I’ve been thinking about my alma mater lately. Fifty years ago I studied engineering at Auburn University. Auburn’s basketball team recently advanced in the NCAA tournament to the final four for the first time in school history. That gave me profound delight. I’ve since wondered, Why did the success of some athletes you’ll never meet make you so happy?
You see, I’m not really an avid sports fan. Oh, I like sports on TV–mostly to help me sleep. And a younger me loved playing sports. Yet my head does understand the attraction of fandom. Being a fan of a team can give a person an identity and hundreds of thousands of fellow-fans to affirm their choice of identity. Sports can also give those socially conditioned to hide emotions a chance to display feelings publically. Neither attraction fits my temperament. So I care little who wins or loses, except for Auburn.
After four years of hard work, I graduated with high honor. I thought the world revolved around Auburn. Indeed my world had for four years. After graduation, I learned that nearly everyone feels exactly the same about their school. Neither do various rating services comparing colleges and universities reveal Auburn as being exceptional. The logical and honest side of me has pondered, Why do you have such lifetime loyalty for a place that knew you only as student 7075210 and not at all after graduating?
Auburn did give me an education that led to a wonderful career. That’s not enough to explain my loyalty. Rather I’ve come to realize that my feelings are based not on the school itself, but on my experiences there. Many never before–always after experiences were compressed into four adventurous years. I started Auburn at seventeen and immature even for that age–a person like an outline in a coloring book. I left Auburn colored in. At Auburn, I made decisions about who I would be for a lifetime. Auburn provided the nest in which adult Drew hatched.
One other factor explains my feelings of joy associated with Auburn. I’ve not remained in-touch with many of my Auburn friends. But I pray for them sometimes, wherever they might be. Whenever Auburn manages a major sports victory, I’m happy for those friends and share a dis-connected moment of joy with them. Memories can be like mining joy from your life. My prayer for you is to embrace eras of your life that give you joy to recall.
Love ya always, Auburn.
Drew Coons – Class of 1972