I live one mile from the office, so it almost isn’t worth the trouble to drive. But in August it is always worth the trouble. Turning on the radio, however, does seem a little silly. I only have time for one song at the most.
On an early morning several days ago I went to the trouble of turning on Sirius XM satellite radio for some reason and chose a station called “The Coffee House.” The station seemed right for an early morning just for the name itself, but I like it any time of day for its soothing, acoustic music.
The song that played immediately was unfamiliar, and in about two seconds it had me. The title was “Mother’s Smile” by an artist named Keelan Donovan. It was only a mile to the office, but my goodness I had gone on a journey by the time I got there.
A couple of mornings later I chose The Coffee House again, and somehow that exact song came on once more , and the combination of the coincidence and the content took my breath away.
My mother died eight years ago today. I’m not sure how satellites work and what all goes on up in the space we call the heavens, but somehow leading up to this special day I was greeted twice on early mornings with these opening lyrics—and I smiled, too.
My mother’s smile
Looks the same as it did when I was a child
It’ll stay right here with me for a while
My mother’s smile
Oh, oh, how I miss you
Professional headshots of 44 team members above (6 more team members not pictured) plus pictures of 12 new hires this summer below (still searching for 3 open positions)
This afternoon feels part finish line, part starting line, and all sorts of consequential.
In the middle of March 2019 my wife and I said our tearful goodbyes to California and drove across the country to a new life in Tennessee. One year later, in the middle of March 2020, I was leading an effort to evacuate as many university students as possible from campus as COVID-19 began its terrible reign. And for the last five months, both I and my team have worked harder than I thought possible.
This has been the most challenging season of work that I have faced, including working through multiple historic natural disasters—and in a real sense we are just getting started.
My university is one of many that carefully and prayerfully weighed all the competing forces and decided to welcome large numbers of students back to our classrooms and residence halls for a new academic year, and the preparatory work to do that well has been intense. Although both my housing/residence life team and security team literally never left campus for a single second—and my other teams have worked nonstop remotely as well—early tomorrow morning is when freshmen begin moving in our residence halls in significant numbers. And this week of move-ins and new student orientations build to the first day of fall semester classes one week from tomorrow.
So this afternoon feels like a big deal.
I am confident that we have prepared well and that we will love our community well, but in a COVID-19 world we have all discovered that we cannot predict what happens next. So I cannot say with confidence, nor should I predict, what the next few months will hold. What I do know is this: regardless of what happens, if I grow to be an old man and sit on a porch someday with folks from my team who lived through these past few months, we will look back and remember with pride that we gave our full hearts along with blood, sweat, and tears—most definitely, tears—on behalf of our students. And what might stand out the most is that we learned that our capacity to do extraordinary work was greater than we had ever imagined.
I find great comfort in that today. To be a part of a team like this is an honor. And knowing full well that the days ahead are filled with great challenges, I am proud to face those challenges with these good people.
Here we go.