Some weeks just happen to hit one demographic disproportionately. Such was this one where I got a healthy helping of our greatest generation.
I felt like I was in a marvelous time warp where civility and gratitude reigned; where family, country, service and alma mater mattered.
Now don’t worry, I am not going to start sermonizing. And I am sure I can find some nice things to say about 20 and 30 somethings and even teenagers if pressed. But to be in the company of these Aztec octogenarians this week leaves me compelled to brag some and to beam and tout.
Monday was a luncheon honoring the founders of the war memorial on campus. President Weber hosted them for lunch and spoke to the importance of the “obelisk’s solemnity,” and its historically essential affect on our current students. He emphasized our commitment to current veterans and reiterated State’s gratitude to the founding group of the memorial.
Then Ed Moore (’43) got up. He spoke of his pride in all of the people in the room and to his gratitude that the university (actually “college” to these guys) has embraced the memorial and the annual ceremony honoring fallen Aztecs. Then he went and said some beautiful things about everyone one of the founders including Anthony Ghio (’43), (Anthony has been a community icon via Anthony’s Restaurants. He has modestly and quietly been devoted to the community for 60 years) Harry Hodgetts (’41) and Bob Menke (’43). Harry played on the 1941 national championship Aztec Basketball team and from my well-positioned observation post has spent the intervening decades actively participating, supporting, and working on behalf of San Diego State. Bob Menke has a similar resume of unending service to the University. Along with their wives Pat and Pat, the Hodgetts and the Menkes have been an endlessly generous stream of volunteerism, good advice and financial support. Ed’s speech was laudatory and heartfelt. It was articulate, well-paced and contained an irrepressibly emotional underpinning that stopped 25 dessert forks in their tracks for 15 minutes.
On Tuesday I had an uplifting chat with Tom Ables. He and Nancy are about to celebrate their 60th. That is about the length of time Tom hasn’t missed an Aztecs game. Actually he has missed two, but we are talking home and away! During those decades Tom has had close relationships with every single football coach, basketball coach and athletic director. He has provided NCAA-legal employment for scores of players, designed Aztec logos, written hundreds of Aztec newsletters and felt the joy of victory and agony of defeat over and over. Beyond his pro bono work - yes it is all pro bono - Tom has contributed towards Aztec scholarships generously forever. A truly amazing guy. Even his recent hip replacement surgery was scheduled around Aztec football. Can any of us claim commitment on this magnitude?
Well, maybe Leon Parma can. I had the pleasure of meeting with Leon on Wednesday. Leon, class of ’51, has a mind-blowing resume which includes owning lots of companies, partly owning the Padres, quarterbacking the Aztecs, being president of Sigma Chi, bringing the first Super Bowl to San Diego, donating millions to SDSU and, oh yeah, being best buddies with President Gerald Ford. But there we were watching the video clip of his speech at our alumni center ground breaking where he said that “everything good that has ever happened to me and my family was a result of San Diego State.” Leon takes humility and grace to a heretofore unknown stratum.
Service. Commitment. Humility. Passion.