Saturday, January 25, 2014

Remembering Dean Dan

I was entering my first senior year at Bluefield College when I met Dan Bowman. He was just starting out as BC's new Dean of Students. At first, I wasn't sure what to think of this guy. But, being one of those people who somehow got involved in a lot of the student organizations, it wasn't long before I figured out exactly what to think of this guy.

I don't know who started it, or who coined the phrase, but soon after the start of that fall semester, Dean of Students Dan Bowman was known simply as Dean Dan. He was the kind of guy who wasn't afraid to get to know his students. He had an open door policy and welcomed us into his office at pretty much any time. No matter what was going on, Dean Dan could always be counted on for a Star Wars quote or a vague Karate Kid reference.

For the last few years, Dean Dan has been fighting a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Sadly, this past Thursday, he passed away after battling so hard for so long. I've been silent these last couple days, unsure what to say or how to say it. During those last two years of college, I came to think of Dean Dan as not just an administrator or a counselor or a mentor, but also as a friend.

I remember a time when I took advantage of that close relationship and really disappointed him. It was Thanksgiving of my final year at Bluefield. The campus was supposed to be shut down during the break and students weren't allowed back until a certain date. I decided to ignore those rules. At the time I was living in the dorm that had no outer security door. Because of this, I was free to come and go as I saw fit. Also, at the time, I was dealing with some family issues back home that I really didn't want to deal with. So I made the excuse that I needed to come back to Bluefield for work the day after Thanksgiving.

I wasn't very sneaky about it. It's not like I tried to hide the fact that I was staying in my dorm room two or three days before I was allowed to. But I also knew that, technically, I was breaking a rule. It wasn't a lie, I did work during that Thanksgiving break. But I didn't necessarily have to. I could have easily told my employer that I could not be in Bluefield during that time. I made a choice.

So it was no surprise that I was called into Dean Dan's office that Monday. It was the first and only time I ever had to sit across from his desk for disciplinary reasons. Honestly, I don't remember how I was reprimanded that day. What I do remember is the look of disappointment on Dean Dan's face. That hurt worse than any punishment he could have dished out. Oh, and it was thanks to that incident that students were thereafter required to turn in their room keys before leaving for any extended breaks. You're welcome, Bluefield.

Thankfully, Dean Dan wasn't the kind of man to hold a grudge. Once the air cleared, it was done. I'm grateful for the man that Dean Dan was and for the example he showed me as I was finishing my college career. I'm only sorry that I didn't take every opportunity to let him know how much I appreciated him between then and now. Our world's just a little darker now, though I'm sure Heaven is that much brighter.

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