Saturday, May 21, 2016

May 21, 2016, column:
Blessed are the meek...
(Not sure the headline fits the topic exactly, but close enough. I don't write the headlines.)
By Mike Haynes
            Three alma maters are on my resume now even though I never took a class at the third.
            The first two are McLean High School and Texas Tech University. The third is Amarillo College, where other than taking a country and western dance class with my wife, I’ve never been a student.
            But after 25 years on the faculty, I consider AC one of my schools.
            I’ll try not to name names here; there’s too much danger of leaving someone out. But my niece who graduated at McLean last night says we’ve both been seniors this year. Yes, the AC commencement May 13 was my last time to wear a cap and gown to honor the outgoing Badgers.
            The morning after hundreds walked the civic center stage, I woke up at 4:45 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. I was uneasy but wasn’t sure why. Really, I’m OK with retiring, because I have plenty of other challenges ahead. But I think it relates to the blog of another retiring faculty member who said he’ll miss not knowing next year’s crop of students – and the next – and the next…
Group photo No. 1: Amarillo College journalism students
and advisers, February 1992.
            In my case, I’ll miss the students I didn’t get to know well but wish I had – such as the young woman who, in her end-of-semester presentation, mentioned in passing that her husband had died in a car wreck a few years ago. I suspect returning to school was part of her plan to rebuild her life after tragedy. It made me think of James in the New Testament urging Christians to take care of widows and orphans.
            Of course, I’ll miss the students I do know well, some from decades ago and some from this spring. Newspaper people know the satisfaction that comes after the last page goes to press, and I’ve had student editors and their sidekicks saunter into my office late at night to savor the work they’ve just completed and to get me to tell them honestly whether I thought it was good.
            Sometimes those talks would morph into the students unloading their worries on me or tentatively revealing some of their dreams.
            And I’ll miss co-workers from across the campuses, from night custodians to teachers in other departments to those journalism colleagues I got to know best. One reason I’m OK with retiring is that I’m leaving the Matney Mass Media program in the hands of a professor who’s talented and energetic – better at the job than me – and who will have good people to help her lead and counsel next year’s crop.
            I started at AC as a journalist first and a teacher second. I hope I grew in the second role as I kept up with journalism becoming mass communication and now mass media. I love technology, but I’ll be happy to back off from the 24/7 digital news cycle.
Group photo No. 25: Amarillo College mass media students
and advisers, December 2015.

            If there’s anything I’m good at, it came from my grandad. I grew up seeing him treating a native American manual laborer the same as he treated a congressman. That belief in personal equality runs through my family, and I hope I showed it at AC as I interacted with first-generation students who couldn’t afford textbooks to talented writers who needed little from me to maintenance men to the college president.
            It’s simply the Golden Rule, affirmed in the Bible by Matthew, and I believe my family’s faithful church background has much to do with any success I’ve had with students and with fellow educators.
            I’m not the exception. It’s just tradition in the Texas Panhandle, including at Amarillo College. I’ve experienced 25 of AC’s 86 years, and for the most part, the school has been a place where people support each other and put students first.
            Before leaving, I made sure to secure copies of 25 group photos, each taken a year apart, of our journalism students and advisers. I wish I had the same for the seven years I advised Texas Tech publications. I’ll look at the pictures occasionally, never completely letting go of those people. And I’ll keep watching for their successes.
            Kathy and I haven’t done much country and western dancing since that AC class. But she’s the other reason I’m OK with giving up a rewarding career. She helped me write that chapter, and I’ll need her to proofread the next one.
                                                              * * *
            Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016. He can be reached at the Amarillo Globe-News or Go to for other recent columns.