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Volume 71, Issue 12, Wednesday, September 7, 2005


Magner's legacy more than meets the eye

Lloyd Jacobson
Guest Columnist

Last week, I checked an e-mail account I rarely use anymore to find sad news about George Magner's death. It hit me hard, for not only had I lost my college mentor, but I heard the news too late to pay my respects at the memorial held in his honor.

Looking for a sense of connection, I turned to The Daily Cougar Web site to see how he was being remembered. With nearly 30 years of service to UH, I was surprised most of the articles chose to focus on his decision to end the live mascot tradition on campus.

While this may have marked the only event of significance to some during his interim presidency, it should be remembered that Magner enjoyed one of the most interesting years of any UH president. Kenneth Lay was Board of Regents chair. Andre Ware won the Heisman Trophy. And UH, in one bold stroke, proceeded to hire its first black and first woman President, Marguerite Ross Barnett. Somewhere in midst of this year, Magner scared us all when he took ill and had to have heart bypass surgery. Through it all, however, he seemed to enjoy the ride.

Two years ago I reminded Magner of that year by giving him the book The Test by Walter Adams. Much like Magner, Adams was a respected professor who agreed to leave teaching to become the interim president of his institution, Michigan State University. While I hoped my gift might spur Magner to codify his own teachings on good college administration through the prism of that most unusual year, I have to say it was really his remarkable gift at the interpersonal level that set him apart from other faculty and administrators.

Magner engaged me in many long conversations about my other interests. We discussed subjects from general ideas on social change and policy to my specific idea of getting a campus service program off the ground at UH. He said I was welcome to drop by anytime, and indeed I did -- more times than I can remember.

Today, I work with students in Washington, D.C., interested in starting their own careers in social change through advocacy and service organizations. As their advisor, I find myself borrowing frequently from lessons Magner taught me during my days at UH. He was truly the best resource I found during my days there, and he will sorely be missed whenever I'm back in Houston and feel the need to just drop in and talk.

Lloyd Jacobson is the founding student director of Metropolitan Volunteer Program and a UH alumnus. Currently he is the Program Manager of the Nonprofit Leaders Program at The Washington Center for Internships.

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