Thursday, January 30, 2014

"How We Lost Atlanta": A Little Perspective, Please

For the past 48 hours, Metropolitan Atlanta has been shut down due to what some have asserted is "two inches of snow."  Thousands of residents have spent the night in their cars, worried about loved ones not able to get home, and generally have had their lives disrupted. And now the blame game has begun. As someone who has made the area home for over 30 years, here are a few observations.

1. It's ice, not snow. Northerners love to say that Atlantans cannot drive in snow, which is ironic given that about half the folks who live here came from northern climes. The problem isn't snow. The problem is ice. During a winter weather event here, the temperatures tend to hover around freezing or just above during the day. We often get freezing rain. When we get snow, and even if the temperatures are below freezing, it tends to melt when it hits the ground. When the water freezes as the sun goes down, you end up with a sheet of ice, or, just as bad, black ice. I do not know anyone who can drive on a hockey rink.

2. Critiques over urban sprawl are interesting, but they are not going to change anything. Rebecca Burns, an Atlantan, wrote an interesting piece in Politico about the storm. Ms. Burns' history of Atlanta -- including her observations about the fact that metro Atlanta is actually a quilt of many towns and counties, its rejection of expanded mass transit, and its love of the automobile -- is quite accurate. That said, those observations and a critique of urban sprawl are not going to change anything, at least in the near to intermediate future.

Metro Atlanta is not going to become a European-style city where everyone lives downtown and mass transit is available everywhere. That said, the area has a lot going for it, including great universities, fantastic restaurants, world-class businesses and a great lifestyle. It has a low cost of living and young people can actually afford to buy houses.  Most of the time, the weather is good and is a reason why many of us live here. This weekend, temperatures are forecast to be in the 60s. If our mass transit is not up to what some would like and our traffic is bad (which it is), that is a relatively small price for living in a great area. No place is perfect. 

By the way, it is possible to live without a car in Atlanta. Several of my friends have recently moved to Midtown where they also work, and tell me they rarely use their car and are even thinking about going "car-less." However, you have to plan for such a lifestyle, and it does limit your choices.

3. This one was unexpected. If you have lived through more than a couple of winters in Atlanta, you know that things shut down quickly with the prediction of bad weather. Schools and businesses will close early. Somewhat comical runs on grocery stores are the norm. If anything, the tendency is to be too cautious. We know bad weather shuts down the city, we know the danger of ice, and we know to stay off the roads. 

The weather prediction Tuesday morning was that the storm would hit the Southern suburbs and areas south toward Macon, but would miss the vast majority of of the metro area. Flurries were predicted in the northern suburbs. Why did the fiasco happen? Because most everyone was at work and school assuming that there was no problem. When it became apparent around noon (give or take an hour) that the predictions were wrong, everyone headed out at once, as Ms. Burns correctly notes in her article. That and the rapidly worsening weather created the problem.

Was this metro Atlanta's shining hour? Of course not. Do Governor Deal and Mayor Reed wish they had a "do over"? Of course they do. Do the meteorologists? No doubt. Hindsight is always 20/20. We live our lives based on making reasonable assumptions. It was reasonable for people to go to work on Tuesday morning and it was reasonable to assume the storm would largely miss the metro area. 

Can we do better? Yes, but no one should be vilified over this.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Decline of Reasoned Persuasion and the Rise of Intolerance

Civil discourse is dying. Reasoned persuasion is largely absent from politics and from almost any part of the media. "Debate" has degenerated into sound bites and name calling, with the "winner" determined based on the best zinger rather than a clearly reasoned argument. Those making controversial statements are often quickly denounced, vilified, and labeled with epithets that would formerly have been reserved for true criminals.

Why does it matter? It matters because it signals a decline in the quality of thought and reasoning. We live in complicated times with problems that often require complicated solutions. It is difficult to get to a solution by shouting over or at each other. 

It also matters because it leads to polarization. It is hard to remember a time in which our political parties and elected leaders have been so divided for so long. I trace the current division back to the Bush/Gore election of 2000, and, if this is correct, it means that the current period of polarization has lasted for a full 13 years, punctuated only by a brief period of respite after the 9/11 tragedy. Polarization means that nothing gets accomplished, or, if one party is completely in power, legislation gets passed without bipartisan support, which inevitably leads to more polarization.

What are the causes? The causes are complex, and are necessarily rooted in philosophical differences between the left and the right. But there have always been differences, and those differences do not in themselves explain why the quality of discourse has substantially declined while the shrillness has monumentally increased. Although there are undoubtedly many reasons, here are a few somewhat random thoughts on why this is the case.

  • Cable news and the sound bite. Time constraints, commercial interruptions, and perhaps simply a change in journalistic approach mean that in-depth reporting is simply not in vogue. Instead, the quick quip, sound bite or talking point has reigned for many years with pundits aggressively trying to top each other. Both Fox and CNN claim to present "debates," but they almost always devolve into disrespectful shouting matches where nothing intelligent is said.  This approach makes the cable network news almost unwatchable.
  •  Social media. In a very short period of time, a large portion of the population has begun receiving most of their information through Twitter or social media. It is pretty difficult to say anything really intelligent in 140 characters, much less engage in a meaningful discussion.
  • Anonymity. Anonymity is often an aspect of social media and talk radio. It is much easier to ridicule, threaten or demonize another person or another point of view when you do not have to stand up and take responsibility for it.
  • The decline of the newspaper industry. The newspaper industry is in a substantial state of decline. Many communities used to have two papers with differing editorial points of view. Now even larger cities tend to have only one paper, and many are a shadow of what they used to be. Declining advertising revenue means less reporting and less depth, and often the editorial quality suffers as well. Some papers have made the fundamental mistake of embracing a one-sided editorial policy which, in today's environment, is a surefire way of alienating about half of the potential readership.
  • Smart phones can make us dumb. The Blackberry, and then the iPhone and Android may each represent a technological advance, but they haven't done much to advance social interaction. On any campus, city street, or at any restaurant or pub, you can see people staring at their phone, utterly self-absorbed in playing a game or responding to a text. It is the height of irony that a device that was originally designed to let people talk to each other seems to have caused us to converse less. There is also no indication that "smart" phones help us think great thoughts.
  •  It's usually not better in writing. Much of our everyday communication is now reduced to writing in emails or texts. The result is that people, especially young people, do not talk to each other nearly as much as in the past. Learning conversational skills and how to read people is fundamental to having a robust and meaningful exchange of ideas. 
Are there any solutions? Quite frankly, I have no idea, and, on a macro level, there is little room for optimism. Unfortunately, the damage has been done, and the extent of ignorance of basic political issues by the American populace is pretty astonishing. This ignorance tends to lead politicians -- always focused on retaining office -- to rely on even more sound bites and zingers. The only thing that is certain is that, if there is going to be any change, and that is a big "if," it will not happen overnight. Perhaps the best place to start is small. Here are a few modest ideas.
  • Tune out. The one thing television networks understand is ratings. The ratings of many cable networks are down substantially. Maybe at some point a network will actually try for balanced and meaningful programing on issues of national import (rather than the latest sensational murder trial) in which participants are allowed a reasonable amount of time to state their views, and are expected to respond in a civil and meaningful way. 
  • Read. Even with the decline of the newspaper industry, there are still lots of excellent sources for news. For example, for strongly differing editorial positions in business publications, the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times are a good start. RSS feeds also allow the aggregation of news in "readers" such as Feedly. Unfortunately, Google pulled the plug on Google Reader earlier this year.
  • Converse. Make an effort actually to converse with your spouse, your co-workers, or your fellow students. It's not that hard; people have been doing it for thousands of years! A few suggestions to get you started: "What do you think about [name a subject]"? "Why?" "Do you think there is another side to that?"  
  • Think before you send that text or email. Would it be better to pick up the phone or even to talk face to face? You will almost certainly communicate more efficiently and you might even make a new friend.
  • Try not to react immediately. We live in a world where an immediate response or reaction is viewed as a norm, even though it rarely leads to anything positive. If someone says something you disagree with, instead of disagreeing, denouncing, or labeling, consider not responding at all. If some response seems necessary, consider asking "why do you think that?" If you disagree after the explanation, perhaps asking a question is a better approach instead of trying to win an argument. For example, instead of making a statement, asking whether "have you thought about [the other side]" may lead to a more meaningful discussion.
  • Be judicious with social media. Social media is here to stay. It can be fun and even useful. However, it is difficult to have a meaningful dialogue with 140 characters. And take responsibility for what you put out there. 
And this is the big one: Tolerance should not be reserved only for those who agree with you.  It would be a pretty boring world if there were no differences of opinion.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013: Remembering My Uncle, Gilbert N. Caudle, Jr.

On Memorial Day 2013, we remember the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have given their lives in service to our country. Although a few of our fallen soldiers are the stuff of legends, most were simply ordinary Americans who served a cause, perhaps reluctantly, and had their lives cut short in the process. Some are remembered with flowers or flags on their graves. Others lie in military cemeteries in foreign lands. For some, the memories have faded away through the sands of time.

Today I am thinking about my uncle, Gilbert N. Caudle, Jr., who died in the Korean War before I was born. My uncle's memory has largely faded into obscurity, but it is important to remember him and others like him. This is my effort, however inadequate it may be, to do so.

Gilbert N. Caudle, Jr. was born in July 1924. My mother always referred to my uncle as "Don," and, although I'm not sure how you get "Don" from "Gilbert N.," I have no reason to doubt what my mother told me. That said, my mother never talked much about Uncle Don (or her family for that matter). Don did seem to be her favorite, and she always seemed to get a little misty eyed when his name was mentioned (and she was a very tough woman). That said, what I have learned about my uncle was mainly pieced together through records that are now available on line, but were of course not easily available when I was growing up.

My mother's family was poor. She was born in Mississippi, but grew up in a small town called Parma in southeastern Missouri. As happened in so many families from that generation, her brothers served in World War II, joining the Marines. My other uncle, Bill, enlisted in the Marines in January 1941. Don joined on December 9, 1941, two days after Pearl Harbor. Don would have been just 17. The brothers, were mechanically inclined. Bill was a mechanic for trucks and vehicles. Don ended up working on aircraft.

Don was a Technical Sergeant during World War II. His service records indicate he apparently did not see combat, and was stationed on the west coast. Don stayed in the service after World War II, and was stationed in various locations, ranging from California to Cherry Point, N.C. to Quantico, VA. 

By the time of his death, Don was a Master Sergeant working on helicopters. Don must have been pretty good at what he did: Becoming a Master Sergeant in the Marines from humble beginnings in Parma, Missouri is no small feat. This is about all we have learned about Uncle Don's death, which is taken from the Korean War Veteran's Honor Roll:
Master Sergeant Caudle was a crew member of a HRS-2 Sikorsky Helicopter with Marine Helicopter Transportation Squadron 161, 1st Marine Air Wing. On March 25, 1953, during a test flight from Ascom, South Korea, his helicopter crashed and burned killing its crew of three. Master Sergeant Caudle was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
Through most of my life, I never saw a photograph of Uncle Don. Recently, I found a grainy photograph, apparently his service photograph, posted on line. A link is here. I see a family resemblance to my mother and me.

In doing research for this post, I learned another fact that had been lost to our family through the sands of time. Don was married to a woman named Mary P. Caudle, who died in 2007 in Buffalo, New York. According to her obituary, Mary also worked in aircraft maintenance for the Marines in World War II. I never had any idea that Uncle Don was married, and my mother never spoke of it. Interestingly, my mother's name was also Mary.

Although the records indicate that Don's remains were recovered, I have no idea where he is buried. I have no idea where his service medals were sent, although assume they were sent to his wife Mary. So far as we are aware, Don and Mary had no children.

My uncle must have been a good guy. I wish I had known him. I wish I knew more about him. If anyone reading this happens to know anything more about Uncle Don or his wife Mary, please let me know. In the meantime, we will remember his service, and the service of so many like him who paid the ultimate price for their country.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A New Chapter: Joining Thompson Hine LLP

After spending nearly three years at Barnes & Thornburg's Atlanta office, I have begun a new chapter of my career and have joined the Atlanta office of Thompson Hine LLP as a partner. This is a very exciting and important change for me for two primary reasons.

First, the Atlanta office of Thompson Hine is managed by Russ Rogers. Russ is an old and dear friend who began his career in Atlanta working for me as an associate at Long Aldridge & Norman in the 1990s. Russ was the best lawyer I ever worked with, and we had a great deal of success as he rose through the ranks and made partner. Even after Russ made partner, we continued to work together when possible. After we both concluded several years ago that our careers were better served by joining other firms, we continued to collaborate. Russ and I had always hoped that we could end up practicing under the same roof again, and the stars finally aligned to make that possible.

Second, although a large part of my practice involves advising business clients (many  of which are international companies) on sales contracts, non-disclosure agreements, insurance, risk management and other matters, I continue to concentrate on complex commercial litigation. I began my career as a litigator, and litigation, arbitration, mediation, and dispute resolution are mainstays in my practice. Thompson Hine's Atlanta office has over 15 lawyers who focus on litigation at many different experience levels. For the past several years, I have lacked support from senior associates and junior partners on litigation matters. It is important for clients (and for me) to have reliable back-up. Thompson Hine provides that.

This change should in no way be viewed as a knock on Barnes & Thornburg. It is a great firm, and it has been a great place to work. I have many friends at BT and hope to be able to work with them in the future. It simply boils down to a judgment that, at this point in my career, and given the mix of attorneys at the respective Atlanta offices, Thompson Hine is a better fit for me.

In terms of what I will be doing, the focus should be largely the same: Representing domestic and international companies in business matters, and also focusing on commercial litigation, arbitration, mediation and dispute resolution. My litigation practice will continue to involve disputes involving insurance coverage, trade secrets, municipalities, financial institutions, contracts, corporations, LLCs, shareholders, and other matters.

I do look forward to working with younger attorneys, and serving as a resource for them, while they serve as a resource for my clients and me. Over the years, many younger lawyers I have worked with have matured into really fine attorneys. Playing just a small part in their success is very rewarding. I really look forward to returning to being a teacher and mentor, which is exactly what I should be doing at this stage of my career.

My friend and partner from BT, Roy Hadley, is also joining Thompson Hine. Roy works with some of my clients, and I work with some of his. Roy will be a strong addition to Thompson Hine's corporate and technology teams, and will ensure that my business clients also have support and back-up.

In addition to Russ, I know many of the attorneys in the Thompson Hine office, and all of the people at the firm have been very supportive and welcoming. It already feels like home.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

LinkedIn Endorsements: A Little Sanity, Please!

LinkedIn has become an important tool for professionals, serving as a means for networking, managing contacts, and establishing groups with common interests (and communicating with them). LinkedIn now has a news aggregation service that is very useful for keeping informed. What's not to like?

One "improvement" that LinkedIn added last year is the ability to endorse connections. Although it is nice to receive an endorsement, some people have gone a bit overboard. I have received endorsements from people I know only as a connection on LinkedIn and who have not met with me personally and who have no knowledge of what I do outside of the virtual world. I have also received endorsements in areas that are not part of my practice. Such endorsements are not helpful.

Here are my thoughts on LinkedIn and endorsements: 

(1) I have a pretty low bar for connecting with someone on LinkedIn. If someone has a connection with me or a common interest, I tend to accept connections. To me, it is the virtual equivalent of meeting someone at a Chamber of Commerce networking event and exchanging business cards. (On the other hand, I will not accept connections from someone I do not know unless they have a logical connection to my business or a clearly stated reason for wanting to connect).

(2) If our only connection is in the virtual world, and we have not done business together, have not represented opposing parties in a case or transaction, or otherwise have no other meaningful connection (such as being classmates), then please do not endorse me or expect an endorsement. Again, I think an analogy to the real world is appropriate: If we have just exchanged business cards at a networking event, do you have any basis for recommending me? Do I have any basis for recommending you? The answer is obvious.

(3) For endorsements, less is more. If you endorse everyone, then what is your endorsement really worth? 

LinkedIn does allow you to manage endorsements. (Instructions can be found by accessing help on LinkedIn). This morning, I pruned my endorsements considerably, both as to subject matter and the endorsers. If an endorsement was eliminated, it does not mean that the thought was not appreciated, it just means that it does not fit within the framework outlined above.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

More on My Dad: Little Things Do Make a Difference

My Dad, Dr. Lloyd I. Watkins, died on March 1, 2012. I wrote an earlier post on his rather remarkable life. Since Dad passed away, my brothers and I have gotten through the funeral and are dealing with the loss. Even though Dad was 83 years old and we knew this was coming, it is still a challenge.

One of the things that has been really gratifying is learning how little things Dad did really helped others. A professor wrote us a note about how Dad had offered an encouraging word at just the right time when his career was not going as desired. A colleague of my brother Bob wrote that she was a recipient of a scholarship that my Dad had been instrumental in starting at Illinois State University. The recently retired ISU Chief of Police wrote about how Dad had hired him, encouraged him to professionalize the ISU police, and how more than twenty years later had congratulated him for doing an outstanding job. There were others, and if Dad had not outlived so many of his contemporaries, would have been more.

What these messages brought home to me is how small acts can mean so much to other people. A word of encouragement or a word of thanks at just the right time can really make a difference. I'm going to try to live up to Dad's example.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dr. Lloyd I. Watkins: A Son's Remembrance of a Life Well Lived

On Thursday, March 1, 2012, my Dad, Dr. Lloyd I. Watkins, died peacefully in his sleep following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 83 years old. He was the fourth President of West Texas State University from 1973-1977, and the thirteenth President of Illinois State University from 1977 to 1988. He was married to my mother, Mary (Caudle) Watkins for nearly 59 years.  Dad had a full and truly remarkable life.

It was somewhat remarkable that Dad was even born. His mother, Lydia Irion, was 35 years old when she married (for the first and only time) Herman Watkins on September 18, 1927. Herman was then 41. Especially for those times, this was a "late" marriage, and children were by no means a certainty. Dad was born less than a year later, on August 29, 1928. He was an only child.

Having been born in the river town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, just before the start of the Great Depression, Dad was raised in a family that probably qualified, barely, as middle class. Lydia was a school teacher. Herman had a succession of jobs, mainly as a salesman, but never with a great deal of success. Although Herman may not have been a great success, he must have been a great father, because Dad always spoke of him fondly and said he was one of the nicest guys in the world.

A couple of weeks ago, in one of our last conversations, I talked to Dad about his childhood. To me, Dad's childhood in some ways foreshadowed what Dad would be for all of his life: A man who strove to fit in as a regular guy, but never quite was one.  He was always  more than a regular guy. Anyway, Dad spoke of his childhood friends, his Lionel train (which he said he wished he had kept -- me, too!), his BB gun, and his three dogs. He fondly remembered a wealthy neighborhood couple who never had children, but who had a big house with a big yard and who let Dad and his friends play in the yard whenever they wanted.

Dad was fascinated with airplanes, and built balsa wood and tissue paper models from kits. He won a trophy in a model airplane contest (I think he got second place -- we still have the trophy somewhere). Years later, he showed me how to build them, although it was a temporary fascination for me.

Dad lived in a house with his parents, and also with his mother's sisters. This was a bit of an odd arrangement, certainly driven out of necessity to get by during the Depression, but not totally to his liking. I'm pretty sure he longed for a sibling, but that never happened.

Dad excelled in his studies.  World War II ended before Dad would have been called to serve, but due to having punctured ear drums from some poor medical treatment for ear infections as a child, was 4-F anyway. In any event, Dad graduated from Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau in 1949 with a degree in education. 

On August 14, 1949, just before his twenty-first birthday, Dad married my mother, Mary Ellen Caudle. Mary, who was from a working class family that could fairly be described as dirt poor, was intelligent, spunky, and quite a looker. Dad definitely knew a good thing when he saw it, and convincing Mom to marry him may have been the best thing he ever did.

After a short stint teaching, Dad earned a Masters degree in 1951 and a Ph.D. in 1954, both from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Mom supported Dad throughout his studies, dropping out of college and working as a secretary at Oscar Mayer. She later completed her degree at Drake University in 1970.

In 1956, Mom and Dad moved to Athens, Ohio, the home of Ohio University, located in the foothills of the Appalachians in southeastern Ohio. Dad was a Professor in the Speech Department at Ohio U. until about 1964, when he became involved in Administration. The 1950s and 1960s were a heady time for higher education. As Dad mentioned in one of our last conversations, millions of G.I.s were able to attend college on the G.I. Bill. The economy was booming after the war.  The Baby Boom was also on, and Mom and Dad participated. I came along in 1957, followed by my brother Joe in 1960, and Bob in 1964.   

At some point in the early to mid-1960s, Dad decided that he wanted to become a college president. This led our family on a magical mystery tour across the country as Dad pursued his dream. The first stop was Pocatello, Idaho, and Idaho State University where Dad was Executive Vice President from 1966 to 1969. The next stop was Des Moines, Iowa, where Dad was President of the Iowa Association of Private Colleges and Universities from 1969-1973. 

Then Dad got his first Presidency at West Texas State, a small state school just outside of Amarillo in Canyon, Texas, in 1973. Although our family came to really like Canyon and made many wonderful friends there, I don't think Dad ever felt fully accepted. There were some who felt Dad was a "Yankee" (pretty silly since he was Midwestern to the core), and after four years he had the opportunity to move on. The opportunity was as President of Illinois State, located in the heart of the Midwest in the somewhat humorously named town of Normal, Illinois.

ISU certainly seemed like an ideal job. However, in the final stage of the interview process, Dad was asked what he was going to do about "Rites of Spring." Dad's response was,  in essence, "What is that?" Rites of Spring was an annual drunk fest that, although highly popular among the students, created a lot of property damage and consternation in the local community. It was a festering problem and something had to be done. Dad's predecessor had courageously passed the buck to his successor. Dad made the decision that had to be made and shut it down. 

The decision did not endear him to the student population for the first few years, and there are a few choice words I could use to describe the buck passing, but "unfair" will do for now. It was particularly unfair in Dad's case. First, he was hardly a prude. Dad loved a good party and a cocktail, but he could not support what Rites of Spring had become. Second, Dad always yearned to be popular with the students. He wanted to increase their involvement in the university and their educational opportunities. Eventually, I think most of the students understood this. If you want to hear it straight from Dad, he was interviewed about the decision in 2010, and the video is available on You Tube. If you are interested, click here.  

After a bit of a rough start, Dad and his team accomplished a great deal during his tenure. Enrollment increased from 19,000 to 22,000. Opportunities for international studies increased. The athletic program for women made substantial advances. Redbird Arena was built. The academic standards and overall status and reputation of the university increased.

That said, things were not easy. By the time Dad was President of ISU, the booming 1960s were far in the rear view mirror, and funding for education was tight. Dad was always in Springfield seeking more funding for the university.  It was difficult for ISU and the other universities to compete with U of I, the state's flagship university. By 1988, there was some faculty unrest over salaries and funding (pretty ironic given Dad's steadfast efforts to increase funding for the school). By then, Dad decided it was time to pass the torch to a new leader. A couple of weeks ago, he told me that he was just thoroughly exhausted at the time. He stayed at the university and taught for a couple of years (which he seemed to thoroughly enjoy), and then retired completely in 1991.

Dad had a long and enjoyable retirement. He and Mom briefly toyed with moving to Florida, but Mom put her foot down about staying put in Bloomington-Normal. The compromise was to move "south" to Crestwick, a golf course community on the Bloomington side of town. Mom and Dad lived there for a number of years, playing golf, walking, and traveling. Spurred on by Ken Burns' series on the Civil War on PBS, Dad became very interested in Civil War history, and he and Mom visited a number of battlefields. In 1999, the family gathered at Crestwick to celebrate Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary. Mom and Dad later moved to a townhouse in Normal, largely to be closer to my brother Bob and his young family.

Dad also stayed active in community affairs, serving on the board of a number of local institutions. The local newspaper, the Pantagraph, appropriately remembered Dad as a community leader as well as a leader of ISU.

In 2008, my wife and I visited in April for Mom's 80th birthday. She seemed to be in good health, although Dad seemed a little frail. In May, Mom got a case of pneumonia, from which she never fully recovered. In late July, Dad went to Mayo Clinic for testing regarding some cancer his local doctors had found. Mayo told Dad that he had four months to live without treatment and perhaps nine months with treatment. Dad was literally told to take one final trip to France and to get his affairs in order.  The next week, Mom died, just eight days short of their 59th wedding anniversary. 

In so many instances, when a spouse of many years dies, the other quickly follows.  And in Dad's case, no less than the Mayo Clinic told him that he would quickly follow. Thanks to the treatment of Dr. John Migas (a man I have yet to meet but to whom our family is grateful), Dad beat the odds. After chemo treatment, Dad went into complete remission and scanned clean for over two years.

Dad's neighbor across the street, Kay Bloomquist, was with Dad through every step of the cancer treatment. Dad and Kay fell in love. In September of 2009, instead of traveling to Bloomington for Dad's funeral (as predicted by Mayo Clinic) we attended Dad and Kay's marriage. Although Dad and Kay did not have as much time as we all wished, she was a rock throughout their marriage, and especially in Dad's last days. Kay will always be part of our family and we will always be grateful for all that she did for Dad.

Late last year, Dad began feeling a little run down. A new scan showed the cancer had returned. At first, it appeared limited. We expected, and Dad expected, that he would fight it off again. A few weeks ago, Dr. Migas ordered another scan and this time the chemo had not worked. The cancer had returned and spread. Fortunately, we were able to visit Dad one last time, as was my brother Joe. Dad remained lucid, and maintained his sense of humor. We are grateful that he died peacefully and without apparent pain.

I would be remiss not to mention my brother Bob. Bob lives in Normal, and, as such, was on the front line for Dad's final weeks. Bob has a young family and a demanding job. Like Kay, he was also a rock and somehow found time for Dad. Thank you, brother.

Having given the narrative, I'd like to share a few final thoughts about Dad. First, what were his best qualities? I would list them as follows:
  • Intelligent. Dad was always one of the smartest guys around. Dad was never a knee jerk thinker. He thought things through and from different sides.
  • Enthusiastic. Dad was enthusiastic about just about everything he did. He enjoyed his career, despite the inevitable frustrations, his family and his life. Trust me, Dad did not want to go. He would have liked to have lived to 100.
  • Great sense of humor. Dad was a great joke teller, and could always see the funny or ironic side of just about anything.
  • Outgoing. My parents had more parties and social gatherings than any people I know. Dad was one of those rare people who could not only remember names, but would  also remember intimate details about his many acquaintances. 
  • Courageous. We didn't always see this side of Dad, but it sure came out when he had to make tough decisions and when he battled cancer, and, for a while at least, beat it.
 Second, what did he care deeply about? What were his passions? I would include the following:
  • ISU. Dad was very proud of having been President of ISU. He was proud of what he and his team were able to achieve, and was proud of what others achieved after he left. Dad was very grateful for the contributions of his colleagues at ISU, and it would be remiss not to say that again now.
  • Bloomington-Normal. After having moved around the country, Dad found his home in Bloomington-Normal. Whenever we would visit, Dad would insist on driving us around and showing us any new buildings, restaurants, subdivisions, etc. He really loved the community.
  •  Friends. Dad had so many friends, some who have gone before him and others who are still with us. He really enjoyed people and he enjoyed knowing people of different ages. 
  • Pets. We always had cats and dogs in our house. In recent years, it became family tradition to make donations to local humane societies for holidays instead of exchanging gifts. We agreed that there will always needy animals, and that we all had enough "stuff."
  • Cars. This may be a new one to some, but not to family members. Dad seemed genetically predisposed to purchase a new car about every three years. This created some consternation because, as Dad said, if Mom had her way, they just would have kept that 1948 Hudson. Last year, even though Dad had given up the keys due to his deteriorating eyesight, he pretty much insisted that he and Kay buy a new car. He told her that it was really great to buy a new car without having to argue with his spouse about it! Shortly before he died, Dad was dreaming and talking  in his sleep about driving. Maybe it was a new S Class down Highway 1 in California. But that's more my dream. For Dad, it was probably a new Lincoln through the Illinois farm country with the corn growing under a blue sky on a summer day.
  • Family. Dad got really lucky when he married Mom. He then got lucky again when he found Kay. Although our family is not without its faults and issues, there was never any doubt that Dad loved all of us deeply, including my wife, my brothers and their spouses, the grandchildren, and, most recently, the step children from Kay.
To sum it up: Not bad for a boy from a lower middle class family from Cape Girardeau. Dad lived a great life, enjoyed his life, and left the world better than he found it. 

Particularly in his last years he fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith. 

We will miss him dearly.