One of the things many of us hope for is to establish some type of legacy during our life's experiences. Those with humility do not set out to form a legacy but it certainly is a wonderful achievement if we are so luck to make a mark that will be remembered.
I had the opportunity to attend a memorial service for William L. "Bud" Thomas, Jr., on Wednesday, 1-17-07, at the University of Maryland. There were probably 300 people who attended from all over the U.S.A. and from every age, race, and experience. These people came together to honor Bud who served as the Vice President for Student Affairs during the years I was at Maryland. He continued to serve Maryland as Vice President for over 20 years, he taught graduate seminars, he mentored young professionals, and he helped shape the movement to establish standards of student affairs practice. He did these things while maintaining balance, energy, and perspective in all that he did. He died as the result of two back-to-back strokes that began on an evening when he had just attended a lecture by Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat. The wonderful part of that is that Bud enjoyed nothing more than exploring a provocative topic with colleagues and getting into a deeply analytical and engaging debate.
As I saw the many colleagues Bud nurtured over the years, I was overwhelmed by the influence of his life. He shaped generations of educators by simply paying attention to those around him and caring enough to question and challenge conventional thinking. Bud laid a lifetime of possibility in my lap when he, along with Dru Bagwell, invited me to begin the University of Maryland's leadership program in 1974. My lifetime love affair with leadership and constant striving to know what it is and how to cultivate it in others is a gift I will never forget.
Bud was a mentor to many - myself included. He did not provide the answers but sought always to pose the important questions and then never to be satisfied with the answers. Somehow, this fits with the model of a mentor that truly has a transformative impact on others. I was blessed to have the opportunity to encounter Bud and I hope a little of him remains in me today.