All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ― Gandolf, The Fellowship of the Ring

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ― Gandolf, The Fellowship of the Ring

We called him Gorgeous George, but not to his face.  We may
have been idiots, but not complete idiots.  It was a moniker born of
adolescent respect (and his penchant for pale blue leisure suits) with no
malicious intent.  That respect was based upon the singular characteristic
of the man that was obvious to anyone who met him, one that was especially
clear to teenagers who can root out a fake like a hog can a truffle.
 George Madelen looked for, and found, the good in everyone.  
Mr. Madelen was principal at Hutchinson High School during the
1970’s. From 1974-1976 he had in his charge a supercilious gang of knuckleheads
set on pushing every button and crossing every boundary that a high school
could throw at them. Yet he was never angry, always professional, and had such
an obvious love of students that even when he doled out punishment it was
impossible to be angry with him.  He pushed us, pulled us, and did
everything he could to help us find the good in ourselves.
Mr. Madelen died last month at the age of 88.  At the funeral
his family told wonderful stories about how he affected their lives.  I
wonder if they know how many hundreds of students their father and grandfather
also affected in a positive way.  He lived a long life and helped so many
people along the way.
Mr. Madelen would have been in his mid to late 40’s when I was a
sixteen year old Salthawk.  That’s about the same age as the executive
director of the Oklahoma Association of School Boards when he was taken from us
last fall.  Like Mr. Madelen, Jeff Mills was a college athlete who
came to education as a teacher and coach.  He was a high school principal,
superintendent, and finally executive for OASB.  While he was taken in the
prime of his life, he shared so many characteristics with my principal Mr. Madelen.
Mainly, he saw the good in people and helped them see it in themselves. 
Jeff was a trusted colleague who cared about students.  He was
an example to me of how one tolerates politics as a necessary evil to help
students.  Jeff was taken too soon, while Gorgeous George lived a full
life.  Something about that doesn’t seem fair, but Jeff never complained
and wouldn’t now if he could.  
There is a lesson here for all of us.  We don’t know what
tomorrow will bring, so we have to do all the good we can today. Rest in peace
gentlemen, you were both a role model for me and hundreds of others.
 Educators, live your lives in such a way that someone will write similar
words about you someday.