The true value of homecoming

October 22, 2013

“Today’s homecoming at our church,” I told our daughter back in early September.

“Do you mean they’ll drive by and throw candy from cars?” she asked expectantly. We laughed. There are certainly some LaGrange College traditions the kids enjoy.

But there are other traditions we like at LaGrange College. And though the football game, festivities, the 5k running race, women’s soccer, and tailgating are great, there’s one that the LaGrange College faculty and staff truly love: seeing the graduates.

This year was no different. The History Department went all out, as usual, to bring their students back. We got to see Val’s former piano teacher, Morgan Earle, a music major who wowed the Boston Conservatory school with her talents after graduating from LaGrange College. And it was such a pleasure shaking hands with students who had gone on to do everything from studying politics in graduate school to the PGA to helping manage dad’s pest control business.

“Dr. Tures,” said a young African-American man walking toward me near the end of the game. “Do you recognize me?” he asked with a grin. “Of course,” I said, perhaps a little nervously. It was Jeremy Davis. I say nervously because, well, I was pretty tough on him in his political science classes. He was a linebacker for the LaGrange College Panthers and a sociology major as well. He wasn’t a bad student, but sometimes I can be a little demanding on research projects.

I wouldn’t say we lost touch. After all, he’s on the Political Science Facebook page. I wish him a happy birthday annually, as we share a common date on the calendar. And I click “like” when he makes a sports-based comment. But he doesn’t always share every detail on social media.

“Remember when we did that research project on religion and democracy?” he inquired. “It was called ‘Angels and Demons…and Democracy.” Of course I remembered that he was a part of that team. Though I pushed the kids a little hard on that one, it was well-received at the Georgia Political Science Association conference, where it won the award for best undergraduate paper at the GPSA conference.

“I want to let you know what I’ve been up to.” He then proceeded to tell me about his graduate classes at Savannah State, and how he was better prepared than most of his fellow students who came from large state schools in the Southeast. “I graduated with a 3.85, and I’ve got a job at a hospital in Columbus, putting my degree to good use.”

Mr. Davis is hardly the only success story LaGrange College has. I also learned from friends about another of our majors who struggled mightily in her classes and had to limp to the finish line, who was named the middle school teacher of the year at her school. And another who listed “just graduating” from LC as his greatest accomplishment who regaled us with tales of his work in politics in Washington, DC.

We’ll always have presidential scholars and honors students who will tear it up in graduate school and the real world. But I think I speak for a lot of LaGrange College professors when I say that as you see those not in those aforementioned categories go out and make just as big a difference, it lets you know more than any standardized course evaluation or citation index that you’ve make a little bit of a difference too.