A University is and should be defined by its people. On many occasions, I have emphasized how “signature people” are the ones who insist upon excellence and will settle for nothing less, especially at a place they love.
Dr. Louis Spilman was one such person. He let you know where he stood with his faith, his family, and his university. There was no middle ground. He gave all he had to the people and things he believed in, and expected the same from others. During the time that I knew him, if he ever felt that Methodist was not living up to his high standards, he wouldn’t hesitate to let me know. I respected and loved him for it. So did so many others, as this first graduate of Methodist College served for more than 40 years as a trustee and received the University’s highest honors – an honorary degree and the University Medallion.
At a recent Board of Trustees dinner, the Methodist University Chorale was performing, and before they concluded their program, Louis yelled out, “Are you going to sing the Alma Mater?” Fortunately, the Chorale already had planned on this being their closing number, so they happily responded to his request. After all, how could you have a Methodist University event and not sing the Alma Mater?
This past week, Louis passed away. The tributes in the media and at the memorial service reminded everyone what he meant to this community and to the University. So many have been inspired by his spirituality, his generosity, his sage advice, and his humanity. We will miss him greatly.
My last memory of Louis was from Friday, Nov. 1, when he was on campus for the annual Scholarship Luncheon. He always enjoyed visiting with the students, especially the recipients of the Spilman Scholarship. Before lunch, the MU Chamber Singers were singing the Alma Mater and I looked over toward him and saw the look of pride on his face as he sang along to honor the University he loved.
Louis, the University community loved you as much as you loved them. Thank you for making us a better place as we heeded your advice and put our faith and people first. Signature people are what build and sustain signature facilities and programs. Methodist University gets it right, because Louis Spilman wouldn’t have it any other way.
From now on, whenever I sing the Alma Mater, I will think of you. The closing line of the song is so appropriate, “God go with thee for eternity.”