Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Greatest Generation

I attended the memorial service today for Art Driscoll, a friend and mentor who helped me a great deal in my early days in collegiate ministry. Perhaps it was fitting that Art passed away on Memorial Day weekend. Art was a B-17 pilot in World War II, served as campus minister at the Universities of Oklahoma and Virginia, and worked for 20 years at National Student Ministries. He was in his early twenties when he entered the military. We forget how young these men were (my Dad was an "old man" in his unit since he was 28 when he was drafted!). Many of them left the senior prom and went right into basic training. They experienced conditions that most of us who served in subsequent conflicts did not have to endure. Their girl friends and wives heard from them only sporadically and had their own challenges to deal with at home.

When they returned from the military, men like Art remade our society and had a significant impact on college ministry as they entered college with the aid of the GI Bill. Students who had fought in Europe, the South Pacific, and other foreign locales brought new insights (and perhaps some attitude?) to college life. Many felt a call to ministry and their names joined those of others who shaped a boom in campus ministry during the 50s and 60s--Roselle, Baird, Rollins, Junker, Magee, Howard, Bramlette, and so many more.

Several people who spoke today identified Art as a "mentor." Art certainly served in that role for me. During his years at NSM, he was primarily responsible for the leadership development of adults who worked with college students--campus directors, state staff, and faculty members. I was pleased when he agreed to be the field supervisor for my doctor of ministry work in 1973. I drove into Nashville from Murfreesboro a number of times over the course of a year to meet with him, reflect on written assignments together, and receive suggestions about resources and approaches to ministry. Perhaps just as important was the way that Art facilitated the opportunity to learn from others. He would bring veteran campus ministers in to Nashville to share their "models for ministry" with colleagues from around the country. These were rich, rewarding sessions that challenged a young campus minister to broaden his horizons. Perhaps this was a carryover from Art's service as part of a bomber team--an awareness that the best learning often takes place as colleagues share with one another.

Of course, Art was not my only mentor. Another was Louie Farmer, my Baptist student union director. I could write much about him and his wife, Mildred. Nell Magee of National Student Ministries was another; Nell gave me great encouragement and opportunities to develop my teaching and facilitating skills. Another was Glenn Yarbrough who first employed me as a campus director and provided a healthy balance of independence and direction.

All of these folks were and are part of the "greatest generation" to me. They were willing to take the difficult circumstances they were given and made something out of them with faith and courage. Thank God for the blessing they have been to us!


Dr. Danny Chisholm said...

THey don't make 'em like they used to. I like to hear the stories from yesteryear but am wanting to believe that hardship and adversity are the components to shaping character. I know we have a lot to learn and am somewhat spoiled as the younger guard, but hopefully we can make a positive impact on the world.

We all have feet of clay, don't we? Keep plugging away.

Jim Whitaker said...

Very touching story. One of the things that it underscores for me is the value of mentors. As people of faith who hope to have an impact on people for Christ, we cannot underestimate the power of have a good mentor (several at that) who we can come to and discuss issues and seek guidance. I count you as one of those people and I appreciate all you do.

nwarner said...

Nell Magee - an awesome woman.