Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Beyond War Stories

Thanks to Bill McDonald for his reflections in yesterday's post about the start of this year's annual Association of Academic Support Educators conference. I'm looking forward to hearing much more in the days and weeks to come about the presentations and ideas coming out of the AASE conference. The AASE conference (and the predecessor LSAC Academic Support conferences) have always been inspiring because our colleagues come together not to demonstrate their brilliance (although brilliance abounds) but to share and collaborate. 

I  missed the AASE Conference this year because a higher priority came up -- taking my mother to the 70th reunion of the Class of 1949 at West Point. (You don't need to be a math whiz to figure out why this mission took precedence.) For this generation, the wives, widows, and children were as integral to the cohesion of the class as the graduates themselves, and the nature of military service meant that classmates and their families crossed paths time and again over the course of their careers. Although there were misty eyes at times, overall the atmosphere was one of joyful community as 49ers and their families gathered to celebrate their legacy, strengthen their community, and move forward.

The 70th reunion could have been merely an occasion for swapping war stories (literally in this case), but it was so much more. The classmates, spouses, and widows -- who might , in their nineties, be forgiven for resting on their laurels -- gathered not only to remember and celebrate what had been but to move forward with plans for helping current students and younger alumni. They paid active attention to presentations on the academy's present and future, asking probing questions and offering insights gleaned from decades of service. They planned for the future of a lodge they had given the academy, but, recognizing their own frailties, enlisted younger classes to oversee this initiative in the future. In turn, those around them -- children, grandchildren, graduating "firsties," and younger alumni -- actively listened, questioned, learned, and bonded, not just with the elders but with each other. 

The best group meetings in which I have participated, including state bar conventions and AASE conferences, have much in common with the amazing reunion I just attended. Those present give themselves fully to the experience, not yielding to distractions which would divide their attention.  Participants understand that sharing their history and building relationships doesn't distract from their purpose but instead allows them to move forward. A spirit of mutual respect and admiration is paramount, even as participants debate, challenge, and question each other. Enthusiasm is tempered with realism about proposed and existing projects. And the experience invigorates those who attend, sending them forth with new purpose.  So if in doubt -- go. It will be worth it! 

(Nancy Luebbert)

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