“The Hell You Will!” Part II

To read Part I, Click Here

“Oh, that one,” as I looked away for a second, trying to gather up some confidence for what I was about to say next. “You’ll be happy to know that I decided to go with Coors.”

His eyes pierced right threw me. “The hell you will!”

“What?” I exclaimed.

“You heard me,” he replied. “If you go with Coors, I’ll disown you from this family.”

It suddenly felt like an unfair fight. “You’ll what? Why?” as I shook my head in complete disarray. “I don’t get this. Why are you so upset? I thought you’d be happy that I went with the sure thing. Besides,” I pleaded, “it’s a marketing position. You of all people should appreciate that.”

My father raised his hand to slow me down and to change the tempo of this conversation. I could see his face soften as he invited me to sit down.

“Look,” he said, “there’s something I need to tell you that has been bothering me for years.”

Oh great, I wondered, is this where he tells me I’m adopted?

He took a deep breath before speaking.I never finished college. I don’t have a degree. It’s been one of the biggest regrets I’ve ever had.”

Somewhat relieved that his secret wasn’t about me, I re-focused. “But you went to St. Thomas. I just assumed you graduated.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. I could see that he was really embarrassed about this.

My defensiveness morphed into compassion as our roles reversed. “Dad, you are the President of one of the top advertising agencies in Colorado. Before that you were Vice President at Leo Burnett, one of the best advertising agencies in the world. You made United Airlines commercials that won national awards! What does it matter if you had a degree or not…you reached the pinnacle of your profession.”

He shook his head in disagreement. “All my peers have MBAs; some even doctorate degrees. I’ve never felt like I was on the same level with them.”

Before I could respond he straightened up and looked me right in the eyes like only a father could do. “You not only have a Bachelor’s degree, but now you have the opportunity to get a Master’s degree…for free! Don’t you see how valuable this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is? I don’t care if you Master’s was in dodgeball, it’s still a Master’s degree…and no one can ever take that away from you.”

They give out Master’s degrees in dodgeball? I thought before his absurd point sunk in. “So this whole conversation never had anything to do with Coors and everything to do with the value of an education.”

“That’s right,” he said with a big smile. “Jobs come and go, but having a Master’s degree says something about you as a person. It reveals your character, commitment and discipline. It’s more than a piece of paper.”

My father had made a compelling argument.  I realized at that moment that my initial defensive emerged because my focus was on what he was telling me I couldn’t do. But once I got past that and actually heard what he was trying to say, I understood.

“Alright,” I conceded, “I’ll reconsider Miami.”

As I stood up, I was caught off guard by the flood of emotions that enveloped me. I felt like I was my father’s son again. Something had shifted in our relationship. Clearly my father had similar feelings as we embraced for the what seemed like the first time in my adult life.

Afterthoughts

I graduated from Miami University with my Master’s degree in the spring of 1982. Without question, going back to school was the right decision. Ironically, Coors eliminated the college marketing department a couple of years later.

My father and I never talked about what happened that night again. When I referred to it in a toast I gave him on his 80th birthday, he smiled and nodded, letting me know that he remembered as well.

There is one thing however  that still bothers me to this day about the story I just told you. It is something that I never told my dad. And, if he’s listening up in heaven right now, I’d like to say it now.

Dad, you were a role model for a father. You were a loving son and husband. You raised six incredible kids. Your strong values about faith, family, and kindness will live on forever through all those people you’ve touched. You made friends easily and left a lasting impression on them. You touched many people through your uncanny sense of humor. You were a top executive in the advertising world and will always be remembered for the creative ad campaigns that are now a piece of history.

I agree that a college degree is important, but having a degree or not having a degree will never be what defined you…it was who you were as a person. Don’t sell yourself short, you went out on top!

-Geese

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  1. Love this!! High-five to your father in Heaven.

  2. Good stuff, Geese! Love the story, and how it weaves with your father. I also realize that, had you not gone to Miami, you and I might never have met. Recall that we were introduced by a mutual friend and mentor, Dr. Michael Arloski, whom you first met at MU. Keep up the super blogs, gratefully, Doug

    • Judy
    • October 17th, 2012

    I love how you summarized the blog at the end. J

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