s first gentleman, has made an impact on campus, alongside his wife, UNM’s President Garnett Stokes. Younggren serves the University as a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. 

Originally, he was a forensic psychologist, as well as a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army. Perhaps for this reason, Younggren appropriately prefaced his Five and Why with a paragraph on what he believes constitutes successful leadership.

“What makes a true leader is the ability to take on tasks and make difficult decisions, often unpopular decisions, at difficult times, because it is the right thing to do. The ability to do the latter is the true test of leadership,” Younggren said.

He kept these guidelines in mind as he selected his five favorite U.S. presidents:

President Harry S. Truman

“President Truman stands out in my mind as one of the greatest presidents we have ever had. Starting out as a high school graduate who opened a clothing store in Kansas City, he truly reflects the fulfillment of the great american dream by ending up the President of the United States. Truman was always able to make the tough calls in the best interests of the people of our country. These include personally making the decision to drop the atom bombs on Japan, ending World War II and to remove General Douglas McArthur from command during the Korean War at a time when he was incredibly popular among the American electorate. When he finished his term, he and his wife, Bes, drove back to Missouri, unaccompanied, in their own car, a Chrysler.”

President Abraham Lincoln

“It is easy to pick Lincoln as a great president, and this choice is often made by people who know very little about him. He truly was a great leader who was able to make difficult choices at difficult times. He was known to be a man of the people and was most noted for how he listened to others. Probably one of his greatest accomplishments was the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which was considered one of the great documents of human freedom and a milestone along the road to slavery's final demise in the United States. That said, this was not a very popular decision at the time and reflected amazing vision on Lincoln’s part. Hmm. A listening President.”

President Thomas Jefferson

“This is also an easy pick for most since he was our third president and is considered the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was a committed supporter of individual rights in our new country. For me, however, he demonstrated his strongest leadership skills in the negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase. While this land purchase was very controversial for a variety of reasons, both political and practical, he saw the purchase through, and he is primarily responsible for our acquisition of 828,000 square miles of land West of the Mississippi. Do the names Louis and Clark ring a bell? Minneapolis anyone?”

President John F. Kennedy

“I remember sitting in the lunchroom at Tucson High School when they announced that President Kennedy had been assassinated. The whole world stopped when that happened. But for me, that tragedy is not what made him one of our great Presidents. For me, it was his commitment to Civil Rights, at a time when these beliefs were hardly embraced by all. It was his Report to the American People on Civil Rights, on national television and radio, that launched his initiative for civil rights legislation that later became part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This was legislation that was hardly popular in the South or with the Southern Democrats. While his Presidency was marred by the escalation of the conflict in Southeast Asia, he remains a historical figure committed to equality among us all.”

President Theodore Roosevelt

“Alas, who could not love Teddy Roosevelt. His accomplishments during his presidency are legion. While he is famous for his pre-presidential leadership of the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War, most do not know that he became president when President William McKinley was assassinated. It is because of President Roosevelt that we have the Panama Canal today. He convinced Congress to fund the project despite great controversy and the reality that the French had sorely failed to build the canal years before. He also investigated and prosecuted corrupt Indian agents who had cheated the Creeks and various tribes out of land parcels and was noted for his intolerance of corruption in his administration. Oh, by the way, he also won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in bringing about an end to the Russo-Japanese War. Not bad!”

Beatrice Nisoli is a freelance news reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli.