Twenty-seven years can feel like a long time. That’s the official count of how long I have worked at the University of Kansas as a faculty member.
I actually start the count of my KU connection a bit earlier. I moved to Lawrence in 1980 to begin graduate school. I lived at 11th and Indiana. Today that corner is a gaping hole. A developer has torn down the old apartment building and bulldozed the hillside.
With absolute clarity, I am excited and honored to become the president of Trinity University. At the same time, I have temporarily lived in a parallel emotional universe as I prepare to leave the University of Kansas.
The gaping hole at 11th and Indiana helped me understand some of the dimensions of this universe.
Another image has helped too.
The process of packing my office helped me understand what I’m taking with me to Trinity University.
Packing an office can seem mundane, but it gives you time to think as you work. I excavated layers of presentations, papers, off-prints, dossier, typescripts, research documents, correspondence, course materials, and my notes. They were sifted into filing cabinets, compressed into books on shelves, or condensed onto pages in journals.
What to take with me? What to pass on? What to shred? More than an office, I was examining the sediments of forces and relationships that have shaped me.
One important thing that I will be taking with me is the substance created by these forces: gratitude.
I am grateful for generations of students. Some resented required classes. They energized me with the desire to win them over. Others eagerly sought knowledge. They often became my teachers. I worked to see from all my students’ points of view, to listen to what they said. They are our hope.
I am grateful to staff colleagues. They are unsung heroes. Many have helped me grasp the complexity of the university, see the levers that can activate change, and know how to lead from where you are. I have learned.
I am grateful to emeritus and retired colleagues. They have shared the wisdom of seeing when a step forward may be a step backward. They have applauded genuine advances. They have helped me calibrate my understanding of the present.
And I am grateful to our graduates, our alumni. They safeguard our future. They honor our traditions. They commune with us. As dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences between 2010 and 2015, I have enjoyed the privilege of listening to their KU stories.
Packing my office was a process of refining the substance of gratitude. As students, faculty, staff, retirees, and alumni, you have changed me, energized me, and educated me to make a difference in our world. I am grateful, I am honored, and I am a proud alumnus of the University of Kansas. When I unpack my office in San Antonio, these memories and gratitude will be welcome company. My parallel universes will again be one in focus, energy, creativity, and commitment as I begin a new role serving Trinity University.
Twenty-seven years can feel like a long time. At moments, they can also seem like the blink of an eye when you see them with your heart.