Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Last Lecture

A friend & colleague from across campus retired this summer, after a long & distinguished career.  During this past year, three friends & WCU colleagues died (one from the School of Business, two from across campus).

And we are just in the process of the first trimester in our new School of Business building.  Exciting stuff, although there is the occasional hassle of re-booting office filing & learning new technology & such.  Not to mention the ever-present new-building glitches.  (As I wrote the first draft of this, I was sitting in an office with a temperature registering 85.5 degrees.  Thankfully, that problem is now resolved.)

Then there’s the beginning of the academic year pondering & reflecting.  (Aside: I can’t speak for every teacher, but for me, late August is the beginning of the year.  January 1 is a welcome day off in the middle of the year.)

All of which has me remembering anew that one day I’ll give my last lecture.

I have absolute no idea when this will occur.  For some, like my colleague mentioned in the first sentence, that is their decision.  Her last lecture was as she had planned in August 2014.  For others, like my colleagues mentioned who are not around any more, it was not their decision.  They were here…and then they weren’t.

No clue which it will be for me.  Nor when it will be.  It’s entirely possible that my last lecture was the one yesterday on some of the finer points of risk & return in BUS 315.  I have no expectation that this is the case, nor any plans for it to be.  (So, BUS 448 students, better come on to class Monday. [smile])

If my last lecture is caused by my retirement, then I’m planning for that to be a LONG time into the future.  (Sorry, students! [another smile])

But what if it’s not due to retirement?

What if I teach one day, and am not here to teach the next?

This thought is ever present, though by the grace of God I do not live in fear or anxiety of it.  Every single one of us has a “that day” on our calendar.  A day on which our earthly existence will cease.  We probably haven’t a clue when nor how, but that day is absolutely there.  Example: a friend of ours went to a deacons’ meeting & then church Sunday night; on the way home, he was killed in a wreck.  He was around my age.

Since I recently added “bladder cancer” to my medical resume, perhaps the thought of the last lecture is even more present.  (Note: the prognosis is quite good!)

While all of us professors like to think we add to our universities and certainly try hard to do so, William Carey University was doing just fine for nearly 100 years before I arrived.  I’m pretty confident that William Carey University will continue to do just fine for years after I leave.  (Unless the Lord returns first, of course.)

I remember talking to a professor friend who had just retired from a large research university.  When he was there, he averaged ~$2 million a year in grants for his engineering lab.  He had assembled quite the team & large amounts of resources for his cutting-edge scientific research.  My friend said he went back to campus about four months after he retired for a visit, and there was no evidence he had ever been there!  His lab had been parceled out in the department, his office was occupied by someone else, and the university was rocking merrily on.

That is sobering to consider!

One day, my time will come to deliver my last lecture.  I’d love for my students to remember me fondly (don’t we all want to be remembered fondly by those whose paths intersect ours?).  I’d also love for them to actually be using things they learned in my classes in their work lives after graduating.  I’d also love for them to have applied the relevant material to their personal lives (students, finish this sentence from DocM’s BUS 315 class: “with your next paycheck, however great or small,…” [grin])

But an overriding goal of mine is captured in a song from some years back.  While I’m pretty sure I’ve never sung in class (you’re all welcome, students!), I think these guys capture a bit of what I’m trying to say with this post.

I feel quite sure if I did my best, I could maybe impress you with tender words and a harmonyA clever rhyme or two
But if all I've done in the time we've shared is turn your eyes on me,
Then I've failed at what I've been called to do.
There's someone else I want you to see
Will you love Jesus more when we go our different ways?
When this moment is a memory will you remember His face?
Will you look back and realize you sensed His love more than you did before?
I'd pray for nothing less than for you to love Jesus more
I'd like to keep these memories in frames of gold and silver,
And reminisce a year from now about the smiles we've shared.
But above all else I hope you will come to know the Father's love.
And when you see the Lord face to face, “You'll hear Him say ‘well done.’”
I pray for nothing less than for you to love Jesus more

(from Phillips, Craig & Dean)
More than grasping the finer points of the mechanics of time value of money or bond duration or the relationship between risk & return or the definition of marginal product and oligopoly, that’s my hope & prayer for what will remain after my last lecture.  Our university—like most universities—is fond of thinking/saying that “what happens here doesn’t end here.”  May that be ever & eternally true on my case, by the grace of God.
We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10
p.s. - Would you join me in praying for our friends who've lost their beloved husband & father?  Based on what I knew of him, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that last Sunday night, he heard "Well done, good & faithful servant" spoken by One Who embraced him with nail scars on His hands.  But there's still a grieving family, church, and community here.