Dr. Sharon Lord

Sharon Burmeister Lord, Ph.D.

Dr. Sharon Burmeister Lord’s distinguished career, national and international leadership, and recognition and awards span across the United States—from Hawaii to Washington, D.C., and across continents—from Australia to Germany; from New Zealand to Poland. She has been described as a “trailblazer,” a “pioneer,” a “Renaissance woman,” and a change agent who “transforms organizations and individuals.”  Her career has been described as a “template for breaking glass ceilings” in local, state, federal, and international arenas.

Dr. Lord’s creative approaches to leadership and empowerment, expressed in her books, articles, speeches, and seminars, have resulted in an international career which spans business, government, and academia.

Professor and Academic Leader

Dr. Lord attended West Virginia University, where she earned her B.A. degree.   While there, she was a Phi Beta Kappa and a West Virginia Board of Governors Achievement Scholar.  Having been awarded a National Defense Education Act four-year Fellowship, she received her M.A. (1968) and Ph.D. (1970) from Indiana University. During her eleven-year career as a professor of educational and counseling psychology at the University of Tennessee (1969-80), she created a visionary curriculum and textbooks in gender-fair approaches to education, psychology of women, Appalachian studies and cultural diversity.   Recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award by the Tennessee Alumni Association, she received “one of the most treasured honors given to faculty, symbolizing excellence in the classroom.”

Dr. Lord has authored and co-authored seven books, numerous scholarly articles, and presented papers at more than 100 professional meetings and college campuses throughout the United States, Panama, Germany, Yugoslavia, Australia and New Zealand.

While she was a university professor, The U.S. Office of Education designated the graduate curriculum Dr. Lord developed at the University of Tennessee as a “model training program in non-racist, nonsexist approaches to counseling and education.”  The National Science Foundation recognized her as “a leading scholar in the psychology of women” and chose her as a National Science Foundation Chautauqua Professor in Psychology in 1979.  NSF selected her textbooks for use in the Chautauqua program at four national sites.

Dr. Lord coordinated three national research conferences (including one on the changing role of men in American society); was elected founding Chairperson of the Appalachian Studies Association, a national organization now in its 37th year; was elected President of the National Association for Women in Psychology; and created a research center, the Appalachian Center for Educational Equity.  The four textbooks (including the first on Appalachian women) created by Lord and her graduate students at that time have been used throughout the U.S. and other countries.

In 1976, while a professor, she created Sharon Lord Associates, a human development and leadership consulting business, whose clients are universities, businesses and government agencies, including U.S. Defense installations worldwide.  She marketed audio tapes and numerous copyrighted seminar books through her business, Creativity Unlimited, Inc.

She interrupted her teaching and consulting career twice to assume public policy leadership posts.

Cabinet Level Public Policy Positions

In 1981, her extensive consulting with Defense groups, civilian and military, led to her appointment as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in Manpower, Reserve Affairs and Logistics, with responsibility for aviation and ground safety, explosive safety worldwide, all aspects of military and civilian equal opportunity, and industrial hygiene.

With her appointment in the Reagan Administration in 1981, she became the highest ranking woman in the U.S. Defense Department (with the equivalent rank of three-star general) and the first woman to head the deputate of Safety, Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Health.

She received the Secretary of Defense Outstanding Public Service Medal for her work—the second-highest medal a civilian can receive and the first woman to be so honored.  She was also named one of Washington’s “most powerful women” by Washingtonian Magazine.

In 1985, Dr. Lord was appointed to the cabinet post of Commissioner of Human Services in her home state of West Virginia, the first woman to hold this position.  The agency had 3,000 employees and a budget of 640 million dollars. Among the achievements during Lord’s tenure was an award to the agency and to Commissioner Lord personally, crediting West Virginia with the best administered (and lowest cost) food stamp program in the nation, and for maintaining an efficient program in a flood disaster setting.  Lord also initiated the use of video-based education and training in field offices, as well as the introduction of cost-savings initiatives in medical programs.

As Commissioner, she appeared on numerous TV and radio shows including two appearances on Australia’s TV Show, 60 Minutes, describing the agency’s program innovations such as “Workfare.”

Among her numerous awards and recognition during this period, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Davis and Elkins College.  She was also inducted into Phi Kappa Phi at WVU as an alumna who achieved scholarly distinction.

International Speaking And Consulting Business

As a consultant to government and business leaders at the highest levels in the U.S and in countries as far reaching as Australia and New Zealand, she convinces policy makers that full human resource utilization is a “bottom line issue.”  Her seminars on human empowerment were in such high demand that in the late 1970s one seminar workbook, “Personal Power,” sold over 10,000 copies, even though it was self-published and was never marketed.  Dr. Lord described her work as “Positive Use of Personal Power” in the 1970s—15 years before Tony Robbins began to talk about personal power as a motivational tool.

Dr. Lord’s inspiring ideas for the empowerment of women and for achieving workforce diversity have been communicated nationally and internationally to millions via newspaper and magazine articles, television shows, and radio interviews.

She has been interviewed on scores of television and radio shows in the U.S. and abroad, ranging from The Ed Sullivan Show and Lou Dobb’s Moneyline in the U.S.; to Australia’s 60 Minutes (twice); to New Zealand’s Sharon Crosbie talk show and Australian newscasts hosted by Blair Stone.  She has also been featured in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles in publications such as the Washingtonian and Savvy magazines; The Washington Post; The Age (Australia); The Sydney Morning Herald; New Zealand’s National Business Review; Australia’s Business Review Weekly; The New Zealand Listener; and The Australian Director.

She is one of only two American women to be named an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management (AIM).  Two leading Australian business magazines have included her among Australia’s most prominent business leaders. Business Review Weekly profiled her career in “People At The Top.” Australian Business included her in “Interviews with 20 Top Business Leaders.”  Lynton Hayes, Director of the Perth AIM, describes her as a “World Champion of Equal Opportunities for Women.” Both the Australian and New Zealand Institutes of Management have featured her in their Management magazines. The New Zealand Listener described her keynote address to the first New Zealand Women in Business conference as being “the font of inspiration.”  She was frequently the keynote speaker for inaugural conferences which resulted in the formation of permanent organizations.

Currently, Dr. Lord continues to consult with organizations, to teach, and to advise and mentor clients throughout the world, many of whom have risen to prominent leadership positions:  university professors, CEOs of national corporations, small business entrepreneurs, and Prime Ministers and senior executives in governments. 

Recently, she was the keynote speaker for the Inaugural Australasian Summit on Gender Diversity.  The conference, held in Auckland, NZ, explored the participation and representation of women and men on government and corporate governance boards, and provided guidance for aspiring and current leaders, reinforcing concepts that Dr. Lord had introduced in Australia and New Zealand more than 25 years earlier.  “It was honor to be included with cabinet members, economists, financial market experts, and senior managers,” Dr. Lord said. “The speakers represented organizations that are leading gender equity change in private, public and not-for-profit sectors.”

Real Estate Career

Having invested in real estate since buying her grandmother’s 40-acre West Virginia farm while in graduate school, Dr. Lord’s love of acquiring and managing unique and precious properties has resulted in an expansive portfolio of real estate investments which include commercial buildings and large farms registered under her business, Melanie, LLC.  She shares the abundance created in her life by supporting generously those groups and causes which tap her heart.

Board Service and Philanthropy

Dr. Lord’s board service includes The University System of West Virginia, governing West Virginia University, Marshall University, the West Virginia Osteopathic Medical School, and three other higher education schools.  She served on the board of The Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, which manages 14 hospitals; numerous home health agencies and nursing homes; a variety of multi-specialty physician practices; and community retail pharmacies.  She was also a board member for Women Executives In State Government (at the national level); an advisor to Federally Employed Women;  and a board member of Ohio-West Virginia Youth In Government.  She was also responsible for oversight management of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, a Defense Department college in Florida.

Philanthropy is a key focus of Dr. Lord’s life.  She has served on numerous national, regional, and state-wide public service boards; created the Wes Robinson Foundation for adolescents with spinal injuries; funded and produced fundraising videos for West Virginia Youth In Government; supported creative arts’ charities in several states; and endowed scholarships and facilities at WVU Tech, Marshall University, The University of Tennessee, Pellissippi State Community College, and Virginia Tech.

The University of Tennessee Lady Vols locker room was recently dedicated by Coach Pat Summitt (the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history) as the Dr. Sharon Lord Locker Room.  Lord is credited with having initiated the task force and chairing the Committee on Women in Sports that led to the creation of the UT women’s athletic program in the early 70’s.

Pellissippi State Community College recently honored Lord by dedicating the Dr. Sharon Lord Music Suite for her support and leadership efforts in establishing the All Steinway Music Program.

WVU Tech honored Lord for her support of women’s athletics and for being the founder of the statewide WV Boost-Hers Athletic and Leadership Network, which she created with Dr. Ron Stollings while serving on the WV University System Board of Trustees.

A “Renaissance Woman”

While delivering the commencement address at Davis and Elkins College, Sharon Lord was introduced as a “Renaissance Woman,” an especially meaningful descriptor for Lord, who as a young WVU English major, always wondered if there were only “Renaissance men.”  Achieving expertise in several fields, as well as accomplishments in the humanities, is the essence of Renaissance men and women.

Sharon, a musician, published poet, dancer, songwriter, novice farmer, nature lover, step-parent and grandmother, has always stressed the importance of creating a life which balances “Bread and Roses.”

Dr. Lord explains that the guiding vision for her career has always been “empowering individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential; and building bridges of understanding across genders, nations, and cultures.”