Grady Bogue died one year ago. He was an educational giant. Many people knew Grady from his five decades of devoted service to higher education. Others knew him as a trusted faculty adviser or as a leading scholar on higher education policy and leadership. I knew him as a mentor, counselor and friend.
Grady was one of the great influences in my life. We all have these people in our lives. He believed in me at times when I didn’t believe in myself. He refused to ever give up on me as a student or a person.
On the anniversary of his death, I would like to present the eulogy from his funeral.
The Importance of Words
Everything I learned from Dr. E. Grady Bogue can be broken down into one simple concept: the importance of words.
Anyone who spent any time at all with Grady quickly realized how important words were to him.
Words to read. He was a lover of words written by others. Grady was forever reading books. He read good books. He read bad books. Even when a book was going bad- quickly- he would still hold out hope that the content would turn around somewhere near the closing chapters. If it didn’t turn around, he loved to complain about how bad it was…and how it could have been written differently. If you ever accompanied Grady to a bookstore, I hope that you had nowhere else to be for a good while.
He was forever recommending books. Books on leadership. Books on ethics. Books that questioned authority and sources of power. Twenty years ago he tasked a group of young, eager master’s students to read Saul Alinski’s “Rules for Radicals.” It opened our eyes to inequities in our communities- and how to create political, social and economic change. He loved that book. Grady loved the underdog…the downtrodden…the forgotten. He was a champion. He loved to challenge the status quo- and he expected his students and colleagues to do the same. Reading shared books was a great way to spread knowledge and spark creativity in the eyes of his students and colleagues.
Spoken words. He was equally adept at delivering a speech that captivated hundreds of conference attendees, presenting a small lecture for a dozen doctoral students, or having an intimate, quiet conversation over a cup of coffee with a friend. He had numerous roles in his spoken interactions with others- depending upon the situation. He could be the counselor, comforter, advisor, scholar, artist, radical…and sometimes – if you were up against a deadline in your dissertation- a parole officer. He made you careful about your own word choices too. If you made a statement in class or a Bible study, you had better be prepared for a question or two from Grady. He learned from you that way. And you learned from him.
I had watched Grady Bogue masterfully work conversations for 19 years before he was appointed to the chancellors’ position at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. I wondered aloud to Dr. DiPietro how long it would be before Grady’s great, probing questions descended upon the Chattanooga campus and with his fellow chancellors and vice presidents across the UT system. It didn’t take long. By the end of the first week he was already questioning budgets, fundraising totals, and the activities of programs across the UT system. Nothing escaped Grady’s careful study, and his questions- as always- were well-timed, appropriately phrased, and kept the audiences guessing as to where he was headed. I enjoyed watching him in that capacity over the past year. He loved the Chattanooga campus, and community, his colleagues across the UT system and the Trustees, alumni and donors he met. He communicated with these audiences like he had been a part of the UTC campus for years.
Written words. He was a prolific writer- composing 11 books and over 60 articles. But his best writing never appeared in a refereed journal or scholarly publication. Have you ever received a letter from Grady Bogue? You wouldn’t forget it. He loved letters. He wrote notes of encouragement; he sent words of advice; he sent letters of support…and sometimes…he sent letters of reprimand when he felt leaders weren’t representing their organizations well (I’ve received three of those myself). Grady made e-mail into an art form. His e-mails were legendary around campus- much like his letters. You can read Grady’s written words- and you can hear his voice leaping from the text into your ears. That’s a gift.
Words were important to Grady Bogue.
Grady’s words invited you inside his own family. While I had met Grady’s family over the years, it was through the text of e-mails that I learned of his great love and devotion to them. I’ve saved literally hundreds of his e-mails over the past two decades- and I’ve had great fun reviewing them over the past few days. Here are some of the family highlights:
Trips to Nashville to visit Linda’s family. The love he had for a sister in Tipton County, and the pain he felt when her health began to deteriorate. How he loved traditions and holidays. He informed me once how fortunate I was to send him an overdue paper that arrived on Thanksgiving Day (and I quote) “with me happy and in good humor with a tummy full of turkey and dressing.” Professional and personal triumphs of his children. The birth of grandchildren. Oh the grandchildren… Marriages. Anniversaries.
One of my favorite family e-mails arrived earlier this year. I had commented on how much I enjoyed his holiday greeting from UTC- to which he responded: “Wasn’t that a great picture of Linda Bogue? She’s the most beautiful woman in East Tennessee!”
Grady Bogue challenged all of us examine and celebrate special moments in our lives. His special place was Hilton Head Island- a place of solace and retreat for the Bogue family for over 30 years.
Grady did not mince words. He placed a high value on relationships. In a world filled with impersonal interaction and hurried communication- Grady encouraged us to slow down, take time to get to know one another, and to respect each other and our individuality. Everyone has worth. Everyone deserves respect. Grady not only taught that, he demonstrated it with his actions.
The world needs a few more Grady Bogues. We will miss him- but thankfully, he’s given us enough memories, stories and words to last for our lifetimes. Godspeed my friend.