Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Fitting Tribute

Every year, our Davidson sports teams have Senior Day celebrations where the hard work and accomplishments of a graduating class are honored and cheered. For the athletes, it attempts to provide fitting closure to a college athletic life that will remain in them for the rest of their lives.

Last week, Davidson College, like so many schools around the nation, provided that same closure to the entire senior class as they walked across the stage at graduation and took final pictures with family and friends. The school especially made a point to honor and celebrate the tenure of outgoing president Bobby Vagt. All of these persons were able to end their time at Davidson with a bang that will echo into the rest of their lives.

Some individuals, however, are not afforded that same closure. They arrived at Davidson in the quiet, hot months of the summer some years ago. After serving the institution in their roles and jobs to the utmost of their ability, these persons will quietly pack up their things and move on this summer. Every year, this cycle happens at every company, school and institution around the country, but I want to quickly reflect on two individuals who have impacted my experience at Davidson thus far.


Rick Bender graduated from Davidson in 1993. A baseball standout, Bender collected 237 hits, 401 total bases, 131 RBIs and 175 runs in his Wildcat career. After a brief stint in professional baseball, Bender found himself working for his alma mater in the athletic department. He has served as Davidson's Sports Information Director for as long as I have been able to adequately read and write.

Bender has been closely involved with several new innovations that have helped bring Davidson up to par with its rival institutions in terms of sports information and media marketing. Last year, he worked with to put Davidson games on streaming internet video for a worldwide audience to see. He has also helped push for a more expansive athletics website and broadcasting capabilities that will come to fruition in the 2007-2008 athletics season.

I first met Rick back at the beginning of my sophomore year. I needed some help finding photos and information for the upcoming issue of the Wildcat Report. Far from being suspicious of a pimply sophomore digging through the SID office, Rick quickly made me feel comfortable as a media producer despite the fact that I really didn't have the first clue as to what I was doing. Rick was never insulted by my initially pretentious attitude that the Sports Info staff had nothing more important than helping me and my little projects. I quickly found that many people still address Rick and his staff in that way.

Armed with an everlasting sense of humor and an endless vault in his memory, Bender has become a staff favorite for many college athletes over the years, especially the baseball players. With a staff of hard-working, yet personable assistants, Bender has turned the SID office into the athletic department's social gathering spot. Staff come there to hang out, shoot the breeze and ask questions about sports. No matter the material, Rick always had an answer. Bender might be best known for his love of 80's music and booming announcing voice at Davidson baseball games.

Rick Bender will be leaving his post of Sports Information Director this summer and will be headed to Birmingham, AL. The athletic department has not yet decided on a replacement.


In 1970, America was in the midst of the cultural revolution, the country had voted in one of the most corrupt Presidents in national history, Davidson had one of the biggest college basketball names in the country, and Earl Edmondson was telling incredibly interesting history stories to intrigued undergrads. Some things never change.

Thirty seven years ago, Edmondson joined the Davidson history faculty as a specialist in eastern Europe. His discussions on the Soviet bloc, modern European history and the political ramifications of the World Wars have captured the minds of students ever since.

Armed with an insatiable love for the thoughts and experiences of students, Edmondson fit right in to a college environment that has always encouraged its students to seek out professors about anything and everything.

During my freshman year, I had Edmondson in a European history class. Like most Davidson professors, Edmondson had scheduled the semester's papers and midterms long before the class actually started. When I looked at the syllabus and saw that we had a huge midterm on March 24, I didn't really think anything of it. However, it just so happened that the Davidson basketball team made it to the NIT and advanced to a second round matchup against Maryland...on March College Park, MD.

Needless to say, I road-tripped that game and did not return to campus until the morning of the 24th, only 30 minutes before our test was scheduled. When I ran to Edmondson's office and hastily asked for an extension, he said that he was really disappointed in me. He had been planning to let me have the entire weekend to study, but decided to make me take the test later that afternoon. Why?

"You clearly didn't cheer loud enough. How do you let a team overcome a 16-point first-half deficit? That's pathetic."

Edmondson was always devoted to his academic pursuits. For some years he was the faculty head of Phi Beta Kappa, the head of the history department and advisor to the Dean Rusk International Studies program. He has been instrumental in bringing Russian exchange students to campus and is a national voice in 20th century European historiography.

Yet, Edmondson never let the importance of the historical subjects overwhelm the realities of the present. Students were in college to learn and grow, and Edmondson realized, more than most professors, that a majority of that growing takes place outside of the classroom.

Edmondson was committed to the lives and thoughts of every student that he advised and taught. In fact, Edmondson and his wife had decided that he should have retired last year. However, because of the pleas of several students that Edmondson stay one more year to advise them, the professor did just that.

As an academic advisor, history professor and personal friend, Earl Edmondson taught me many things about myself and about life. He showed me the importance of perspective and the ways in which history helps to create that perspective. He also taught me the value of compassion. It is one thing to criticize and critique historical figures and contemporary peers, it is a whole other thing to practice a compassionate patience that allows for goodness and productivity to come out of that critique.


I know that these two men are not the only individuals leaving communities this year. There are many who have served Davidson well that will walk away unnoticed. However, I thought it was important to briefly recognize the impact and the personalities of specifically these leaders. EE...Rick. We will miss you.

No comments: