News + Events

FHU Benefit Dinner Featuring Peyton Manning Raises $1.68 Million

Henderson, Tenn. - Dec 05, 2016

Freed-Hardeman University’s 52nd Annual Benefit Dinner grossed almost $1.7 million Friday, Dec. 2, according to FHU President Joe Wiley. Peyton Manning, retired quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, was the speaker. The amount is second only to the 2010 dinner which featured former President George W. Bush.

Manning focused his remarks on the qualities required for leadership, whether on the field, in the classroom, or in the corporate world. He emphasized the importance of earning the respect of those one hopes to lead and being able to adjust to change.

“Nobody starts out as a leader,” he said. He illustrated that point with a story from his freshman year as a University of Tennessee Volunteer. Never expecting to play during his freshman year, he nevertheless found himself being called upon to lead the team, which was losing to UCLA at the time. Following the advice of his father, Archie Manning, who had told him to be the leader, he tried a little too hard to rally the team. After he told them they would score and get back in the game, he was reminded of his lowly stature by the left tackle, who said, “Hey, freshman, shut up and call the play.”

“Leadership isn’t handed to you with a title,” Manning said. “People have to earn the mantle of leadership.” He defined leadership as the ability to influence others. According to the future Hall of Famer, leadership consists of four things: unselfish trust, bold instincts, Herculean effort and giving back.

The ability to adapt to changing circumstances is also important, according to Manning. He cited his own comeback season in 2012, following a year’s absence due to a neck injury and subsequent surgery. Joking that he had never been known for his ability to pivot, he described some of the changes he had to make when he returned to the game. Realizing he could no longer do some of the things he used to do, he relied upon other strengths as he learned to lead younger teammates.

“Together we won a world championship,” he said. “Passing the Lombardi trophy down the line so teammates could touch it and put their fingerprints on it validated what we did.”

Following Manning’s formal message to the sold-out crowd, he and Wiley engaged in a question and answer session. FHU faculty and staff had submitted questions for Wiley to ask Manning Friday evening.

Prior to Manning’s address, a student group, The Pride of FHU, entertained the audience with a selection of songs chosen to represent portions of Manning’s life. They began with “Boondocks” for his home in Louisiana, moved to “Life in a Northern Town” for Indianapolis, and followed by “Rocky Mountain High” for the time spent in Denver. Finally, out of chronological order but clearly the climactic number, a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Rocky Top” concluded their performance.

The annual benefit dinner at FHU is the primary source of scholarship funds for the university.