(This is the final installment in a four part series on my days at Lon Morris. In order to fully understand this epilogue, I beg you to please read parts 1 through 3 first. You will not regret it. I promise. Really, do yourself a favor and read part 1, part 2, and part 3 now.)
Meanwhile, back in Dr. Thornton’s office, before we discussed our future plans, and before he gave me my last assignment, he had some business to discuss with the both of us. My friend and I both owed some money that would prevent us from participating in commencement exercises. For me, it amounted to a simple library fine, which Dr. Thornton gladly waived. My friend still owed money for tuition, which the Vice President took care of as well.
The next day we were allowed to participate in the commencement exercise. As part of his duties, the President stood at one end of the modified stage to shake hands with each graduate, after the Chairman of the Board handed out the diplomas. Kregg and I were the only two from our group participating, but the chapel was packed with our friends and family.
I feel confident in saying the chapel never was a loud as it was the moment the Academic Dean read Kregg’s name off the list. After receiving his diploma, he walked towards the President and performed a full-on Elvis bow, before rising to shake his hand.
When my name was called, I walked over to the Chairman of the Board who just looked at me and said, “you and Kregg sure do have a lot of friends.” I just smiled and kept on walking towards the President. Somewhere, I have a photo of the President and me shaking hands at graduation. I really wanted to find it to share as part of this post because words really can’t describe the defeated look on his face.
After graduation, the President issued an edict in effect banning several members of our group, including myself from campus. Of course this didn’t stop us from conspiring with our friends still enrolled.
Kregg and I moved on to the University of Texas—Tyler and got an apartment together. Several times a week we made the trip down Highway 69 to Jacksonville to socialize at Erin’s or raise hell on campus. On nights when we didn’t feel like making the drive, we invited our Lon Morris friends to our apartment.
P.O. rented a house with Cheyenne and another LMC alum in Kilgore and often hosted events for current students and alums.
I even worked for Cheyenne for a short time period.
When I got married, everyone I invited to our wedding was either family or someone I met while at Lon Morris. When my wife and I found out we were pregnant, the first people I contacted outside of my family were my LMC friends. While I haven’t stayed in touch with all of my Lon Morris friends as I should have over the years, they remain my closest friends in the world. Clearly, Lon Morris left an indelible mark on my life.
From a distance, I continued to follow the news out of Lon Morris College, long after the last Smellbread member graduated. For a while, it appeared that a new President would lead Lon Morris out of the darkness and into a much brighter future, but the mess he inherited from his predecessor was far too great, which when combined with his ambitious planning proved dreadfully unsustainable.
Looking back, I wish we had been a bit more persistent and chosen to focus not only on the President, but also members of the Board of Trustees and Texas Annual Conference. Both parties played a major role in the demise of Lon Morris College. We warned them; they chose to ignore us, which makes them negligent at best. Even so, we came to the school’s aide when it became apparent that these two entities were incapable of helping the school themselves.
As I met with old friends this past weekend to say farewell to the institution that brought us all together, I looked in their eyes and saw the hurt and pain one feels when they lose a friend to a careless accident. I saw the sense of betrayal one feels when they discover their partner’s infidelity. I sensed the despair a family feels when they learn their employer has gambled away their retirement, the anger one feels when they learn their government lied to them. I felt the anguish of knowing that I could change none of it. Indeed, emotions ran high.
In eulogizing the school, some turned to the Prophet Isaiah for comfort, while I chose to turn the Prophet Jerry.
Some come to laugh their past away
Some come to make it just one more day
Whichever way your pleasure tends
If you plant ice you’re gonna harvest the wind