February 12, 2014: Great State of Texas!

OK, I admit it. I like Texas. It’s a great place to live, work, and vacation. That would have been really tough to say before my wife and I moved to the state more than 12 years ago, especially since we are originally from Oklahoma. Talking this weekend with a best friend and colleague who was born in Conroe and now has the misfortune to live in Florida, we discussed his current quest to move back to be closer to family and I chided him for living anywhere else.

Of course, no one who lives in Texas has to be sold on it. It is simply the case that if you live here, there’s a very high probability you are not interested in living anywhere else. It’s usually also true that if you are from here, chances are you are looking for a way to move back if you ever made the mistake of leaving. That’s one thing that works to great advantage for colleges and universities when they hire faculty and staff. While we always seek to hire the most qualified applicants, everything else being equal, if they’ve got Texas roots then we know they’ll probably fit better and be more likely to accept a job offer that brings them home.

Aside from our weather, and the vastness of the State and its topographical diversity (yes, we have mountains and yes, I get to gaze at them every day outside of my office window!), it is the people who live in Texas who make it the best of all choices. An article in this morning’s news is a case in point. The headline that caught my eye was this “Big-Hearted Texas Man Pays Off Lunch Account Deficits for 60 Kids.”

It seems that a Houston man by the name of Kenny Thompson heard about an incident in Salt Lake City, Utah where school lunches were thrown in the trash to punish kids with delinquent lunch account balances. Although I didn’t read that article (didn’t want to really), it apparently had to do with shaming them into paying up the next time or risk being embarrassed. After hearing about this, Mr. Thompson inquired about the number of negative lunch balances at the elementary school his son attended in Houston and where he, as a parent, volunteered his time as a school tutor and mentor. Mr. Thompson proceeded to settle the account for 60 children, to the tune of $465 of his own money.

The story of Mr. Thompson’s generosity and compassion made my day. And what he said during an interview with KPRC radio when asked about it made me smile: “[Children] don’t need to worry about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.”  He went on to say “When I left the building knowing that they were getting fed, they didn’t have that stress,…[it] was the best money I ever spent.”

I’m glad to wake up every day in Texas. It’s the greatest of States. But even better, it’s great to live in a place with people who have an attitude like Kenny Thompson. Maybe he’s a Lobo? If he’s not, he should have been! Over the next several weeks we will begin to design and develop a mentoring plan for next year’s incoming freshmen students. I hope we can unleash our own generosity of spirit that sets us apart as a campus community that cares about our students.