Monday, October 21, 2013

Heeding Norlin's Charge

-George Norlin, President,
University of Colorado
The photograph above is of the West entrance to the Norlin Library on the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder.  It is the charge that President Norlin gave to a graduating class.  You have said something worth saying I think when someone takes the time to chisel it in stone.  I sometimes write epithets on bricks using a Sharpie.  I cannot pretend it is the same thing.  You do not have to either. 
Saturday afternoon/evening I was a very minor participant in a very wonderful event presented annually as part of the Fall Fair/Homecoming at my high school Alma mater, Wardlaw-Hartridge, which event was highlighted by one of the most extraordinary testimonials I have ever heard one give for another.  Brian Flynn's homage to his late, great friend Greg Boff was pitch perfect.  I have already booked him to do the eulogy at my funeral.  
For about an hour and a half Saturday those managing the institution's present and shepherding its future intermingled with a cross-section of those who played important, critical roles in the making of its history, the forging of its identity.  Life is a forward-moving event.  It is after all a journey - not a destination.  Yet, an invaluable resource in shaping one's course forward is an understanding of one's history.  Hard to know where one is going without understanding how it is one reached this particular point in the stream. 
That is true for organizations and entities just as it is for individuals.  We humans are not terribly dissimilar from sharks in that respect:  cessation of movement is the kiss of death.  While it comes more quickly for them than for us, make no mistake:  standing still is actually moving backwards.  Notice how much larger the objects in the rear-view mirror appear. 
Kudos to all of the fine people at W-H who have a firm grasp on the concept that an institution is make up of much more than bricks and mortar.  Some of those people I have had the good luck of knowing for a long time - Emilie Marvosa, Rudy Brandl, Gerard Gonnella and Rob Rizzo - while others are people whose acquaintance I have made more recently - Bill Jenkins, Karl Miran and Andrew Webster.   And a thank you to each of them as well for reminding those of us who belong to the institution's past that there is something to be gained from reconnecting, giving back and helping those who walk the path we once walked make their way along it. 
On Saturday night, somewhere George Norlin smiled....

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