Farewell, Jimmy Carter

As some of you may know, I am a Lawrence graduate. Fewer of you probably know that my older brother, Joe, also graduated from Lawrence. My parents occasionally took me to the Banta Bowl to see my brother play football. It was at one such visit to campus, when I was eleven or twelve years old, that I first met Rik Warch. It was a sunny October day, and my father introduced me to “President Warch.” Being the charming and generous man that he is, Rik took a moment to shake the hand of the awkward, pubescent younger sibling of a Lawrentian standing before him. I had never met the president of anything before, and though I was old enough to understand that this wasn’t THE president – like Jimmy Carter kind of president – nonetheless I felt a sudden surge of awe, what I might today call gravitas, as I shook his hand. I suspect he asked me about school, and if I, too, would come to Lawrence. And though rarely at a loss for words (even at that age), I quickly decided that I’d have to learn a lot more than I could possibly have known in middle school, before I could truly engage with this man of warmth, pith, and erudition. Ten years later, as a student here at Lawrence, when the occasion came that I was again in Rik’s social company on campus, my self-image as an awkward, pimply 12-year-old took hold of me, and alas, I couldn’t manage to string two words of deft wit or intellectual clarity in Rik’s presence.

Fast forward, if you will, another decade and I’m a faculty member. You can probably guess what happens when I’m in a meeting or at social function with Rik: the mewling, awestruck preteen in me awakens and all can I think is, “This is Jimmy Carter, don’t say something stupid.” So, I listen with lips closed, check my fly, and start feeling for newly erupted acne on my forehead and nose. So Rik’s retirement is, in truth, for me a kind of liberation from my former self. No longer will I feel shorter, dimmer, and not quite in control of body when I enter Sampson House. The adult Tim will have unencumbered reign in all buildings on campus. With Rik’s departure, I’m looking forward to a new, uninterrupted adulthood.

Rik, thanks for retiring so I can finally grow up.

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