What Summer? Confessions of a Slogger

Summer is OverBy Bill Henk – The dreaded question started about a week or two after commencement in late May.  At first it rightly struck me as kind and well-intentioned.  In fairness, that never really changed as the weeks passed.  But my reaction to the question did.

By the end of June, the simple, innocent query: “How’s your summer going?” started being asked (and this next phrase is REALLY going to date me) and “it thoroughly bummed me out.”  My answer never changed, but its tone definitely shifted in my head — from humor to sarcasm. What summer?,” I would routinely respond.  Why?  Because I was having myself something of a “bummer of a summer” personally.

You see, I had another pretty grueling  academic year, and even though the results were very gratifying, by April I found myself counting the days until graduation.   If I could just make it until then, I thought, then surely the grind would relent some, and I could rest just a little and regroup.

Now here it is August 14th, and the much desired and anticipated relief never really came.   Oh, I grabbed a morning or afternoon here and there, but by and large, my commitments actually increased rather than decreased.  No vacation, not even a few days away.  And next week the fall semester begins for me.  This summer has absolutely zipped by, and I can hardly believe it.

One of the “casualties” of such a busy summer is that there wasn’t much opportunity to blog.  I wrote about  Maya Angelou’s passing, a wonderful gift we received from a generous alumna who had passed, and my 10 year anniversary as dean..  And that was it.  Period.  THIS from a guy who’s rarely missed a weekly deadline for a post in nearly four years.  Anyway, at least I’ve come up with a new term for someone like me — a “blogger who slacks” — a “slogger.”  By the way I was also kind of bummed out that no one seemed to notice!

But another way for me to look at the past 10 weeks or so is that I’ve had a “humdinger of a summer” professionally.  My feeling has always been that if I’m going to be loaded up with work, then hopefully it will be relevant, meaningful, satisfying, and most of all, will make the world better.  And that’s exactly what I’ve experienced  this summer — a good problem to have now that I’ve stepped back and reflected upon it.

So now, at the risk of sounding like a whiner or a self-promoter (or worse both), I’ll end this post with a list of what’s been on my to-do list or radar screen, so readers will know what I’ve been doing in June, July, and August.  Almost all of it goes beyond my regular duties as a dean here at the university.  I have to admit that it’s all pretty exciting stuff, although the work resides at different stages.  Cutting to the chase, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Finalized our College’s comprehensive annual report
  • Wrote a summary of  our academic unit for our new President, Dr. Mike Lovell
  • Co-chaired the newly retooled Education Deans of Greater Milwaukee group  (which included authoring, with help, a grant proposal that was funded, some work on our annual Celebrate Teachers and Teaching event, forging an affiliation agreement, and helping some Waukesha county superintendents in the area of diversity hiring)
  • Served in three leadership capacities  for the large Milwaukee Succeeds community partnership
  • Worked on the board of a charter school and two Catholic schools
  • Participated in the Catholic Schools Commission meetings and its Marketing Committee
  • Consulted on a fall Law School event on the societal impact of Catholic school closings
  • Helped lay the groundwork for an exciting new summer youth camp for next year, and
  • Explored partnerships with the First Stage Children’s Theater, the Military Child Education Coalition, Notre Dame Middle school, the Sojourner Peace House, the Next Door Foundation, Sharp Literacy,  and just today, the Youth Frontiers program
  • And lastly, although it’s a lot of work, I’m very honored to be chairing the search committee for our next Vice President and Director of Athletics at Marquette, particularly because I’m a former student-athlete myself.

Whew!  At this point, I’m hoping for my batteries to be recharged, to get a shot in the arm, fresh fuel in the tank, or any other metaphor that will get me ready for next Monday.  At least now when people ask, “How was your summer?,” instead of replying with “What summer?,” I can either direct them to this post or just say “Busy, but interesting and worthwhile.”  

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