From the Arbor | News for June from Jerry Weakley
I began thinking about this cover letter for the Arbor late last month while on a trip to the southeast following the University’s annual Alumni Weekend! Having driven 1,382 miles in five days to visit six graduates of Baker and former interim president, Dr. Wright Spears, I had, as the saying goes, a lot of windshield time.
Dr. Wright Spears came to Baker in 1979 (my first year of employment here) during the interim between presidents Jerald Walker and Ralph Tanner. He was only on campus about four months until Dr. Tanner was formally announced and began taking over duties of the presidency.
Wright had agreed to come to Baker for a just short time until the new president was named. His job in his words was to simply “help keep the lights on and the train on the tracks.” He had just retired as the highly successful president of Columbia College in South Carolina. Along with his wife, Mary Blue Spears, the Spears were just the “Wright” folks for the job! Their gracious charm, hospitality and warmth won everyone over and indeed their combined wealth of experience at Columbia was crucial to numerous aspects of Baker’s continued growth and development.
Wright will celebrate his 100th birthday in October. He is amazingly active in numerous endeavors at his retirement community in Lake Junaluska, N.C. As a Methodist pastor, he fully intends and is greatly looking forward to serving as clergy at the wedding of his grandson in July at Lake Junaluska. He asked that I send his personal greetings to graduates, current and former faculty members and former members of the Board of Trustees who might remember him!
During my extended drive through the southeast I began recounting the year in terms of contacts made with alumni et al. I came up with the following estimates. During this past year, I made personal visits in homes, offices and restaurants (and a golf course or two) in about 14 states and over 65 cities with somewhere around 250 alumni/friends and donors of Baker. (No small wonder I always find it difficult to lose weight and keep it off!)
Those who know me best know that this—meeting with alumni, former students, friends and donors of Baker—has always been the true joy of the several positions I have held here at Baker. Were I to include the number of people I visited with at formal alumni gatherings, both here on campus and off, I imagine I could add at least 250 names. The Zeta Tau Alpha reunion during Alumni Weekend added about 50 or so alone.
Then finally, I have been blessed to have had so many phone calls, mail and emails (including LinkedIn and Facebook messages) from so many others, I would estimate that I probably have communicated in one form or another with about 1,200 “Bakerites” this year . . . no wonder I’m tired and looking to get away on a little personal trip next month! I hope each of you will have an opportunity for rest and relaxation this summer, regardless of whatever form that relaxation may take.
Access the June issue of the Arbor. I hope you will find several items that will keep you informed, entertained and engaged with our great University!
Jerry Weakley, ’70, M.B.A. ’92