From the Arbor | News for April from Jerry Weakley

From time to time I have reported having a sense of writer’s block . . . not so much on the information presented inside the actual Arbor, but here on the opening page. Be assured, nothing could be further from the truth this month!

Several months ago, Executive Cabinet members as a group read five books (we all read at least one, and several read anywhere from two to all five. I have completed three, and will begin the fourth shortly). The purpose of the exercise was to select the single book that would become the “common reading” book for our CAS freshman in the fall of 2012. The list of nominated titles came to us having moved through a discussion and decision-making process with another committee on the Baldwin City campus. All of the books are best sellers and present issues and different perspectives of which well-read Baker students should be knowledgeable and conversant.

In conversations with alumni about the project and my observations about some of the books, several alumni suggested that I list these in an upcoming Arbor so that our readers would have an opportunity to experience a reading assignment just like a current student. This was a great idea! But, before revealing the single book that has been selected, I will list the other four, along with their authors. All are of value and will provide enjoyable reading.

  • Little Princes by Conor Grennan
  • Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Wine to Water by Doc Hendley

The selected book is Outcasts United by Warren St. John, Random House Publishing Group. Here is my own synopsis:

The book details the relocation of hundreds of refugees primarily from war-torn and impoverished countries including Bosnia, Afghanistan, Burundi, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan to a formerly quiet and traditional small southern community, Clarkston, Ga., just east of Atlanta. It chronicles the immense challenges experienced by both the refugee families and the residents of Clarkston in attempting to adapt to the surroundings, environment, customs, different cultures and newly created day-to-day life.

The pivotal character is Luma Mufleh, herself a refugee from Jordan. Through her vision and untiring efforts,  she creates several soccer teams for the refugee children and youth. The teams all adopt the name the Fugees.  Coach Luma is not only the coach of all the teams but also becomes a surrogate parent to many of the players and, in fact, becomes the inspirational and uniting leader, not only for her players, but also for their parents and the entire Clarkston refugee community.  Coach Luma and her Fugees are directly responsible for propagating most of the social change that comes about in Clarkston in this riveting true story.

Last month on my way to Augusta, Ga., to work as I have for many years at the Masters Golf Tournament, I detoured off my traditional track and drove through Clarkston to better absorb and try to understand the community as it now exists. In the process of my visit, I took numerous pictures of places prominently mentioned in the book. It is my hope that the Marketing Office can use some of these shots in promoting the book to our students here on the Baldwin City campus. To say the least, I was captivated by my visit!

Upon returning to campus, I received a letter from Dottie Kochan Hann, ’56, whom I had visited at her home in John’s Creek, Ga., just prior to my drive through Clarkston. My description of the town I was planning to visit and the reason for the visit eventually led her to discuss a memory of being with her daughter-in-law to watch her grandsons play soccer against a familiar-sounding team. In her letter she revealed that her daughter-in-law was familiar with the Fugees and, in fact, Dottie reports that she had seen a match played by her grandsons against the Fugees in Atlanta a few years ago!

If you are interested in this or any of the other books, you can undoubtedly find them at your local bookstore, online or through your choice of e-book providers. I hope you read one or more and will enjoy them as I have!

Access the current issue of the Arbor. I hope you will find several news items that will inform, entertain or, perhaps, reengage you with the University!

Jerry Weakley, ’70, M.B.A. ’92

Categories: Arbor, News

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