Twenty Questions with Executive Director Dr. Bradley Newcomer

Marla Elsea
Feb 14, 2022

Phi Kappa Phi recently welcomed Bradley Newcomer as the 12th individual to hold the position of executive director of the Society since 1900. Newcomer was initiated at the University of Alabama Birmingham in 2012 and served as the Phi Kappa Phi chapter president there and at James Madison University.

His extensive background in honors education made him a perfect fit to lead the Society at a national level, but putting résumés aside for a moment – what are the fun facts that we really want to know about him?

Here are our 20 questions!

What's the best vacation you've ever taken?
To the white sand beaches of the Florida panhandle. My wife and I particularly loved our vacations to Destin, Florida, while we lived in Alabama.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
If language was not a barrier, China. I’d also like to visit England, Scotland and Ireland.

Is there a book that has influenced you the most?
I would say Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy in terms of early reads that have stayed in my regular collection and that I still think about and re-read at times. I would also add in a sci-fi book by William Gibson – Neuromancer. That one book single-handedly catapulted me into the science fiction genre.

What's your favorite food?
More like my favorite food GROUP – Pizza.

What do you do to relieve stress?
Depends on the type and level of stress. Playing video games is a usual go-to activity. I also like watching action and sci-fi movies to unwind when I have the time.

Why did you choose the field you studied?
I became fascinated by nuclear and atomic physics at Juniata College. I was fascinated with the “pieces-parts” that made up matter as we knew it at the time. My plan was to become a nuclear engineer and work in a power plant as nuclear energy was a key feature of the U.S. energy plan in the 80s. Then the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident happened and the job market for nuclear engineers evaporated almost overnight. I quickly shifted gears and worked towards finishing my physics degree at Juniata. I ended up choosing to go the medical physics route with my master's degree work when I became curious about medical imaging, specifically magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy. In the end, I loved studying the physical world and what made things work, especially at the molecular and subatomic levels.

Who is your favorite musician or band and why?
This is a very hard question to answer as I like a LOT of musicians, groups, and musical styles. However, if I have $1,000 to buy an entire catalog of songs from a group from iTunes today, I would buy the Led Zeppelin and Beatles catalogs. Both groups had a level of depth and breadth to their musical innovations during their careers that have stood the test of time even to this day.

What is your favorite holiday and why?
Christmas. It might sound corny, however, I just love the spirit that many people have around that time of the year. I also like the decorating, the lights, and the overall change of pace that happens as we wrap up a calendar year during that time. I also like giving gifts and seeing the joy associated with that activity.

What is something you are impressively good at?
Hmmm, this is a tough one. I would have to say something that I am good at – this is a bit surprising – is that I am a self-taught drummer that started to learn to play relatively late in life. I had a friend a while back that needed a drummer for a contemporary music band at church, and he half-jokingly asked me if I wanted to learn, and I said, "HECK, yes!" It was a childhood wish to play the drums, and my parents didn’t really want the noise in the house. So, I didn’t have a chance until my 30s to try this childhood dream of mine. He handed me a set of drumsticks and some recordings of songs, and I learned by ear and was playing with the band a few weeks after that.

What is the greatest movie of all time?
Well, I’m going to answer this one with a series of movies The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy. Love those movies and watch them quite often with my wife.

What is one thing you cannot live without?
Coffee … LOTS … of … COFFEE

What is the most adventurous thing you have ever done?
I’m not all that adventurous. LOL …

What is the best advice you have ever received?
Always be honest and care for those around you. Your integrity and honor are priceless.

How do you stay motivated?
I have always been a person that looks to the future and not to the past. I would say that my forward-looking ethos helps me stay motivated as I take the long view of projects and situations. I stay motivated by focusing on the future and its event horizon. The excitement and opportunities that await through hard work and patience (and sometimes even a little luck) are my motivation.

When are you the happiest?
Sitting on a balcony or patio at a beachfront location watching and listening to the ocean. (Coffee or adult beverage in hand, depending on the time of day)

What was the last show you binge-watched?
The entire Marvel movie series.

What is your most-used productivity hack?
Written to-do lists are something that I use all the time. It is the only way I can keep a running tally of all the projects and deliverables that I need to be working on. I then go through that list daily to prioritize (or re-prioritize) the items as needed.

What is one of your favorite childhood memories?
Playing tug-of-war as a small child with the first dog/pet I can remember. The memory that popped into my head with this question was a time when I got drug around the yard during a session where neither one of us had the good sense to let go of the log or stick.

What does a perfect day look like?
Perfect Workday: A big hearty breakfast, freely available good coffee, and meeting and project time with my coworkers that lead to innovative ideas and solutions that move our projects forward.

Perfect Weekend or Off Day: A big hearty breakfast, more coffee and lots of unscripted time with family. Possibly eating a meal out at one of our favorite spots. Possibly some quality reading and/or movie time to end out the day.

A genie gives you three wishes – what are they?
It sounds corny, but as the old saying goes, I would wish for “Health, Wealth and Happiness.” So many times, we can have one or two of those, but suffer in the others. Think about the life and impact one could have if they did not have to worry about health issues and had the wealth resources to be a blessing to others. Think about the happiness that this situation could bring to all involved.

To learn more about the Society's national leadership team, click here.