Imagine my surprise on January 18 when Gene Clayton and I entered the Berns Center for a so-called meeting, only to find the main floor filled with cheerleaders, the marching band, faculty, staff, students, trustees and family—all there to celebrate our birthday! And yes, Gene and I share the same day. (Of course, we did not share the same nursery on that original date, as I was enjoying my entry into the world a little farther to the north in Virginia.)
Of course this was a wonderful event and I was speechless (something that usually doesn’t happen to a university president). Such an outpouring of support and celebration was something that I have never experienced, and it was very gratifying.
I have reflected on that day for the past few weeks, and I continue to be touched by the genuine affection shared on that occasion. It reinforces all the feelings Debbie and I had when we first considered coming to Methodist. On those early visits to campus and to Fayetteville, we were struck by the friendliness of everyone, not just because of my candidacy, but from people in general who had no knowledge of the reason for my visit and were equally hospitable.
Since joining the Methodist community on March 1 of last year, these moments of inspiration have continued. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of the quality of our students and employees, of the generosity of our trustees and other friends, and of the personal warmth and caring that is a trademark of this community.
We look forward to sharing many more birthdays and other special occasions here with our students, colleagues, and friends.