Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Lesson in Humility

Yesterday was a very big day at FLCC! We announced the largest donation in the history of the college - a gift of land, financial resources and scholarship funds totaling $2.3 million. The newly donated property in Naples will become the FLCC East Hill Campus and will serve as an outdoor learning laboratory for generations of students at FLCC. All of this was made possible through the incredible generosity of a man named George Fraley.

George is quite a man. At 85 years old, he is of a generation that is defined by integrity and a strong work ethic. He has a remarkable wit and an incredible sense of humor, and his quick retorts always seem to come out of the blue...then you see the twinkle in his eye and you know he's getting a real kick out of watching your reaction. George has been dedicated to conservation and especially to woodland fire suppression for his entire life. His beautiful property in Naples has a pond that is the site of ice rescue training in the winter and in the summer George stocks the pond with trout so boy scouts can catch them. The property also includes a campground, and hiking trails adjacent to the Hi Tor NYS Fish and WIldlife Management area. We look forward very much to working with George as we discover the possibilities for the FLCC East Hill Campus and bring his vision to life.

The lesson in humility I mention in the title came from George Fraley yesterday. To celebrate the exciting announcement of George's gift to FLCC, we held a large press conference in the morning. The college was closed for an hour so the members of the campus community could be present for the big announcement, and many people from the community who are good friends of the college were in attendance. We had kept the news relatively quiet, so there was definitely a buzz in the air.

When I arrived at the CMAC for the event, quite a few people had already arrived. I looked all around for George, but couldn't find him. Finally, someone pointed him out to me. Here is a man who is being recognized at a large press conference for his incredibly generous contribution to the college, and where was he? Not at one of the seats reserved for "dignitaries" at the front of the room. Not walking around, being introduced to guests. George was sitting in one of the chairs lined up for people attending the event, near the back and off to one side. He just blended in within the crowd, and that was fine with him.

George seemed a bit uncomfortable during the program, although he did brighten up during the video - pictures of the new East Hill Campus (and his home). He didn't want to give a speech. He didn't want to be interviewed by members of the press. It was very clear that George's pleasure in making this gift to FLCC would not come from being the center of attention as we thanked him for what he had done. Instead, his joy will come as he has the chance to help shape the master plan for use of the property and as he interacts with students and faculty who make use of this wonderful learning environment. For George, yesterday's event wasn't about himself - it was about being part of the college's very bright future.

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