In each person’s life, there are a number of unsung heroes – individuals whose efforts, while appreciated, may unintentionally go unrecognized.
In his spring 2020 Opening Remarks speech, President Dr. Skip Sullivan asked employees to take a moment to thank these individuals and to realize the important role that they play or have played in their own lives.
To help make his point, Sullivan shared the story of Charles Plumb, a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam whose plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands.
He was then captured and spent six years in a community Vietnamese prison. Plumb survived and continues to speak about the ordeal.
One day, while Plumb was sitting at a restaurant with his wife, a man approached the pair and recognized Plumb as a pilot who flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and was shot down. Surprised, Plumb asked the man how he knew this and the man responded by saying, “I packed your parachute.”
This interaction made Plumb realize the important role that this man had played in ensuring that he was able to safely parachute to the ground after evacuating his plane. Plumb also realized how he may have seen the man countless times before but never spoke to him because, “I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”
After sharing this story, Sullivan encouraged employees to think of the individuals from the past and present “who pack your parachute,” whether it’s a parent, a teacher, or someone they still occasionally and fondly remember.
“To bring this a little closer to home, I would argue that there are people who work with us that help pack our parachute,” Sullivan said. “What about cleaners and janitors? How do they pack a parachute? What about grounds crew that shovel sidewalks and plow roads? You might say that is their job. Why yes it may be, but they also contribute in some way to our success. What about secretaries, ISAs, assistants, student workers, other faculty members, mentors – all of whom provide some help so that you do not crash and burn?”
Sullivan concluded his remarks by asking employees to “stop and thank someone today or this week for something they have done for you.”
“My challenge for you today is, on the way out, take a thank-you card and write a personal note of thanks, a compliment, or just say ‘I appreciate your support’ to someone who works on this campus,” Sullivan said. “The challenge moving forward is to cheer for a peer and begin to do these acts of kindness for no particular reason at all. Remember, we are all hoping our parachute packers do a good job.”
Additionally, Sullivan spoke about programs in development, facilities upgrades, athletics, achievements, the college budget, and more.
At the end of Opening Remarks, certificates for T-shirts from the campus store were distributed to encourage all employees to wear Alfred State colors on “Pioneer Fridays.” Some shirts were even distributed via a T-shirt cannon during the Opening Remarks presentation.