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Forever to Thee

April 26, 2011

Today I went to a memorial service for the former President of my alma mater. He was in his seventies and he passed away very unexpectedly last week. He became president the summer in between my sophomore and junior year and he was there for those years and while I was there for grad school, he stepped down as President about two year ago while I was working up at the Country Club College. He stayed on as an advisor to a number of initiatives and professor over the last few years. I fell in love with this sweet little old man my junior year when I was the President of a student organization and I got to go to a number of events, meals and ceremonies that he was at. Really, I never failed to have a nice conversation with him anytime I saw him. From the random events to stopping to talk when he was crossing the historic quad on campus and I was out studying or jogging… he always had a smile and a nice word. He had a great vision for the university and worked tirelessly to see it through. He was a bridge builder with the community and he always advocated for students, and was never too busy for them. He really was wonderful.

But this memorial service today, it was amazing. It was slated to be an hour long and ran close to two hours. There was a huge turnout… all the Associate and Assistant Vice Presidents were in attendance, Deans, Faculty and staff, alumni, the current and former mayor, state senators/ representatives, Board members, presidents of other universities and various others. The current university president, the former mayor, the former student body president and mentee of his and a number of other people spoke. The speakers were not only eloquent, but they talked about the wonderful man that he was. Reminding all of us, how even as we will miss him, he will live on in all that we do. He made a difference. He built bridges that had been burned by people before them or built them where they hadn’t even existed. He reached out, he stepped out of the comfort zone and built a better university, but did so with the awareness of everyone who was there. He loved his family and anyone who met him and his wife could see that. One of his sons, who is a few years older than I am, got up to speak last and it was so sweet, it nearly broke my heart. Talking about what an amazing father he was, and how he always had the best view of people and what got his “heart pumping.” You couldn’t help but tear up as you watched him struggle to keep himself together and finish his comments.

And as I walked away from the memorial, I couldn’t help but realize how much it puts things in perspective. I work at a university, I have no desire to ever be a president (or even a vice president) I don’t expect there to be a giant memorial service when I do leave this world, but I hope I can leave even a small legacy like this man left. I want to be able to help people, to make a difference in the lives of others and give to something bigger than myself. That is what matters in life, I was lucky enough to know a man who modeled that for me. Rest in peace sir, you will be desperately missed and thank you for the lessons you have given.

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