Today was Terry’s last day. Tomorrow, he and his band will hit the road on a fifteen day tour. Like many people in Nashville, he’s a musician and had to follow the lure of the road.
Terry’s name might not have been known to all the faculty and staff at our college, but for those students who came to the library for help, he was not only the guy who answered their library questions but also their guide and friend. Terry is the sort of patient soul who can answer the 50th printer question as if it were the first of the day. Students felt comfortable telling him about academic issues, and he helped them find the right place or person. He looked over their essays and gave feedback as a peer. During one semester, when the chess team had a set placed at the circulation desk, he played an ongoing match with an evening student (who was not the most gentle of winners). But Terry remained calm, and when I once mentioned his almost Zen-like attitude with the boaster, he shrugged and said, “Hey, I’m improving my chess game.” Some students asked for him by name. and some even chose to wait if he were out on break. They knew he would always help them, of course, but they also knew that he always wanted to help them. There was never any sense that he wished he were doing something else or that their questions annoyed him.
The same was true with his colleagues. He told me who the Kardashians are. He talked restaurants with Charles. He discussed the meaning of life with Pam. He shared biking stories with Sally. He is one of those people who seems to genuinely like everyone he meets.
We wish him well, we’ll miss him. But I’m not writing this to praise Terry alone. I’m writing this to remind us all that there are lots of Terrys out there. There’s probably one in your department. They are so low maintenance that it’s sometime easy to take them for granted. But let me assure you, our students (or customers or clients) don’t. The Terrys of the world often make the difference between students going away angry or going away feeling they have been heard and helped.