Fred Luthans

The Hall of Honor Committee has asked current Clinton High School students to interview the 2019 living inductees and write a press release to share with you.  The 2019 Induction ceremony is Friday, April 12 and is open to the public.  Reservations may be made to Deb Deters,


Clinton High Accomplishments in Academic Fields Inductee into the Academic Hall of Honor

By Ryann Hubbart

“To be in the inaugural Hall of Honor group is just unbelievable…To be in this group, I feel very honored and humble. And obviously I’ve gotten a lot of awards throughout the years but this is near or at the top of the list for me. This provides a lasting recognition to a proud River King alum,” stated Luthans, a 1957 graduate of Clinton High School and new inductee into the CHS Hall of Honor.

Dr. Fred Luthans is an All-University and George Holmes Distinguished Professor, now Emeritus of Management, at the University of Nebraska. A pioneer in his field of positive and behavioral psychology in management, Professor Luthans has recently been recognized as being in the top 1% of citations among all researchers in all fields worldwide. On April 12th, he will be inducted into the inaugural class of the Clinton High School Hall of Honor. His resume includes an impressive list of honors, consultancies, citations, and publications, but what struck me most was his sense of gratitude for every individual and opportunity that helped him along the way, especially for his hometown.

Fred Luthans was born into a Clinton family in 1939 that strongly valued education. Like current Clinton kids, he grew up spending time on the river and working on the farm. During his high school career, he “wasn’t exactly an intellectual type,” instead he played sports all year long: baseball in the summer, football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and track in the spring.

He continued his track career at the University of Iowa, running hurdles. It’s where everybody went, his older sister added. “We didn’t really think about other places to go,” he said, though he emphasized that he never regretted it. And he clearly must not have. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, he stayed on at Iowa to earn an MBA and then a PhD in Organizational Behavior/Theory and Management and Social Psychology. “As far as I’m concerned I had the greatest grade school,  junior high, high school, and then university education that I could’ve had anywhere in the world.”

While at Iowa, Luthans went through the ROTC program, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army. However, he was granted a delay from active duty while he continued his education. The day after graduating with his PhD, he went off to infantry officer training at Fort Benning, Georgia, right at the build up of the Vietnam War. He would’ve been sent in an infantry unit to Vietnam but took it upon himself to look into the teaching catalogue at West Point. He was qualified to teach some of the courses, so he talked to his Colonel, a West Point graduate, and was able to attain an active duty assignment teaching psychology and leadership to the Cadets.

“I was very fortunate because every one of my classmates at Fort Benning…went on to Vietnam and many didn’t come back…My education, more or less, probably saved my life.” Professor Luthens taught at West Point from 1965 through 1967. “The sad part of our stay there was that more and more of the great young men I had as seniors my first year were now being shipped back from Vietnam in caskets to be buried at the West Point Cemetery. I believe the Class of 1967 had the largest mortality rate of any in the history of the Academy.”

After West Point and the end of active duty, he looked for an academic position elsewhere. He had interviews and offers from Columbia, the University of Michigan, and Missouri, but ended up choosing Nebraska. Why Nebraska? “Well, I did it because I’d be close to Clinton!” (especially his family in Iowa). Family has always been the most important part of his life. His parents and sister, his wife, Kay, their 4 children, and 8 grandchildren were always at the center of his life. Speaking about his wife of 56 years, he said, “I owe every success I have had to her.” His career advice is “Have a good family relationship and always put them first.” With his family behind him, Professor Luthans was among the first to engage in groundbreaking research and application combining business management with psychology.

It started with behavioral psychology. Professor Luthans coined the term “Organization Behavior Modification,” the use of operant conditioning to increase performance. While organizational behavior is now the biggest subfield in management, it was revolutionary work then.

After publishing his first textbook he proceeded on to establish the ground floor for positive psychology, the focus on healthy individuals realizing their full potential. With his colleagues at Nebraska, Luthans worked to find a research-backed determination of what can be built on to improve well being and performance, that he termed “Psychological Capital.” By chance the four points he found that lead to psychological capital created the acronym “HERO”  (Hope, Efficacy (confidence), Resilience, and Optimism).

Luthans has traveled around the world consulting groups on how to increase their inner “HERO.” Federal agencies, the US military, NASA, and Boeing are among the long list of places where Luthans and his work have had an impact. And his impact can be shown in the use of his work beyond Nebraska. In 2017, Professor Luthans was determined to be in the “top 1% of citations” around the world in all fields. For him, this shows objectively that his work has had an impact on the world around him.

What advice does Professor Luthans have for the current students of his alma mater? Work hard. “I’ve never claimed to be a big intellectual or anything like that, but I do claim that I’ve always worked hard.” You have to work hard and have hope, confidence, resilience, and optimism. “Bring out the HERO within.” Professor Luthans is overflowing with positivity and gratitude for the path he’s taken and has worked hard to make an impact. Clinton High is proud to welcome Fred Luthans into the Hall of Honor.



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