August 21st, 2011

cedar, reading

The unexpected (#reverb10)

Back in December, I participated in one of those "31 days of blogging" deals ( ... and one of the consequences is that I get an email prompt every month.  Of course, I've been so busy with many other things, I haven't had the chance to do any of them ... and so most of them have effectively expired.  No big deal ... there are no rules to blogging, right?

Anyways, this afternoon, I'm feeling like doing nothing in particular, so I decided to sit out on the deck and try and clear out some old non-work email.  (I try to keep a Sabbath rest as much as possible.)  So ... I found six months worth of monthly prompts from #reverb10, and none of them really connected.  Except this one.

Describe an unexpected moment, activity, sighting or conversation that  touched you during July.

One popped to mind right away.

Kettering University (my employer) has a new president, Dr. Robert McMahan.  The outgoing president left at the end of June, and the new president officially started on August 1st.  But he was around now-and-then in July for various events ... like our new student convocation during move-in weekend.

New student convocation is a relatively new phenomenon for us, though not for academia.  It's sort of like "graduation in reverse".  Leaders of the university process into the auditorium in their academic regalia (i.e. those really weird cap-and-gown outfits).  Many speeches are made, to inspire the new students (well, at least that's the intent) and to offer advice on how to succeed over the next several years. 

Well, our new president was here, and as befitting someone of his stature, he was the last person to speak.  When his turn came, he moved to the podium, said the usual welcoming things one says, and then said "I'm really here to begin learning about Kettering.  I'm looking forward to listening to all of you and learning from you over the next several months."

And then ... he sat down.

Professors never make short speeches, even if they have nothing to say.  We're conditioned to speak at great lengths about nothing at all, if it seems like the situation requires it.   (Regrettably, some of the speeches earlier in that event fit that description perfectly.)

How utterly remarkable to find someone who says "I want to listen, not to speak" --- and then stops speaking.

I've had a couple of other opportunities to hear Dr. McMahan speak in group settings since that time.  It's actually kind of hard to get him to speak, because he's still trying to listen.  But my impression is ... he's serious about listening, and he seems to be a quick study.

This could be fun.