Reflections (Or: College conferences, past and present)

Today was the fall college conference. We always have one the week before classes start in August, and one in January before classes begin. In addition, the month of May brings a “service recognition luncheon”. At some point I realized that this was my last college conference, just like in May it was my last service recognition luncheon.

Odd, how time flies. Odd how I see others being introduced for the first time, and I can still remember being introduced myself, and the joke that was cracked to me in front of everyone: “Your predecessor served for 30 years. Did you know that the contract you signed stipulated you would stay for 30 years as well?” There was a chance back then, however small. But there is no more chance. But this is by no means a pessimistic post.

To bookend the experience – the same person who remarked about my contract 3 years ago came over today to make sure (for the 5th time) that I was still leaving, and if so when. It was all in good humor. I said “yes – it’s Europe. Would you not choose Europe?” And he said “Of course I would choose here” while grinning and gazing upwards away from me to accent his joking reply. And the professor next to me talked for a while about the Amsterdam he had fallen in love with – and, among other things, why everyone drives such cheap, beat up bikes.

The luncheon began with a slideshow presentation to a recently (suddenly) departed soul: the campus chaplain. Although I did not know him that well, he was quite loved by the student body and staff. The photo slideshow was accompanied by Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D. The link is for a YouTube video, and you’ll want to turn up the sound as it’s a bit quiet. My favorite part (and I think the most recognizable part) is around 1:45. It was… the volume was loud, though not in a bad way. It overtook the room. The hardest part was seeing one of the Sisters attempt to do the reflection (the two of them were quite the pair on the job); she choked up and left shortly after.

The next speaker was the same person who introduced me three years ago, and who joked with me today before the beginning of the conference. As academic dean, he had many changes and additions of personnel to announce. New faculty lines approved, new faculty hired, new babies, new weddings… clapping for each achievement.

And then suddenly, unexpectedly, he spoke of someone else. Someone who was leaving in December, after having a fiancé with a “location” problem – a location of Holland. Someone who didn’t want to commute to Holland and back again. (But perhaps he could speak with the college president about arranging something anyway?)

My name was called.

Someone gasped audibly behind me. He gestured for me to stand.

And so – the experience is suddenly bookended, which feels right somehow. It is a beginning with an end, a start with a finish. I was introduced by him, and I was recognized one final time by him, as everyone clapped around me.

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