Grady Bogue- an eulogy

Grady Bogue died one year ago.  He was an educational giant.  Many people knew Grady from his five decades of devoted service to higher education.  Others knew him as a trusted faculty adviser or as a leading scholar on higher education policy and leadership.  I knew him as a mentor, counselor and friend.

Grady was one of the great influences in my life.  We all have these people in our lives.  He believed in me at times when I didn’t believe in myself.  He refused to ever give up on me as a student or a person.

On the anniversary of his death, I would like to present the eulogy from his funeral.

The Importance of Words

Everything I learned from Dr. E. Grady Bogue can be broken down into one simple concept: the importance of words.

Anyone who spent any time at all with Grady quickly realized how important words were to him.

Words to read. He was a lover of words written by others.   Grady was forever reading books. He read good books. He read bad books. Even when a book was going bad- quickly- he would still hold out hope that the content would turn around somewhere near the closing chapters. If it didn’t turn around, he loved to complain about how bad it was…and how it could have been written differently. If you ever accompanied Grady to a bookstore, I hope that you had nowhere else to be for a good while.

He was forever recommending books. Books on leadership. Books on ethics. Books that questioned authority and sources of power. Twenty years ago he tasked a group of young, eager master’s students to read Saul Alinski’s “Rules for Radicals.” It opened our eyes to inequities in our communities- and how to create political, social and economic change. He loved that book. Grady loved the underdog…the downtrodden…the forgotten. He was a champion. He loved to challenge the status quo- and he expected his students and colleagues to do the same. Reading shared books was a great way to spread knowledge and spark creativity in the eyes of his students and colleagues.

Spoken words. He was equally adept at delivering a speech that captivated hundreds of conference attendees, presenting a small lecture for a dozen doctoral students, or having an intimate, quiet conversation over a cup of coffee with a friend. He had numerous roles in his spoken interactions with others- depending upon the situation. He could be the counselor, comforter, advisor, scholar, artist, radical…and sometimes – if you were up against a deadline in your dissertation- a parole officer.  He made you careful about your own word choices too. If you made a statement in class or a Bible study, you had better be prepared for a question or two from Grady. He learned from you that way. And you learned from him.

I had watched Grady Bogue masterfully work conversations for 19 years before he was appointed to the chancellors’ position at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. I wondered aloud to Dr. DiPietro how long it would be before Grady’s great, probing questions descended upon the Chattanooga campus and with his fellow chancellors and vice presidents across the UT system. It didn’t take long. By the end of the first week he was already questioning budgets, fundraising totals, and the activities of programs across the UT system. Nothing escaped Grady’s careful study, and his questions- as always- were well-timed, appropriately phrased, and kept the audiences guessing as to where he was headed. I enjoyed watching him in that capacity over the past year. He loved the Chattanooga campus, and community, his colleagues across the UT system and the Trustees, alumni and donors he met. He communicated with these audiences like he had been a part of the UTC campus for years.

Written words. He was a prolific writer- composing 11 books and over 60 articles. But his best writing never appeared in a refereed journal or scholarly publication. Have you ever received a letter from Grady Bogue? You wouldn’t forget it. He loved letters. He wrote notes of encouragement; he sent words of advice; he sent letters of support…and sometimes…he sent letters of reprimand when he felt leaders weren’t representing their organizations well (I’ve received three of those myself). Grady made e-mail into an art form. His e-mails were legendary around campus- much like his letters. You can read Grady’s written words- and you can hear his voice leaping from the text into your ears. That’s a gift.

Words were important to Grady Bogue.

Grady’s words invited you inside his own family. While I had met Grady’s family over the years, it was through the text of e-mails that I learned of his great love and devotion to them. I’ve saved literally hundreds of his e-mails over the past two decades- and I’ve had great fun reviewing them over the past few days. Here are some of the family highlights:

Trips to Nashville to visit Linda’s family. The love he had for a sister in Tipton County, and the pain he felt when her health began to deteriorate. How he loved traditions and holidays. He informed me once how fortunate I was to send him an overdue paper that arrived on Thanksgiving Day (and I quote) “with me happy and in good humor with a tummy full of turkey and dressing.” Professional and personal triumphs of his children. The birth of grandchildren. Oh the grandchildren… Marriages. Anniversaries.

One of my favorite family e-mails arrived earlier this year. I had commented on how much I enjoyed his holiday greeting from UTC- to which he responded: “Wasn’t that a great picture of Linda Bogue? She’s the most beautiful woman in East Tennessee!”

Grady Bogue challenged all of us examine and celebrate special moments in our lives. His special place was Hilton Head Island- a place of solace and retreat for the Bogue family for over 30 years.

Grady did not mince words. He placed a high value on relationships. In a world filled with impersonal interaction and hurried communication- Grady encouraged us to slow down, take time to get to know one another, and to respect each other and our individuality. Everyone has worth. Everyone deserves respect. Grady not only taught that, he demonstrated it with his actions.

The world needs a few more Grady Bogues. We will miss him- but thankfully, he’s given us enough memories, stories and words to last for our lifetimes. Godspeed my friend.

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Too big for your britches…

My grandmother had some great sayings.  One she used often was to not “get too big for your britches.”  She knew an awful lot about youngsters getting out of order, as she raised two strong-willed (but good-hearted) boys.  Getting too big for one’s britches had multiple meanings…an inflated ego, a bad attitude or a smart mouth.  It was intended to tell a younger generation that they weren’t quite “grown” yet.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I Peter 5:5

This wise saying has stayed with me since youth.  We’ve all encountered those good folks who need the occasional, gentle attitude adjustment.  It might be pride – with just a touch of self-importance thrown in as well.

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 26:12

And sometimes (ok…maybe more often than I like to admit) I need those attitude adjustments myself.

I recently received a call from an old family friend.  He brought up an exchange from our recent past in which, in his words, I had been insensitive and dismissive.  In reflecting back on that time, I remember being in the midst of one of life’s busy, stressful periods.  Perhaps it was a lack of focus…or pride…but whatever the reason, I had gotten too big for my britches.  It was unintentional, but I had hurt his feelings.

All I could do was to humbly apologize and ask for forgiveness…and to thank them for being a good friend.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

I was grateful to have another chance with this friend.  It reminded me to be careful with words and attitude- as you never know how your response might impact another.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

Thank goodness for forgiveness.  And, for people who remind us to wear proper-fitting britches.

God bless.

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Electric blankets

Remember the electric blanket?  This device will forever be etched into my memory as a child of the 1970’s.

For a time in my life, my mother and I lived in a one bedroom apartment behind my grandparent’s country store in Frog Jump, Tennessee.  I have several vivid memories of my home on Highway 88.  First, the “front door” led right into the meat department of the grocery store.  I also remember that mom slept on a fold-out bed, giving me the only bedroom in the apartment.  Finally, the frigid winds would push through the roof line and windows of this old apartment, bringing a chill draft across our home when the daylight gave way to nighttime each winter.

This is my first memory of the electric blanket.  My mom would come in and plug this scientific marvel into the wall about 5 minutes before bedtime.  It had three settings…low, medium and high (I was never allowed to use the “high” setting…there were limits to this indulgence).  There was nothing like sliding into a warm bed during those cold winter months.  Instant comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

We all seek comfort.  Comfort from stress.  Comfort from our physical ailments and mental scars.  Comfort from the pain associated with this world.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

We have a loving Savior that longs to take away our pain.  A generous God that loves us and invites us into His presence.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4

Seek relief from the pain in your life with the promise of comfort of our Savior.  It’s the ultimate electric blanket.

Let me know how I may pray for you.  God bless.

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Life lessons from next door

I was blessed to grow up next door to an incredible woman.  Katie Sue Fewell was my neighbor, my great aunt, and – most importantly- a tremendous role model.

Katie Sue was a high school history teacher in my hometown of Alamo, Tennessee.  She was the sister of my grandmother, Mary.  Katie Sue was the ultimate community servant.  Every blood drive, voter registration initiative and fundraiser that took place in our hometown had Katie Sue’s fingerprints all over it.

She was incredibly wise.  In looking back over her life, I recall four distinct leadership themes that Katie Sue demonstrated each and every day.  I’d like to share those with you.

Always wear the same size hat. (Humility) 

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  Luke 14:11

Always wearing the same size hat means being humble.  Don’t let your accomplishments in life, family or career swell your head.  We need to remember that it can all be gone in a second.  Our lives…and our achievements…are temporary.  A humble, gentle spirit allows us to appreciate the gifts and talents we have received, and encourages us to use those talents to further God’s work on this earth.  Humility breeds a servant heart.

We are all turtles on a fencepost.  (Gratitude)

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

You know the story.  A farmer and his granddaughter were walking across the expansive family farm.  They came across a turtle sitting atop a fencepost on the back of their property.  After surveying this sight for several minutes, the farmer looked at his granddaughter and said, “I don’t know how that turtle got up there, but I do know that it had some help.” Whatever we’ve accomplished in life, we need to realize that we’ve had help.  It may have been a parent, neighbor, youth minister or family friend.  And for this help- we should be grateful.  We should take the time each day to thank someone who has helped us along the way.

Bloom where you are planted.  (Perseverance) 

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  James 1:12

Life has dealt all of us difficult circumstances at one time or another.  You can’t always predict what obstacles will come your way.  Life is hard, but we need to develop an attitude that looks for the best in any given situation.  Tough times will come, and we need to be prepared to dig in, work hard and make the best of these difficult situations.  Our attitude is the key to perseverance during difficult times.

Choose to be brave.  (Courage) 

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:6

It’s easy to think about courage in a “Hollywood” sense.  We all dream about those life-or-death moments we see in the movies- and how we could be as brave as those characters on the big screen.  But how about everyday life?  What about those times at work or at home when we need to be courageous and take a stand- but we don’t.  It might be peer pressure or just avoiding a conflict- whatever the reason…courage is developed one small action at a time.  Being courageous develops integrity…and integrity comes from both public and private life decisions.  Be courageous- whatever the situation.

Humility.  Gratitude.  Perseverance.  Courage.

Katie Sue left this earth in 1999- over 15 years ago.  Her lessons and example live on.  I pray that all of us have the opportunity to be a”Katie Sue” for someone- someday.

God bless.

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Do you hear what I hear?

It’s 9:15 p.m. and my daughter, Carson, is outside dribbling basketball.  This sound signifies the end of another high school soccer season and the beginning of her sophomore year of basketball.  I love the sound of a basketball dribbling followed by the swish of a nylon net.   Some of my earliest memories involve my dad’s great basketball teams, crowded gyms and noisy fans.  There’s nothing like the sounds associated with basketball, and I love to listen to Carson dribble and shoot.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:15

What sounds are comforting to you?  Perhaps it’s your favorite musician.  The sounds associated with nature.  The soft whimper of a sleeping child.  All of us have favorite sounds.  It’s easy to listen, but it can be so hard to truly hear.

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.  John 8:47

It’s hard, isn’t it?  Hearing is so hard.  We often listen for what we want to hear- not what we need to hear.

Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.  Proverbs 19:27

My own human nature is to be selfish.  It’s often difficult for me to turn away from my sinful desires and listen to God’s instruction for my life.

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.  Proverbs 19:20

Hearing must become a habit for all of us.  In order for us to have true spiritual growth we must be disciplined in our hearing.  We can’t just listen to the Lord’s instruction.  We need to read His word…meditate on it…and hear the application for our lives.  Hearing must be a habit.

But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”  Luke 8:21

Let’s pray for one another to be more intentional in our hearing.

God bless.

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No better than Peter

It’s easy to think about how we might respond in a life or death situation…when you aren’t actually in one.

I sometimes think about Peter and his terrible situation as described in the book of Matthew:

“Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.”  Matthew 26:31-35

We know what happened next.  Peter – who walked alongside our Savior and witnessed His teaching and miracles- denied his relationship with Christ.

I’m no better than Peter.  In fact, I’m much worse.  Peter was fearful of his life.  I don’t have that excuse.

I am given ample opportunities each day to tell of my personal relationship with Jesus.  I often, however, fail in this regard.

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 10:32

Being bold for the cause of Christ doesn’t always present itself like it did for Peter.  It often comes today in life’s small, quiet moments.  It happens in those times when we are faced with making an ethical choice…or a stand…when we think that no one might notice.

What am I afraid of?  Jesus died for our sins- and has promised to be our eternal advocate.  We should be bold in embracing our relationship with Christ.

I pray that I become more aware of my opportunities to tell the good news of Jesus- and that I have the courage to publicly acknowledge and embrace this relationship.

God bless.

 

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Changes

Early fall is my favorite time of the year. The chill in the morning air and the brilliant colors in the trees signify a gradual change of seasons. Summer is a fading memory.  Lake trips and afternoons at the pool are replaced at the Carver home by backyard bonfires, football games and Hollianne’s famous white chicken chili.

Like the seasons, change is an inevitable part of our lives.  Whether it’s our health, job situations, family structure- the only certainty in our earthly lives is that our lives will change.  It’s sort of disconcerting, isn’t it?  What’s accepted as a reality today can be gone tomorrow.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8 We have a great promise from our Lord and Savior.  A promise of hope, forgiveness and love.  Jesus Christ is the constant in our lives.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

With change all around us, we can be comforted to know that we may always call on our Lord for comfort and strength.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  James 1:17

The Lord knows our past, our present and- most importantly- our future.  He knows our anxieties related to change.  Best of all?  He cares about us…more than we can ever imagine.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:6

Embrace change.  Wherever it takes us- God is already there. God bless.

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