The Governor and Me

Having been raised in Southern Illinois, I have not had the opportunity to meet with an abundance of famous people.  My colleague, Garrett, and I were enjoying dinner at Jumers Hotel in central Illinois, one evening, in preparation for a work conference that we had driven to, that began the next morning.  I observed a dignified and older gentleman pass our, ornate and virtually enclosed booth and I noticed that he had a, grand head of white hair…and the voice of the well known actor, Hal Holbrook.  I asked Gary if he could look through the, small window that was in the back of his side of the booth, in order to ascertain if our neighbor was, indeed, Mr. Holbrook.  He peered through the window and said that it looked like him…but that he could not be sure…  On our way out of the restaurant the hostess told us that the actor, Hal Holbrook, sat near us for dinner, and that he was staring in his renown one person Play…portraying Mark Twain, at the local Playhouse.

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We visited New York City and attended a Broadway play entitled, Taller Than A Dwarf, with Matthew Broderick,  Siting across the aisle from me was, Leonard Nimoy and behind us was the actress, Lauri Metcalf.  Ms. Metcalf, at one time, lived in Carbondale, Illinois.  After the performance, as we walked back to our hotel…Aaron and Jonathon announced that, ‘there is Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, and we all looked…intently.  Mr. Bacon’s hair…was a bright orange and did not look real…perhaps a wig?  When the famous couple saw that we had recognized them they began to walk…rapidly and Ms. Sedgwick began to furiously hale a cab.  We regretted that the sight of four Southern Illinoisans…frightened the talented performers.

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MJ and I were staying at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada.  I was attending a conference for Physical Plant administrators that was being held at the famous hotel.  The Queen Elizabeth is the hotel that John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, held their, ‘Bed-Ins For Peace,’ which was a non-violent protest against the Vietnam War, in 1969.  MJ and I were sitting in the bar of the hotel, late one evening, when in strolled the actor, Jon Voight and his wife.  Having learned not to frighten the famous…we gazed…discreetly at the well coiffed couple.  When they sat down at a table…Ms. Voight looked our way…and nodded…and smiled.  We understood that we were in the presence of greatness.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, governors of Illinois visited the campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale on a semi-regular basis.  They visited for a variety of reasons and those members of the campus community that were in their escort entourage were among the elite of the school and the leadership of the institution.  One morning, my telephone rings and the chancellor’s office is on the line, requesting that I be present at the ground breaking for the Morris Library renovation, to be held at noon with Governor Rod Blagojevich present.  I was informed that I would be participating in the golden shovel photo opportunity.  The chancellor wanted to illustrate to the Governor that the constituency’s were actively involved in the capitol decisions of the campus.

The Governor…was late…real late.  I had on my sport coat, and it was 95 degrees.  When he arrived and shook hands…all around…we began the ceremony.  I observed that the Governor was a slight built man with a massive head of coal black hair.  He stared at me, from his seat on the stage…as I was sitting in the front row…I wondered if he was thinking, ‘who in the hell is that.’

After the event, my boss, Phil, said that we should go and meet the Governor…and so we did.  As I introduced myself to Mr. Blagojevich I mentioned how glad we were have him visit our campus and that he was a morale booster.  I noticed his intense eyes and a look on his face…that said…again…’who is this…and when can I get out of here?’  The University photographers, cameras were snapping.  In about a week I received a half dozen photos of me and the Governor.

I framed one of the images and hung it on the wall of my office.  My Director, Phil, framed one of himself shaking hands with Blagojevich…with me prominently in the background…looking a bit like an overheated and aged…body guard…and hung the picture on his wall.

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The Governor had emphasized his opposition to university administrators and trumpeted that administration needed to be cut on all of the Illinois State School campuses.  In his early days…he was often quoted that, ‘I do not know what a Provost is…but I know that we have to many of them!’

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There was a political expediency in putting forward , we rank and file members of the community…but sadly the Governor had his personal career and advancement…ahead of the people who voted for him.

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