Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 3, 2004


Life goes on despite the devastation by hurricanes


      Life goes on. It does because of the amazing resiliency of the human spirit. Despite the unbelievable damage caused by recent hurricanes, people are picking up the pieces and beginning again. In many ways, that is the story of life – a never-ending cycle of new beginnings.

          Football games go on. I heard that some high school games were played in coastal areas despite the lack of power. They played during the day even though water was in short supply.

          Thousands gathered on the plains to see Auburn defeat the Citadel, as expected. Few of the spectators realized that my wife and I were there on Friday night for a gala event at the Auburn Hotel and Conference Center.

          We returned to become “Golden Eagles,” the distinction given to the surviving members of the Class of 1954. The Auburn Alumni Association arranged several activities for us on Thursday and Friday. The main event was a banquet and induction ceremony on Friday evening.

          Having been invited to give the invocation at the banquet, we were seated at the table beside classmate Coach Vince Dooley and his wife Barbara, both very gracious people. I thought it would give us a chance to chat with the Dooleys but I soon learned what it is like to have dinner with celebrities. Their many old friends stood in line to talk to them, making it difficult for them to even eat the meal.

          I did have a brief time to commensurate with Vince about our common experience of being given our walking papers at age 70. He lost his job as Athletic Director at the University of Georgia in much the same way that I lost my job as a pastor. We were both ushered out the retirement door because of our age.

          Vince, of course, is still on the Bulldog payroll as a “Development Consultant.” I made a note to check with my bishop to see if he has a similar position open for an energetic retired preacher. Old folks need to work too, lest we rust out and fade away.

          Being one of the most famous members of our class, Vince was asked to offer the “Welcome” to the class. He spoke informally with good humor, even suggesting that since he had been away from Auburn for 40 years, the class should have welcomed him back home. He is a good after-dinner speaker and a credit to Auburn.

          Andy Hornsby, ’68, greeted us on behalf of the national alumni association. He is currently vice president of the association.

          After dinner we were treated to a superb performance by the Auburn University Singers, directed by Dr. Thomas Smith. Later music was provided for dancing by several Auburn Knights alumni. I was amazed to see how well some of these old codgers could play, but disappointed that my friend John Glenn was not among them.

          Auburn Provost Dr. Thomas Hanley spoke briefly in the induction ceremony, expressing his optimism about the future of the university.

          A class picture was made of all our smiling, aged faces. There must have been 125 or more of us present.

          The entire affair was well planned and executed under the leadership of Dr. Deborah Shaw, ’84, and Elizabeth Peel, ’66. Shaw is Interim Vice President for Alumni Affairs, and Peel manages the Office of Alumni Affairs.

          Saturday morning I gave the message at the Memorial Service in the University Chapel.  We remembered with solemn gratitude the 232 members of our class who walk with us no more. The first name on the list was Marilyn Adams, a former neighbor and good friend in Midway, Al.

          Souvenirs are brought home from every football game. Sometimes that is nothing more than a plastic Auburn Tiger cup. Last weekend was different. This time my souvenirs were a Golden Eagles Certificate and a handsome 50-year pin for my lapel.

          Fifty years after graduation from dear old API, life goes on, and I am thankful for the memories.

          War Eagle!    + + + +