I came to work one morning last week and noticed a policeman raising a flag. For those of you who don’t know our campus, this was a surprise because Robert Reid raised and lowered the campus flags every day. An elderly gentleman who used to ride around on his two wheeler, the flags in the basket on his bike. He got a bit unsteady on that two wheeler so he got a three wheeler. He would not quit.
He is what would commonly be called a good man, but he is much better than that. Good man isn’t even close. It’s trite, and this gentleman is genuine.
Sounds like the beginning of an obituary, but Robert is down, not out. He is no longer able to take care of the flags, and therefore the campus that he loved. The cold weather and the persistence of time, work against his balance, his joints, his muscles, and everything else about a man that gets him around. He had a stroke or two along the way. Never stopped him. Slowed him down a bit but that was all.
With a gravity worn body, and speech not as crisp as it used to be, his mind still functions like a steel trap. So sharp, tightly wound, ever seeking to understand the world around him. The same characteristics that we value in students and ourselves were exhibited every time I saw Robert. I did not call him Bob although many did.
A number of years ago he crusaded to get the clock fixed in Pulliam Tower, and the chimes that punctuate campus life. Silent for years but no longer and they should never be quiet again. Chalk one up for a quiet crusader.
Robert loves our university, his university. He has come here day and night to care for the flags, and they too are Southern. Because he did something he loved, he did it with satisfaction in his heart… I need to work at that more everyday. And this avocation put him at ease, both with himself, and those with whom he crossed paths. He is what people in the counseling professions might call “centered”. I would call it being at peace with one’s self, meek and humble.
He was always patient in his work. He moved with it on his rounds, and was always kind in carrying out his calling. In some ways he represents what is important as we start a new year, a rebirth of sorts. With compassion, Robert went about his self-appointed business for no reward other than the joy of its substance. He showed a kind of pride, not the kind that your mother scolded you for, but the righteous kind because of its grace and appropriateness.
As we make the transition from the old year to the new one some reflection on the hope of newness seems a good thing, especially when we see so much of that hope alive in some of the people that we come in contact with everyday at Southern.
The University is, according to the usual designation, an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry or a mint, or a treadmill. John Henry (Cardinal) Newman. (1801-1890), Rector, Catholic University of Ireland.
Robert represents something very important about our University, something called commitment.