Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A True Bill

I do not usually spend a great deal of time trying to fish those e-mails that are trapped in our spam filter/net out of it. I did so on Saturday morning and I am glad that I did.

Caught in the filter was an e-mail from Rudy Brandl, who is the Director of Alumni Relations (and probably has a half-dozen other job titles and responsiblities I am simply never going to remember to list) at W-H circulated an e-mail to all alums announcing that W-H's Director of Development Bill Jenkins is leaving school. According to the information Rudy provided, Bill is leaving at month's end to pursue his next, very laudable challenge, which is becoming the Vice-President of Development for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey.

I chatted with Bill via e-mail upon learning of the news from Rudy and he told me, much to my chagrin, that no matter how much money I donate to the Foundation, it is beyond the Foundation's scope to make me (a) taller; or (b) better-looking. He did not have to go so far as to remind me that the Foundation is called "Make-A-Wish" and not "Making the Impossible Possible", but he did. Since he is my friend and moreover since his point is wholly supported by the truth, I accepted the barb with a smile.

In the past couple of years, the bridge between W-H's present and its past, which had been obliterated in a fashion much like that envisioned for the span at Remagen, has been repaired and re-opened for traffic. Bill Jenkins is one of the architects of that success. Under a previous regime, W-H had become a school with no sense of its own history and had, whether intentionally or through inadvertent neglect alienated many of us who called ourselves alumni. I remember how bad things were when Bill arrived. And in spite of the fact that his first introduction to the Kenny family was the oh-so-popular tag team of first Jill and then me, he not only opted to become better acquainted with us, he became a man who I am fortunate to call my friend.

It was slightly more than three years ago - at Homecoming 2008 - when Bill - having encountered Margaret and me at a very sparsely attended Alumni Reception on campus - asked my input regarding how to get alumni to come back home. I mentioned to him - in the most general possible terms - the notion of reconnection through the honoring of teams and individuals who had garnered athletic success and notoriety for the school and tossed out the idea of having a day to pay tribute to the 1983 Boys' Basketball State Champs. All I did was give Bill a suggestion and a few days thereafter an e-mail or two to start the ball rolling vis-a-vis communication.

Approximately three months after Bill and I had that conversation - on a cold January Saturday - W-H honored not only its '83 Boys' State Champs but the '84 Girls' Basketball State Champs as well with a halftime ceremony during a varsity game and a very nice on-campus cocktail reception afterwards. It is from small things that big things one day come. The gathering in January 2009 became the acorn from which the All-80's Reunion this month - attended by more than one hundred W-H alumni - sprung forth. But for what Bill Jenkins did then, this most recent event never would have happened.

We hope for nothing more I guess than to leave a place - when it is our time to leave - a better place than it was when we encountered it. Bill Jenkins has most certainly done that and then some. I shall miss him. As shall all who had the chance to get to know him.

Safe journey Bill. Best of luck in the new endeavor. Stay well. And thanks again for everything.

-AK

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