I think that I may have said, previously, that Fall is my favorite time of the year. I am sitting on our screened in porch…and looking at the leaves…that are already changing.
I have always felt a renewal in the season that brings; my birthday and halloween and Thanksgiving and, my favorite, Christmas.
Photos of Autumn, inspire me. The thought of hot chocolate and sweaters and crisp morning air…is my preferred element.
I started working at Southern Illinois University in the Fall. I could not believe my good fortune. I recall everyone welcoming me and making me feel at home.
I recall walking from my building, Thalman Hall, to my supervisor’s building, and thinking that Mary Jane and my life had taken a profound turn for the better.
Three weeks after my hiring, on October 10, 1978, we purchased our first new automobile. It was a Ford LTD and it listed for $7,000.00, but the dealer, Dennis Ratjen, reduced the price to $6,000.00.
I felt like, that I was driving a Lincoln Continental!
Before I married, Mary Jane, I had experienced what it means to be hungry. I was to proud to admit it to others…who probably would have helped me.
When we married…I was 169 lb..
I am six foot and three and one half inches tall…and I looked like a skeleton.
SIU changed that forever…and there is no mystery…why I love the University!
I often wonder if current leaders…understand….why I am so passionate for SIU?
It is because everything positive in my life…has come from my association with this wonderful School.
I saw my old and dear friends yesterday.
Things have changed…and it always makes me sad.
I cared for this couple…and I still do…and I wish that our friendship had not dissolved.
When I see them…which is not often…the last time was a couple of years ago…I think of all of the wonderful and communal times that we spent together…and the singularity of purpose that we had.
The loss of these friends…was first…a shocking loss for SIU…and then…years later for me.
Christmas…since Laughing Santa…has been a magical time for me.
I enter a reality of people caring about each other and joy and happiness and faith…that renews me for the new year.
Christ’s humble birth in a manger and his vision for the family of man…and his compassion for the poor and the homeless and those who have no voice…inspires me daily…and especially during the Christmas Season.
When Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon and I became Presbyterians…I think that a lot of the allure of the faith came from…the excellent manner in which the church treated Christmas.
You know, faith is not emotion…it may touch your emotions…but the practicing of faith and the daily living of it…is a concrete decision…to wake up each morning…no matter how badly you feel…no matter how unemotional your are…and conscientiously decided to be a christian.
A short fiction story or a ‘Brooks Tale.’
‘John, what do you really think that the christian life is all about,’ I asked my friend and Pastor.
‘Well, Brother Jay, I believe that it is focused on how we treat our fellow man…and not on specific works or good deeds that we attempt to accrue,’ John said.
I lazily cast my fishing line into the Little Pigeon River at Gatlinburg…and thought about what my friend had said.
John spoke of the profound suffering in our country and across the world. He spoke of the millions of hungry people…when there is enough food to feed everyone if it were distributed properly.
John, quoted the scripture, in the book of James 2:18, that said, ‘Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.’
I responded that scripture seemed to support ‘works’ as a primary facilitator to heaven.
John asked me if I wanted some more coffee from his thermos?
I said that I sure did and inquired what kind of coffee it was?
‘Just good old Maxwell House,’ he replied.
I ruminated that the coffee must taste special, as I was with my friend.
John asked me what I thought of the current President and Administration?
‘Republican or Democrat…means little to me…I am always searching for a politician or leader that cares about the human family…and not just their limited political base,’ I said.
John, suddenly, pulled in a large trout…and was he excited!
I have visited the Little Pigeon River, in Gatlinburg, more times than I can count, but today seemed extraordinary…for some reason. The movement of the beautiful water and the sound that it makes and the peaceful feeling of nature, in the Smoky Mountains, has a magical effect on me.
John said, ‘You know, Jay, this is all coming to a point…someday?’
‘I hope not before lunch,’ I responded.
‘You know, actually, we are all living in God’s Watch or Clock,’ John said.
‘When I was a child…I was often told that there is a reason for everything…and indeed we are all part of a master plan,’ John went on to say.
I retorted, ‘would it be alright if I had one more cup of that delicious Maxwell House coffee…before the end?’
John laughed and said, ‘all of us must fulfill our purpose in life and then…we move on to the next level.’
I recalled the popular television show, Lost, and a scene where a cast member had returned, to great jubilation…only to die…shortly after she had completed her purpose.
I thought…how young and healthy John looked…I had never seen him look better.
I wondered if I could move to Gatlinburg and visit the Little Pigeon River…every day? I do not remember anywhere that I have been happier.
‘Next level…you say, John…what does that even mean,’ I asked?
John replied, ‘have you ever noticed that this life…seems to be missing something?’
‘Have you ever felt that you were a player in a story…that had the plot…hidden, he asked?
I sipped my Maxwell House…as a Park Ranger approached.
‘The Park is closing my friend…if you do not mind please gather your gear,’ the Ranger said.
I mentioned that I must alert my friend…to which the Ranger quizzically asked, ‘what friend?’
When I looked up from my tackle box…John was gone.
I remembered….then….that John….passed away….a number of years ago.
I have been reflecting on several great friends that I have had in my life.
Steve and I were born on the same day…five years apart. He and I, along with some other young men that attended our church, shared a house for about one year.
Steve is just a great guy. Nine months after I began at SIU Building Services…Steve was hired there as well.
At one time, Steve and I, were to poor to pay attention.
A had a terrible automobile accident, in the village of Elkville, many years ago. Within minutes…there was Steve…at the scene…to ensure that I was alright and provide moral support.
Jeff, is another great and lifelong friend.
I met Jeff about the time that I met Steve…in the early 1970’s. Jeff was a hippie and lived in a hippie commune that was off of the Elkville blacktop. When I first saw him…I mistook him for a girl.
Jeff had been homeless on the streets of Chicago…which is where I was born.
Jeff is Jewish…and ever since I first met him…I have been fascinated by the Jewish people.
Although, we were separated for several years…we have renewed our friendship and travelled to Europe to visit them on numerous occasions.
When I entered the doors of first grade…at Hillcrest School…in Eldorado, Illinois…I noticed a chap that had thick glasses and always forgot to take off his cap. The teacher would say to him, ‘Jackie, let’s not wear our hat in the house,’ and he would subsequently walk to the cloak room, yes that is what we called it in those days, and deposit his hat.
I soon found out that Jackie and I had the same last name…and a friendship was born.
I lost track of Jackie years ago…who at the time was preparing to move to the same area that I did…to pursue an education at SIU…with a major in Accounting.
I was the civil service representative on the chancellor search committee that brought Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger to the Carbondale Campus as chancellor.
When I first met Dr. Argersinger…I felt as if we had met previously…deja vu.
After ‘Jo Ann,’ which she insisted that everyone call her, was chosen as the Carbondale Chancellor…but before she took office…she called me to see ask that I facilitate the storage of her books on the Campus…until she arrived.
Chancellor Argersinger asked my opinion on a multitude of University issues and indicated that she wanted to advance me to a higher position to assist her with the physical needs of the Campus. I told her that I did not seek a higher job title but that I would be honored to assist her, behind the scenes, where I could.
Jo Ann and her wonderful husband Peter…became our dear friends…after her untimely termination.
I hired Elizabeth…when she was younger that I even realized. She was such an efficient assistant to me and her husband Ryan…was an extraordinary person.
My Director, Phil Gatton, asked me repeatedly if I would consent to a retirement reception…to which I told him that I preferred to sneak out…just like I snuck in.
Phil, then told me…that Elizabeth would be disappointed if I did not consent to a retirement reception. I knew then…that Elizabeth was my friend.
Bill V., was a constant sounding-board for me…during my years as Superintendent of Building Services. His support was unfailing…and he and I thought a lot alike.
We traveled together, many times, and had a lot of fun and interesting conversations.
Gary, started with me when I was a crew supervisor, a Building Custodian, and he was unfailingly loyal to me…and a great friend.
Gary, took care of numerous operational needs in our department and I relied on him heavily.
Jewel, was my counselor. I consider her one of the wisest people that it has ever been my privilege to know.
Joan, was inspirational! She treated me like a king…and was the hardest worker that I have ever known.
Jody, was a sweet kind woman who always had my back…and I loved her for it.
Bill W., was a brilliant person…with so many life experiences, I admired him and I am honored to call him my friend.
Gerald, and I came into the office duties the same day. He as the Training Officer and I as a foreman. When I became Assistant Superintendent…he took my place as foreman. He was such a hard worker and and dedicated to me and our vision of cleanliness for the Carbondale Campus.
My dear Brother in law, Ron, is my friend. I am never with him…that I do not feel better for the experience!
My long lost brother, Brock, is my friend. It is as if we have grown up together…although we met just a little over a year ago.
This is not the entire list…but these people come to mind as ‘True Blue’ friends and I think of each of them…often.
‘The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.’ Hubert H. Humphrey
”Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.’ Euripides
‘One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.’ Lucas Annaeus Seneca
‘The Saluki, also known as a Persian Greyhound, is a dog originally bred in the Fertile Crescent. The Saluki is classed as a sighthound and is typically deep-chested and long-legged.’ Wikipedia
The Saluki is the official mascot for Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
‘They can run 43 miles per hour. Their temperament is: Intelligent, Reserved, Aloof, and Quiet.’ Wikipedia
‘Mascot. SIU’s sports mascot is the Saluki. A Saluki is one of the oldest dog breeds, and is an Egyptian hunting dog similar to a greyhound or whippet. SIU’s teams originally competed under the team name ‘Maroons’ from 1913 – 1951.’ Southern Illinois Salukis
Southern Illinois is often referred to as Little Egypt.
”The nickname ‘Egypt’ may have arisen in the 1830’s when poor harvest in the north of the state drove people to Southern Illinois to buy grain. Others say it was because the lands of the great Mississippi and Ohio River valleys were like that of Egypt’s Nile delta.’ Wikipedia
This past Sunday we visited Blue Sky Winery with Ron and Ira Kaye. We spent a delightful afternoon listening to some lovely Blues music and I met the official provider of Saluki’s to SIU Carbondale…Mr. Blair. Mr. Blair has been the Saluki Breeder for the past eleven years. He was gracious to allow me to take pictures of these magnificent animals.
A Saluki puppy costs about two thousand and five hundred dollars.
‘It somewhat resembles a greyhound, but with long, floppy ears and a bushy tail. While nomadic Bedouins frowned on dogs as unclean, they made an exception for the Saluki, giving the breed a reputation for being upper-crust. Wikipedia
Just the numbers, 9/11, conjure up memories of sadness and fear and devastation in my my mind.
I remember waking up to a beautiful day, with seemingly, not a cloud in the sky.
We had moved to our new home on March 10, 2001…and today it was Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
We had became semi-adjusted to having my mom live with us. It is a challenge living with someone who really does not know who you are or where they are or who has no frame of reference as to your life together.
Mom, would often ask me, where in the world are we?
I was getting ready for work, at Southern Illinois University, and basically, listening to the Today Show, when I heard one of the Anchors of the Show say that it appears that there has been an explosion in one of the World Trade Center buildings…and that perhaps a small commuter plane had gotten off of it’s course and accidentally struck the building.
I was reminded of our our tour of World Trade Center II in June of 2000.
I had never felt such a feeling of unease as I did during this morning tour. The occupants of the building seemed to have an aura of trepidation about them and there was a a heaviness or foreboding, at least to me, through out the building.
I recalled the terrorist attack of 1993 on the World Trade Center.
‘The 1993 World Trade Center bombing was a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, carried out on February 26, 1993, when a truck bomb detonated below the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The 1,336 pounds (606 kg) urea nitrate-hydrogen gas enhanced device was intended to send the North Tower (Tower 1) crashing into the South Tower (Tower 2), bringing both towers down and killing tens of thousands of people. It failed to do so but killed six people and injured over a thousand.’ Wikipedia
I wondered, after I heard of the Pentagon being hit by a plane and the White House being evacuated…if this was the beginning of World War III?
The courage of the first responders and so many citizens was inspiring.
The stopping of Flight 93 by several passengers and flight attendants…no doubt saved many lives by thwarting the hijackers intent of flying the plane into the Capitol Building.
‘Vice President Dick Cheney, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center deep under the White House, upon learning of the premature crash, is reported to have said, ‘I think an act of heroism just took place on that plane.’ Wikipedia
My office was at the Physical Plant and it occurred to me that if this was a nationwide concerted War Effort that there might be plans to bomb the tremendous coal furnaces at the Plant that both heated and cooled the Campus.
I walked through the Student Center where students were huddled around television sets watching the unimaginable horror of that day.
I heard on student exclaim that he was just looking for a, ‘rag head to kick the shit out of.’
I thought, when I heard this angry and illogical assertion, that whoever was responsible for the inhuman devastation of our country…certainly there was not students in the Student Center that were a part of the plot.
I think that we must continue to seek out those who would do us harm and endeavor to prevent them from doing so….this is just.
However, we must also realize that there are countless members of humanity that are different than us and who have a different faith system from us…that are wonderful members of the human family and should be our allies and our friends.
Many of the terrorist attacks, since 9/11, have been perpetrated by American Citizens.
I sat in on a class, that my friend and former chancellor Jo Ann Argersinger, taught on 9/11.
She told the class…that the events of the day…would change many of the freedoms that we had been enjoying and taking for granted…out of the fear of the unknown and a reoccurrence of the horrors of the day.
She was right.
We must join hands with every friend and person of good will. We must continue to be the land of opportunity.
‘Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand.
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beaconed hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‘Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus
We had the nicest young man service our furnace and air conditioning system today. It was time for our annual furnace check-up from D and C Heating and Cooling.
His friendly attitude and well mannered disposition, made him a delight to do business with.
I also had the pleasure of speaking with my friend, Scott McClatchey, who recently moved to southern California. Scott, is just a great person and a positive influence. Southern California’s gain…was Southern Illinois’ loss.
People form the, ‘story of you’, by the narrative that you write for them.
If you are constantly down on yourself…or feel that you never get the good breaks…or if negative experiences begin to be your identity…then…others will form the same opinion that you illustrate and give voice to…of yourself.
Have you ever worked with someone that is so preoccupied with the problems in their life, that it is difficult for them to perform their job duties?
Have you ever been employed by an institution…that although the pay and benefits and working conditions are, for the most part good, and yet your colleagues complained and criticize the institution…from the beginning of the day…until it’s conclusion?
When I began working at Southern Illinois University…I could not believe my good fortune. I began as a Building Service Worker…which is a janitor…and I was proud and thrilled to have the opportunity!
I determined that I was going to be a professional custodial employee and that those who encountered me or my work…would leave feeling that they had dealt with a courteous and friendly professional.
If you had told me that there would come a day that I would be the Superintendent of the department…I would have laughed heartily.
However, positive perception that is consistent…makes a difference.
Chancellors and Presidents of SIU asked my opinion regarding a wide range of University issues…and they were speaking to a housekeeping employee…that they respected.
SIU is turning a corner…if everyone in the University Community has the courage and determination…to do so.
If we present ourself in a positive and excellent manner to…the Southern Illinois Community…to the State of Illinois…to our Nation…and to the world…we will be an integral part of the Renaissance of Southern Illinois University!
It seems, for the past several years, we have been inundated with leaders who are full of hubris and narcissistic self worth.
We are subject to a daily dose of our senators and congressmen and our President…telling us of their numerous accomplishments and unfailing good judgment and our un-equivocated need for their leadership.
The Father of our Country, George Washington, was a reluctant leader.
‘ The Congressional delay in certifying George Washington’s election as president only allowed more time for doubts to fester as he considered the herculean task ahead. He savored his wait as welcome reprieve, he told his former comrade in arms and future Secretary of War Henry Knox, adding that his ‘movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.’ Ron Chernow – Smithsonian Magazine, February 2011
‘And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.’ Exodus 4:10 KJV
The Servant Leader…is hard to find.
I have often reflected on former Senator Paul Simon and his offer of assistance to Mary Jane, shortly after she obtained her Masters degree.
At a book signing, about two weeks prior to his untimely death, he asked Mary Jane how she was doing. She told him of being proud that the had completed her Master’s Degree, at the age of 40, but that she was having no luck in her goal of teaching workforce education to prisoners.
The Senator told her to contact his assistant and set up a meeting with him and that he would do everything that he could to make calls of introduction on her behalf. He went to say how much that the admired her goal and that he believed that she would achieve it.
Now, we had never worked for Senator Simon and he had been out of politics for several years. Yet, his willingness to help Mary Jane…illustrated to me that he had a Servant’s Heart.
Senator Simon’s daughter, Shelia, wrote Mary Jane a note, several weeks after his death, and told her that as she was going through his papers in his office she found where he had dictated a letter from him to the Director of Prisons, on Mary Jane’s behalf.
When you encounter a leader with a servant’s heart…you will know so quickly.
Does the leader care more about your well being more than their political expediency?
There is a humility…and grace…and a valuing of all they encounter.
As I was walking through Morris Library, this morning, I heard a young woman, who was representing the University, exclaim, ‘Do you need a tutor or a planner?’
I can not tell you how much this impressed me.
Our wonderful students are just starting out on their adult journey…and there is a lot of decisions to make, on a daily basis, to just negotiate the fundamentals of daily life.
For SIU to take the time…and put someone in this very important position…of making crystal clear to our students, both new and returning, that there is academic assistance for them…and so early in the semester…was heartwarming.
Former interim chancellor, John Dunn, told me that many students get lost in the bureaucracy, while some are discovered to have never attended class.
What I observed today represented the proactive approach to assuring a successful SIU student.
When I returned to walking outside, I passed SIUC Chi Alpha Ministries where two students were speaking to another student…and they were having the best of conversations, replete with laughing and patting each other on the back.
Students, and all of us, connect with a, place, in a multitude of different ways and with a plethora of different people.
Through out my life I have met people who like me…and people for whom…I am not their cup of tea.
Southern has so many organizations and groups to connect with, and to see one in action today was a real treat.
Outside the Student Center was yet another table staffed with people who could answer questions regarding financial aid.
These positive efforts, by the Campus, to reach students…where they are at…gives me hope for the future of our great School.
I saw on the news where new chancellor Montemagno said that if you have been hurt by SIU Carbondale…’come back and we will make it right.’
Now, that is something that I do not see often…a leader with a servant’s heart.
As with any organization…it is true…some have been hurt.
Let us make today…the first day of our renewed and revitalized and rejuvenated, dedication…to the Renaissance of Southern Illinois University!
Enrollment at our beloved University, SIU Carbondale, has declined once again. The Fall Semester enrollment is 14,554 or a 8.96 decline from Fall Semester enrollment in 2016.
This issue has been on-going since the mid 1990’s…and is getting progressively worse each year.
I enjoyed what new chancellor Montemagno said, when he noted that reasons for enrollment decline must not be excuses.
I can recall my friend, chancellor Don Beggs, telling me, the first Fall Semester that he was chancellor, that enrollment had increased by nine students…and that, although, this was not many, at least it did not decline.
It might be time to think outside the box?
I have sat on, several, University wide committees that were formed, expressly, to address the problem of declining enrollment.
I have watched more than one, ‘expert’ group of enrollment consultants, be hired by our University…to give the full proof plan on increasing students.
But, enough about the past…this is the first day of the rest of our lives.
Perhaps, we could expand the idea base of the University, when it comes to enrollment?
In the latter 90’s I was asked, by then chancellor, Jo Ann Argersinger, to be a apart of a group of SIU faculty, staff, and students, who would visit various schools in Southern Illinois and Paducah, Kentucky, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri…for the purpose of presenting the unique opportunities of Southern Illinois University.
There were wonderful and productive meetings.
The famous motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, once said, ‘I really do not care how much you know, until I know how much you care…about me.’
I have suggested, for more years than I like to admit, that University Administration, would do well…to include their wonderful civil service staff in these important enrollment discussions.
I read where our new chancellor has said that with all of the combined brain power …that is part of SIU and the surrounding region…we should be able to solve any problem.
During my career in Building Services, one of our foreman, Gerald Davis, started a Thanksgiving dinner for our over two hundred student staff…this went on for over twenty years…and there was a feeling of home…and family…and unity…that let these students know…that there was no place like their SIU Home!
Many of our student staff, in Building Services, was from countries from all over the globe. If we say we are a diverse School…and we welcome all people’s…we must demonstrate that…person to person…over dinner and study and recreation…and life. Actions speak louder than words.
When a student comes to SIU…we are certainly small enough now…that they should feel a part of the family.
I have been witness to chancellors and presidents that personally connected with students…and the connected students did not leave.
SIU…is just an emotionless group of buildings…until a student connects with a representative of the University…and then that caring person…becomes SIU to the student.
Our wonderful students come to us…missing mom and dad…and friends and community. We have to become that Missing Community!
There is a bit of a Silo Mentality at our precious school. I was a member of the Community…for over thirty two years.
At times, SIU is a bit like a city…with a bunch of neighborhoods.
University Leadership…should seek to bring everyone together…to break down the Silos…and seek those ideas that are Universalist…or those who seek the betterment of the entire School.
There was a popular book written that was entitled, It Takes a Village. Laying politics aside…truly the Renaissance of SIU Carbondale…will take no less than the assistance and good will of the entire University Community and the surrounding Southern Illinois Region.
My son, Jonathon, so connected with and bonded with and became friends of…the students that used the Lentz Hall Cafeteria…that they formed a Fan Club for him…and they stay in touch with him…to this day. He was SIU…to these students.
With just over 12,000 students on Campus…let it be everyone’s goal…to make each and every one of their University Experiences…unique and special and caring and family.
Students, that are now attending SIU, that feel loved and cared for and family and a part of the School…will tell their family and friends and neighbors…and SIU will not have an enrollment problem.
Search for people…who are looking for how much they can give….rather than how much they can make.
Let us believe in each other…and model our family for our precious students…and we will have enrollment success!
‘Labor Day in the United States is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend and it is considered the unofficial end of summer in the United States. The holiday is also a federal holiday.’ Wikipedia
The majority of people, around the world, are employed in the category of Labor.
Often this is hidden from us by popular media and the incessant ramblings of politicians. There is also an extreme focus on the financial industry and the employees in that sector.
The praise and kudos seem to be lavished on those who have succeed as; sports stars or performers, or those who have learned to ‘game the system’ and become rich.
President Trump said that his not paying taxes…made him smart.
If we were all that ‘smart’ we would be a third world country.
I have said, numerous times, that the success of Unions has caused not only their members to live a middle class lifestyle but also has raised the pay of managers and professionals…as well.
So often our candidates for political office cater to who they perceive as the elites…or to politically correct groups…that play well on television.
Yet, there is a large, often silent, majority, that waits patiently for political leaders to recognize their needs and their importance and, really, their herculean contribution to the success of this nation.
I had a colleague once tell me that Labor was, ‘the great unwashed.’
On another occasion a member of the Board of Trustees for SIU said that those in the Civil Service category…should be grateful that they had a job.
I spent my life in the Housekeeping department…and from the first day I determined that I was going to be a a professional custodial employee.
I told, both, Chancellors and Presidents, that our staff, in Building Services, were the consummate professionals and that I believed that they were among the best in the nation.
The dignity of labor…and the value of it…indeed… can not be measured. It is the driving force of the economies and the peoples of the Earth.
‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.’ Mark 6:3 KJV