Last week, I went home (one of three homes — I am a woman rich in emotional connections if not real estate) and did a thing.
It wasn’t a big thing; indeed, it was a pretty small thing in many ways. But I think it meant a great deal to a dear friend who has been a part of my life, in ways large and ways small, for 20 years and is now retiring from his dream job.
At dinner later, as I attempted to dissect the lovely event and he attempted to change the subject, he shook his head and ran a hand roughly across his forehead. “I don’t know why…” he said, then trailed off. “I just don’t know what I’ve done to make these people care.”
A pretty neat summary of the human condition, I think. The challenge is to put aside the question and just be gratefully accepting.
There endeth the Chicken Soup for Your Blogging Soul interlude. Below, should you care to read them, are the remarks I gave on Wednesday afternoon. I would like it noted for the record that I welled but I did not tear. Until after.
I can’t describe to you what it feels like to be asked to speak on behalf of thousands of Drew University alumni on the occasion of Chief Evans’ retirement from the Department of Public Safety.
I guess the closest I can come to describing it is…”payback.”
When Pat Naylor asked if I would do this, she wrote, “We’re hoping for a happy, upbeat tone.” Of course, I thought – just like Chief Evans himself. A regular ray of sunshine.
In all seriousness, there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be today than here at my beloved alma mater, joining the Drew community in honoring one of the finest people I know.
For me, Drew has always been about people, many of whom are in this room today. People who challenged me, supported me, cheered for me, frustrated me, asked more of me. Chief Evans has done every one of those things for me and for 21 years worth of Drew students.
And we’re a needy group. We don’t park well, we can’t hold our liquor, we lose wallets and cell phones and keys, oh do we lose keys.
We drive too fast, we play our music too loud, we stay up too late and every once in a while, we break into the Commons in the middle of the night the week before graduation and move every single chair onto the roof. And no one is prouder of us when we pull off tricks like this than the Chief.
Of course, from time to time, we get ourselves into real jams. And when we do, there is no more fierce a protector, no more loyal a friend than Chief Evans.
Five years ago, almost to the day, I got an offer to go work in Washington. And Chief and I stood on the back porch of this building and he said, “You have to go, young lady. And if you don’t, I’ll kill you.” It was quintessential Tom Evans – support and friendship expressed as only he could do it.
There is no way for me to thank you, Chief, for everything you have given to this community over the last 21 years. It’s been an honor to work alongside you, to stand with you during difficult times, to call you friend.
And today I get to welcome you to the Drew alumni family. There are many, many perks and privileges that come along with this exalted status, not the least of which is, of course, the obscenely generous bookstore discount.
But I’m happiest about conferring this status on you, Chief, because quite frankly, I’m not sure I’d want to be part of this place if you weren’t anymore.
So, my friend, congratulations and great good luck. We love you.