Like most people, I often imagine what I will do when I retire. I have a couple decades before that decision will be front-and-center, but it’s never too early to start planning. Knowing how I am, it’s impossible to think that I will stop working cold turkey at age 65. I’m sure that I want to stay active in some kind of meaningful work.

The Committed Professor
About a year ago, a teaching colleague passed away. Dr. Francis became a college professor his 30’s, and he was passionate about his work. He was the type of instructor who spent the entire day at the university. While most instructors are strict about their office hours, Dr. Francis made it a habit to go the extra mile. He even attended extracurricular activities such as basketball games, debate sessions, and drama presentations.

The students loved him, and it was obvious to see why he was a hit. I called him one Friday afternoon around 6 p.m. thinking he was on his drive home.

ME: How are you doing?

DR. FRANCIS: Well, I’m doing well. I have a dinner date with Linda, so I’m grading as fast as possible. I have one student who asked for assistance, and I decided to meet him today after his work shift.

ME: Wow! You are working late tonight. I’m sure Linda will be calling shortly to remind you of the night out.

DR. FRANCIS: I know she will, and I should be okay. The student has a tough time making it during the day, so I felt it was important to stay a bit later tonight. I want him to do well in this class because the material will help him down the road. Once he understands these fundamental accounting practices, he will be fine.

ME: Alright! I know you’re busy, so I’ll reach out to you next week.

DR. FRANCIS: I hope you do. When you’re in Tampa, let me know so that we can get together. I’ll do the same when I get down to San Antonio.

A couple months after this conversation, Dr. Francis informed me that he was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer. At age 67, his body was having a tough time dealing with it. His medical team informed him that most patients die within months.

Knowing that his days on earth were numbered, he made sure his financials were in place. While he was not at the university as much, he still made it a habit to have a presence.

During the final week of his life, Dr. Francis managed his work almost like normal. In fact, his wife Linda told me that he graded a few papers the night before his death. While he provided constructive feedback to some of his students, he also shared a bit of advice with them, such as:

“Make sure to find a career that is rewarding.”
“When times get tough, think about the good things in life.”

While Dr. Francis is now gone, his presence is still felt through those who knew him. It’s great to meet individuals who are difference-makers.