My Work Families

Having spent the busiest month of my work year in order to join my siblings to care for my 88-year old mother as we transitioned her over to assisted living, I found myself entering a hidden world of elders where so many extraordinary tales were waiting to be told. I’ve hashed through my mind several chapters and standalone stories worth their weight in gold. But today, a different one emerges.

One thing I realized both when I was gone and especially when I returned, was how extraordinary my co-workers were during my absence. I always knew I worked among a group of people who care about each other and have each other’s backs, but I had not experienced the impact of it firsthand until now. Many reached out when I was gone to provide support and assurance to not worry about work. Others offered more words when I returned and had to find my footing once again. So many picked up the extra weight that comes with the start of a Fall semester at a university and shined while doing so.

As I thought about my local work family, another one, full of colleagues from other universities who I meet with regularly and who also sent me words of support and encouragement during this time, came to my attention.

As I was heading to bed last night, I received an email from the Program Manager of my Higher Ed Forum, a group of higher education professionals in the IT Help Desk industry that meets three times a year at various schools throughout North America. We meet and engage in intensive meetings on the latest topics of interest in our profession, share ideas, and open our campuses and hometowns to each other. We work hard and play hard together and grow close in the few days a year we connect. We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, yet find a common thread that makes it easy to share and open up to one another. We have seen each other go through marriages, divorces, sickness, childbirth, losing loved ones, and now, losing each other.

When I saw the email reach my inbox with the subject line of “Sad news”, I thought for a moment that someone was leaving the forum. I didn’t expect to hear that Rion Morgan, a young and brilliant light of a man, was one of the victims of the Plano, Texas shootings this past weekend. I had only met Rion on a couple of occasions when he attended meetings, but he was quick to participate both in our professional discussions and our after hours gatherings. He had a smile that was contagious and a warmth that made you feel like you had been longtime friends.

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One of my absolutely favorite nights out was in November 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas when our forum met at Texas Christian University. We had just completed a Vertical Lessons leadership program with Manley Feinberg which included “mastering” the indoor climbing wall at TCU.  A group of us found ourselves wandering the area after dinner and landed at the Fort Worth Water Gardens. It was dusk as we walked down into the gardens and I remember Rion very quietly and sweetly offering me a hand as I found my footing down the steps in the dark. When we came upon the Mountain sculpture, of course, we decided it was an opportune moment to scale it.  It wasn’t until afterwards that we noted it may not have been the safest thing to do in our street shoes (Belay off!) when we saw the “no climbing” sign on the wall. If there is one thing about this group, it is that you always go home with a story!

I didn’t know Rion well, but I will always remember his light and he will always have a special place in my heart and be a part of this extraordinary family.

RIP Rion

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Coach Crean

A lot of things will (and already have been) said about Tom Crean’s firing. Whether it was time to let him go or not, it is indisputable that he came to Indiana University when its basketball program was at an all-time low. He ran a clean program and resurrected it into one that won Conference Championships and made it to the Sweet Sixteen multiple times.  Most importantly though, he showed respect for his players while expecting them to live up to a higher standard.

But, Division I coaching is a “what have you done for me lately” type of profession.

I’m not going to argue whether or not he should have been fired, but will say that I always hoped for his success. I truly believe he is not just a good person, but the kind of leader you want working with young men who are finding their way into adulthood. We forget sometimes, these players are 18-21 years old!

I met Coach Crean during an unfortunate event in our small town. When Lauren Spierer, an IU student, went missing, a massive number of people from the community volunteered to help search. When I ran into a friend at the search who was the head Field Hockey coach at the time, I ended up being grouped with her, Crean, and other IU Athletics staff. Crean wasn’t there to get attention (though the press did their best to follow us). He was there because he was part of a community he embraced. He was there because he was a father. He was there for the same reason the rest of us were there. He wanted to help.

During the afternoon I spent with him, I found him to be genuine, caring, and compassionate.  One of his assistants at the time, Steve McClain, was with us that day too.  While working with him, he spoke highly of Crean, going on and on about how much he cared for the players and wanted them to not just become good basketball players, but good people.

I was an IU basketball fan before that day, but after it, I became a Tom Crean fan as well. I wish he could have been the coach to bring IU back to the very top, but let’s face it, only one coach gets to do that per year.

Whatever Coach Crean does next, I wish him the best. Any program that lands a leader like him, who will be a positive force with the young men he works with on a daily basis, will be lucky to have him.  We need more coaches like Tom Crean.