You are going to have to give me a little room to reminisce today. I am having an attack of the nostalgias. Going down someone else’s memory lane can be as boring as a lecture on the life cycle of guppies, but this has been a reflective few weeks for me.
My beloved Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia and the campus chapter of my college fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, both celebrated their 100th anniversaries this past month in Athens.
There were so many tuxedos spotted in town during these two singular events that rumors were rife Clarke County had been invaded by a horde of penguins.
Regrettably, I had to miss the Grady Centennial, but I was there in spirit. I am always there in spirit, as well as at the university on whose hallowed ground Grady College is located.
I am lucky I ever saw the inside of the place. A transfer student from Georgia State University, I had had several close calls academically.
In one of the many divine interventions that have occurred in my life, I found myself in an English literature class at Georgia State with a tough-love professor named Dr. Raymond Cook, who got me back on track. Without Dr. Cook, 94 years young and still grading my columns from his home in Valdosta, we likely would not be having this conversation.
Grady College has given me more than I can repay. To remember the anxiety I felt the first day I walked into the school (and I remember it vividly), and to walk into the current facility today and see the portrait of an old but grateful graduate in a room named for him, that is as good as it gets.
There are a lot more students — and much smarter ones — than there were in my time and the technologies are light years beyond anything we could have imagined in the days of typewriters and Speed Graphic cameras, but there is a spirit within the place that has endured. Being a “Grady graduate” is a badge of honor. I wear it proudly.
While at UGA, I became a member of the Nu Zeta chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, with the encouragement of a high school acquaintance, Paschal Glenn “Pat” Boggs. I was not a distinguished member of the fraternity, but I hung around with a couple of brothers who turned out pretty well. Joe Frank Harris of Cartersville served as Georgia’s governor from 1983 to 1991. Ray Elrod, our chapter president, was a longtime mayor of Dalton.
After graduation, I lost contact with Pat. On a visit to a newspaper office in Henry County in 1967, I happened to glance at the current week’s edition and saw that area resident Maj. Paschal Boggs, a Marine Corps fighter pilot, had been shot down over North Vietnam and was missing in action. His remains were never recovered.
In one of the most unforgettable moments of my life, I was jogging in Washington in the early ’80s just after the Vietnam Memorial Wall had been dedicated. I stopped to take a look at this magnificent tribute to a group of great Americans who deserved better.
The very first name I saw among the more than 50,000 listed was my Lambda Chi Alpha big brother, Pat Boggs. It is difficult even today to describe the emotions of that experience. Some would call it a coincidence. Not me. I have experienced a few coincidences in my long life. That was more than a coincidence. Pat Boggs was speaking to me.
I had the privilege of serving as master of ceremonies at the Nu Zeta chapter’s Centennial Celebration a couple of weeks ago at the Classic Center in Athens. I’m not sure why I was chosen, except I work cheap and own a tuxedo.
More than 800 alumni and current members were in attendance, making it one of the largest gatherings — if not the largest — in Lambda Chi Alpha’s history. I talked to a lot of people that evening who read this column around the state. Many were surprised to learn I was a Lambda Chi. I didn’t tell them, but I am surprised Lambda Chi would have me. For that, I thank Pat Boggs.
It has been an emotional month. Thank you for allowing me to share my trip down memory lane with you. As I look back on it, I wouldn’t change one step of the journey. Not one.