I must begin by thanking Monica Nixon, the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs for coordinating the absolutely splendid Fortieth Anniversary Banquet of the Office.
Here is the O.M.A website page for that wonderful event.
I do not know what moved me to want to attend that event. I was hoping that I would have a chance to see some of the wonderful people who had been students back in the days when I was so very, very blessed to be the acting director of the Office. I did know that, without them, I would not have survived my five years as acting director and because of them I continued on my life's task... becoming the Black man I was born to become.
Check out this picture of Fr. OJ McGowan, SJ, 1977. I had a wonderful beard and some great thick hair then.
It is very easy for me to remember the times I thought I failed my students... being tongue tied at meetings with students and faculty when the teacher and the student could not come to a mutually acceptable compromise about the students' grades or career options; having nothing to offer students who needed wise counsel or financial assistance but my confused presence; failing to say the right words when I was challenged by a frustrated student or staff person...
I did not realize until the night of the banquet how much the wonderful human beings I had the pleasure of being with from 1977-1982 considered me to be their mentor, counselor, and advocate.
Here is a picture of some of them.
I was so surprised by what was said about me that night that I just sat in my chair completely silenced, inside of me and, definitely, I could say nothing, I just smiled. And then I was asked to come up to the stage, I kept shaking my head
meaning "No, no, I have nothing to say; I just need to sit at my table and let all of this sink in." But somehow I got up the stairs to the podium. I was given an absolutely wonderful plaque. I managed to say a few thank yous, made it down the steps, back to my table, and quickly let the other folks at my table look at the plaque.
That beautiful banquet touched me very, very deeply. I am a better person for having gone to it; I am still becoming the Black man who I was born to become... and I am so very happy to admit that the human beings I met for the first time that evening and the ones who shared space and time with me in the Office of Minority Affairs were and are a delight and inspiration to me.