It’s the end of another semester for me, and I am encountering the usual changes that go with it. I have just pushed through grading exams and papers, posted grades so that graduation can go on as usual, and filed away things that need to be kept for a future semester. In the rhythm of college life, manic productivity turns to reflection.
There are still things to do. Decisions must be made about admissions to our program, proofs for a manuscript need to be back to a journal in four days, and I need to get word out to people about deadlines.
But these will have to wait a few days, because something more important awaits me.
The end of the semester always brings an eerie quietness to the halls in my building. Yes, people are still working in their offices, but the energy, the lifeblood of Mays Business School is gone. The hum of nonstop conversations and laughter that permeates this place disappears for a few weeks, along with the traffic jams on Harvey Mitchell Parkway.
I know this routine, and I love it. I have time to think about what I’ve learned and what is ahead. It is part of what motivates me to continue investing in my students, and it reminds me in a regular cycle that I have the opportunity to get better at what I do, and, more importantly, to learn how to be a better man.
But the empty halls have a different meaning to me this December because they will never sound quite the same again. One infectious laugh, one bright-eyed smile and a waiting hug will be gone.
My son is graduating.
Nathan has had a wonderful experience in Mays, something fundamentally different than I experienced 40 years ago in business school. He has been invested in by gifted leaders like John Van Alstyne, mentored by people like Eric Newman and surrounded himself with a cadre of first-rate friends. That story is worth a blog of its own.
I had no idea what it would be like to have a child attend the university where I taught, because my other four went elsewhere. Especially being in the same building, would it be awkward for him, or would he feel restrained in his growth? I can safely say it was none of that. Instead, continuing our high school habit of weekly lunches gave me an appreciation for all the good things that were happening in his life. He has become the guy I had hoped to be when I graduated from college.
Tomorrow is graduation day, and the day after that is his wedding day. It is a weekend to celebrate where he is in his life, and where he is going. But this morning I am pausing, and reflecting on the gift I have been given, not just for the past 3½ years, but for the past 22. He walks away this weekend into his beautiful new life, in no small part because of what Texas A&M – and Mays Business School – have provided him.
And next week I will be back in the office, trying to make a difference in what young people like Nathan experience during the years they spend here. Seeing what he has gotten, close up, inspires me to do a better job for the students in my life. Our family has been the beneficiary of what this place has to offer, and I’m very thankful. I will go back into those classrooms and those hallways with a new vigor.
But for me, without that laugh and that smile, the halls will always be just a little emptier.