There I stood, just moments after receiving my Alumni Fellow award from Washburn University president Dr. Jerry Farley. At the podium I thanked everyone and readied to deliver my acceptance speech. The twist to it all was that the words I wanted to say were not coming out of my mouth.
Looking out at the large crowd packing the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center for the event, I glanced at my table where my wife, daughters, sister and three of my very best friends sat smiling. I thought of the joys they all bring to my life and the very kind words read during my introduction from Laura, Julie and my former boss at KU, Chris Theisen. My mind raced back to the fun hour I spent with the combined classes of the Communications Department just before the luncheon.
Still, nothing was coming out right. I was stumbling out of the gate like a thoroughbred in a high stakes horse race. I mumbled something about nerves, even though that was not the case. Speaking in front of a large crowd never has been a nerve-wracking situation for me. No, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and was fully ready to do just that.
The only issue was that I just could not stop thinking about how wondrously and richly my Lord and Savior has blessed me over the course of my life. That I stumbled over two verses from Proverbs I pray to myself almost every day just made it all a bit embarrassing in my mind. Time seemed to stand still while my heart, soul and mind welled to the brim with thanks to God.
Fortunately, as He always does, the Lord helped me recover quickly, regain my stride and deliver, what others said, was a powerful speech filled with memories of Washburn and what that University means to me for my college education and the education of my two daughters. Most of all the speech gave everyone a sense of the joy that faith brings to my life. This might have been a crowning moment of personal achievement for my long photography career, yet, in my mind, this was all about God’s grace and mercy on me, a sinner. Over all else, that is what I wanted to share.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3: 5-6
That is how I finally began my speech. Leaning on my own understanding why my career led to this moment at Washburn is impossible. It is too much for me to comprehend. All the events I have covered – the giants of sports I have photographed and called friends – and the joys and sorrows of life I have seen – they add up to a career beyond even my huge imagination. I never grew up wanting to be a photographer, but God led me on a path to photography which has been my calling for 44 of my 62 years. There have been difficult stretches and hard tests of faith in my long run. I made more than my share of mistakes along the way, but God’s word carried me through.
But, the people who trust the Lord will become strong again…they will run and not need rest. They will walk and not become tired. – Isaiah 40: 31
The activities revolving around this award began Thursday night at the home of Washburn President, Dr. Jerry Farley. Farley daily runs five miles and certainly never seems to tire. I doubt there is a college president or chancellor in the country doing more to grow and advance a university than Farley. It certainly was Laura’s and my pleasure to talk with him about his daily life and massive changes he led for the sake of Washburn. Each of the seven fellows, one from each of the Washburn colleges and two from my large College of Arts and Sciences, spent time with Farley that evening.
The next morning I spoke at a combined Communications class hosted by Dr. Frank Chorba and the interim chair of the Communications Department, Dr. Kathy Menzie. After speaking at Chorba’s classes for years, he nominated me for the prestigious award. Menzie was Julie’s advisor and a favorite instructor. Both shared their fascinating lives with us Thursday and Friday. I always enjoy my time with Chorba. Menzie was so kind, she offered me opportunities to teach at Washburn, which could make retired life a bit more appealing, though I have no plans for that any time soon.
That thought is why I missed Saturday’s activities at the alumni tailgate before the Washburn football game and recognition on the field at the half. Laura and I were off early Saturday for Houston and the KU football game against Rice. As much as I enjoyed every moment, all the festivities and the praise of my photography eventually began to wear on me. It had nothing to do with the people who were so kind and interested, I just needed to stop talking and start shooting again.
Every good and perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father. – James 1:17
Getting back to the work I love was the best thanks I could give to the Washburn Alumni Association, President Farley, Dr. Chorba, Dr. Menzie, my wife, daughters, sister and dear friends Mark and Dona Nordstrom, Mike Van Dyke, Doug Jones and Barb Quaney. Everyone made last weekend one I will never forget. I truly am proud to be an Ichabod.
Finally, there is the most important thanks of all. A very good photographer and outstanding graphic designer I once worked with called my photography, “the point where peak action, intense emotion and impeccable journalism cross paths”. Wonderful words that I do appreciate. However, in Laura’s comments she made it clear that my life thrives on “faith, passion and intensity.” That does sum up the rich and wondrous life the Lord has granted me through His forgiveness. For that, I am always happy to sing His praises and fully enjoy the wonderful life granted to me through His grace.
Happy is the person whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. Happy is the person whom the Lord does not consider guilty and in whom there is nothing false. – Psalm 32: 1-4