Distinguished Service Award

Dr. Gary McLean '61  Dr. Gary McLean '61


“Rock star” is how many talk about Gary McLean ’61, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He doesn’t sing, write music or play an instrument, but he has been working his entire adult life composing a body of work that truly hits all the humanitarian notes of Graceland’s Distinguished Service Award.

Born and raised in London, Ontario, Canada, McLean grew up dreaming of attending Graceland College but, “my parents simply couldn’t afford it.” Instead, he enrolled in “grade 13” in Canada. He earned one of 25 spots in a class of 125 students to go on to university. He arrived in Lamoni in the fall of 1960.

McLean earned his Associate of Arts degree in pre-commerce from Graceland College. He went on to complete his bachelor’s degree at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada, and his master’s and doctorate degrees in business education at Columbia University in New York, all while maintaining loyal membership in the RLDS church (now Community of Christ). Gary was an early champion of ordaining women and the LGBTQ community to the priesthood as well as a new policy on open communion.

Over the years, McLean has been a leader in the field of Human Resource Development (HRD). HRD is the integrated use of training, organization and career development to improve individual, group and organizational effectiveness. Solutions to social issues, challenges and problems come much faster with skilled and informed HRD.

McLean has written the book on organization development. He’s written 32 books and over 500 journal articles and book chapters. Through his writings, McLean has dramatically extended the boundary of HRD to move focus away from corporations alone to include individual, community, nation and society development.

McLean cofounded the HRD program at the University of Minnesota, where he received the Morse-Amoco Award for teaching. He’s a proud member of the HRD Hall of Fame and the Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame while also being a recipient of an honorary PhD from the Crown Princess of Thailand. Gary is extremely proud of helping develop policies to diminish corruption in Thailand and Korea. He’s also pioneered concepts to diminish the negative impact of prostitution in Thailand and Taiwan, and worked with an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) to combat human trafficking in Southeast Asia. A major focus of his lifetime scholarship has been gender equity.

McLean has elevated the practical concepts of HRD in 56 countries, supervised 105 students through PhD programs, and found time to serve as pastor. He’s also the proud dad of six children, four of them adopted from Korea with three being physically challenged. Gary lost his beloved wife, Lynn, in January, but the work carries on.

Gary McLean, a real “rock star” and this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Service Award.