On October the 10th, 1978 I began a journey.
I was a young man of 20 years old…who had been a; World Book Encyclopedia, Door to Door, Salesman, a Warehouse worker and a Furniture Delivery man for a furniture store, a Dip Solder Technician for Chrysler Vehicles at Essex International Factory, an employee of a Janitorial Service, and an assistant in laying carpet. Also, during this time I took one entire winter to assist in building a new church in Elkville, Illinois…and was very thin…as there was not much food temptation.
When I was offered a position at Southern Illinois University I had been married a few months and had already experienced being out of work and had only recently been offered a job, by my good friend Brent, helping him lay carpet throughout Southern Illinois.
I came to SIU understanding little about diversity, not because I was against it but because I had never been exposed to it. My first supervisor was a gentleman of 68 years old and African American. Jim treated me, as he said, like a father treat’s his son. He smoked the most aromatic cigars and the smoke, ‘encircled his head like a wreath,’ with apologies to Clement Clark Moore.
My mother had aspirations for me to become a barber…she thought that I would enjoy the job.
My first university course was, Understanding Computers. I received an A grade and I thought that perhaps I had the ability to succeed in college course work.
I met professors who took an interest in me. Carol Burns, in 1984, asked to meet with me after class, where she told me that after reading a few of my compositions, as her class was English Composition, that she believed that I had the ability to achieve anything that I desired and that I should set my sights on more than a Associates Degree and perhaps think about law.
I was enthralled with the diversity of my SIU experience. I worked with students from all over the world. My first custodial crew had students from; Turkey, Iran, Mexico, Africa and Malaysia.
One of the African students that I had the pleasure to work with asked me if I knew that international students wanted to work with me…because that I had no prejudice. This kind statement was one of the greatest honors of my career.
When I was the Assistant Superintendent of Building Services I took note of my supervisor, Ray, and his hiring of a wonderful person who had a disability, Randy, and I thought that if I ever got the chance…I would do likewise.
I am told that Randy retired…just the other day.
Probably the greatest thrill of my managerial career was being able to offer career job opportunities to those who do not usually have these type of chances afforded to them.
I, to this day, can see the faces of the precious members of the disabled community that worked so hard and accomplished so much for Building Services…and reflect on how that I was the blessed one…to be associated with them.
I enrolled in the early 80’s in the Electronic Data Processing. These were the days of punching holes in a card and having them read in a card reader, to produce your computer program. The Chair off the Department was so kind to me and he took a lot of time encouraging me and assuring me that I could succeed in the program…and he was an African American and I admired him.
Through my fifteen years as a member of the Civil Service Council I was given the privilege of associating with and working with several University Leaders…and I became friends with some of them.
Leaders are just like the rest of us…they are human with a lot of responsibility.
None of us are perfect…we are all a work in progress.
If, those of us who are being led, would interact with our leaders…with the Golden Rule as our guide…we would experience much more of…’treat others as your want to be treated,’…or as Jesus admonished us, ‘love one another as I have loved you.’
I attended a retirement reception for a friend and colleague from my SIU’ Days, Kerry, who is a wonderful person and someone who I relied upon on many occasions when I was the president of the civil service council.
I was talking, at the receptions, with my old friend, Tom, and another, former civil service colleague, Julie. Julie asked me what I had been doing during my retirement. I responded that I walked on Campus…seven days per week. She laughed and said that she had seen me walking and that she had seen some of my photos of Campus as well.
I told, Julie, that I loved SIU more now than, when I was employed there. I stated that so many of the good things in my life were directly attributable to my association with the University.
And, so, Transformation occurred with me…and is occurring due to my wonderful gift of; the Second Jewel in the Crown of Higher Education in Illinois…and the Miracle of Little Egypt…Southern Illinois University.
‘For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
‘The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; Song of Solomon 2:11 – 12