Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I conducted a funeral today for a MSU alumnus and lifelong Spartan fan. There was a Spartan flag draped across the casket. The family talked about their dad attending the Frozen Four and the Rose Bowl. They made mention of him watching basketball games with his neighbor. He saw some of the great Spartan players - Magic Johnson, Steve Garvey and the like.

At one point in the service they played the MSU alma mater, "MSU Shadows." It was amazing to watch the congregation. Tears that had been held in for most of the service flowed as the lyrics of the song brought back memories - not just of Mr. Stewart - but for his children and grandchildren who are fellow State alums.

It made me think about my Alma Mater, Great Lakes Christian College. I don't ever recall seeing anyone get misty-eyed as they sang, "'Neath the azure dome of Heaven . . ." There is something visceral and palpable about the love that State fans have for their university that seems to be missing among my generation of GLCC grads.

I think I might know at least one reason why. I play basketball with John who works for the University. About a month ago John had to miss a game - something he almost never does. When he showed up the following week I asked him where he had been. He told me that each year, when incoming Freshman arrive on campus, John gives a talk. Because there are thousands of freshmen, John gives the talk dozens of times. I've since learned that "the talk" is legendary. The title: "What it Means to be a Spartan." John shares MSU traditions with the students. He explains to them that they are inheriting a legacy, and that they are keepers of this legacy for succeeding generations of Spartan alums. MSU has such profoundly loyal alumni because, in part, they learn to love the university the very first week they are on campus.

I don't recall ever hearing a talk titled "What it Means to be a Crusader." To be sure, I learned something of what it means to be a GLCC alumnus. Indeed, I do tear up when I sing the Alma Mater because I recall Dr. Brant Lee Doty, its author. I wonder, though, if this year's freshman even know the song. (State Freshman are required to learn theirs.) I wonder if they have heard of Dr. Doty or if he is just another faceless name, a bit of trivia, or a post-card thought that some of their alumni parents occasionally mention.

My wife and I and many others have bemoaned the anemic alumni involvement at our college. Frankly, there have been instances where we contributed to that problem. I am wondering, though, if part of the solution begins by teaching incoming freshman just how special a legacy they're entrusted with. By reminding them that they're receiving a gift from the college and that the time will come when they'll be expected to give back in equal measure . . .


Soren said...

Ouch. Frank, sometimes you are so right.

Anonymous said...

Just some observations from a GLCC alumnus...

You mention a Spartan flag. I'm not sure I have ever seen a GLCC flag?

You mention big-ticket sporting events like the Rose Bowl and Frozen Four. I'm not sure GLCC sporting events (as good as they are) can compete with those?

You mention names like Magic Johnson and Steve Garvey - names that even those outside of MSU recognize. I'm not sure we have names like that are recognized outside of our heritage?

You mention MSU's alma mater song and the welling of emotion it evoked. I truly don't know the words to GLCC's song (which may say more about me than the college, but still...).

Now, with all that said, there are aspects of being a GLCC graduate that can't be touched by MSU, or any other school for that matter. I'm talking about kingdom-stuff. But how often do we celebrate those? Who shows more emotion - fans at an MSU football game, or GLCC grads at the National Preaching Summit? That's it! We should paint our faces next year. :)

Just thinking in public.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Frank, for another thought provoking post.

I have a lot of thoughts racing through my head right now. I think that the college and the alumni might be at a draw. Who goes first? Does the college approach the alumni or does an alum approach the college to say, "how can we help you?"

I can tell you that I wrote one of the college leaders just this last week to begin a dialogue with him, "how can we help you?"

I got the brush off, I'm sad to say. However, I'm going to inquire again, because I think it is important.

The education and experience that we received at Great Lakes was life shaping and more than enough to prepare and equip us for our ministries.

I hope the college leaders would say the same about their alumni.

Tears do well up in my eyes when I think of Dr. Doty and his lovely wife Ruth. The sacrifice and vision they shared with us has had and I believe will continue to have an eternal impact in Michigan and in the world.

Mike shares a good point. We do have something that MSU grads may never have. Eternal life TOGETHER in Christ. I wonder why we don't celebrate that more?