Cancer, you are on my list

jim longEver have a day where you were cruising right along, and then some piece of information sucker punched you? My day was on a positive course and then I saw on Facebook that Jim Long is having a cancer battle.

Cancer statistics are enough to send people reeling, and that is part of the reason I participate in Relay for Life.When you unexpectedly learn that someone  you know is fighting the transmogrifying cellular scourge.

Jim is a member of the faculty at Oregon Institute of Technology; I’ve seen him off and on around town since I left the university in 2009. I’ve never told him, but he owns a piece of my heart.

In 2007 OIT was preparing for a Strategic Planning Congress. President Martha Anne Dow had traveled, on her own dime, to Branson, Mo., to see the Hustlin’ Owls compete at the NAIA Division II National Championship Tournament.

She left me to run the 7 a.m.steering committee meeting that week. Before the meeting began, several of the attendees were making cracks about President Dow. One implied she was wasting state resources (she wasn’t; it was vacation on her own time and dime). One implied that her presence wasn’t necessary or wanted.

The only faculty member who didn’t say anything disrespectful was Jim. I would famously upset most of the faculty on the committee that morning, after they pontificated on what should happen at the Congress. There were calls for this and that, with reminders that administration didn’t fully appreciate the process.

In a fit of injudicious loyalty, I told them: “Your opinions mean jack. President Dow is still disappointed that the last Strategic Planning Congress resulted in allowing Klamath Community College to form outside of OIT.”

My friend for life and assistant at the time, Diana Angeli, scrawled a page of notes succinctly expressed: Oh, excrement. The meeting soon adjourned and at least one faculty member made an appointment with President Dow upon her return.

I prepared my resignation and full-page explanation. Wisely, I was advised to wait for her daily call before faxing the letter. When we spoke, she laughed and said, “Oh, Val. I was young and hot-headed once myself.”

Before the Congress, she asked me which faculty should be invited to speak. I recommended Jim. She indicated that he hadn’t crossed her mind, because he seemed quiet and reticent. I assured her that quiet waters run deep.

He did not disappoint. Jim asked for input from other faculty, including those not on the steering committee. He delivered a powerful presentation, that found President Dow complimenting my suggestion. I had never doubted Jim, because he showed loyalty and discipline when others showed conceit and arrogance.

I’m not sure I ever thanked him, but I appreciated his speech and his devotion to OIT. If I could, I would take the cancer from his body and kill it with my bare hands. I am touched at the outpouring of support on GoFundMe by his former students.

Some of you will know that we lost Martha Anne to cancer in 2007. There was obviously something amiss at the Strategic Planning Congress, but we would not know what was going on until April.

Too many good people face tough challenges every day. Tonight, I vow to try to show more appreciation and gratitude every day. I’m almost a decade late, but thanks, Jim. You are truly a great man.

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