Monday, May 6, 2013

After writing many KCKCC retiree profiles, KCKCC's Public Information Supervisor signs off with his own


Having written a couple hundred or more retirement stories in 30 years at Kansas City Kansas Community College (24 one year), there’s only one left – my own.

May 31 will be my last day as Public Information Supervisor, ending a 30-year career that began May 16, 1983, and will be highlighted by a retirement reception Tuesday, May 14, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. In retiring, I fully appreciate Lou Gehrig’s immortal words, “I feel like the luckiest man in the world.”

Lucky in so many ways – a great job at a great institution of higher learning, great family and friends, good health, jobs that I enjoyed coming to work every day – but especially living in the greatest country in the world. One thing I’ve learned working at KCKCC is that everyone reading this story should get down on their knees and thank the Good Lord for living in the USA.

Thanks to the late Henry Louis, I’ve been able to become a world traveler. Each year, Henry would have me write a news release on KCKCC’s annual Spring Break trip and each year I’d wish so much I could go. In 1999, I finally did – to Turkey (one of the best) and there have been 25 more since and each time I’ve come back with a greater appreciation for our great country.

For one moment, just think – there are roughly six billion people in the world, 300 million in the U.S. If all six billion names were thrown into hat, what are your chances of having your name drawn to be born and raised in this country let alone the great Midwest? Not very good (about 20-1) so if you get nothing else out of this story, appreciate you’re here and not living in a mud hut in Kenya or a girl wearing rings around your neck in Thailand or one of a billion trying to find a job in India.

Okay, enough sermonizing although I would be remiss if I did not recommend travel abroad. Not only do you gain a greater appreciation for the U.S. but you’ll find other countries are far more advanced than most think and in some cases way ahead of the U.S.

My most asked question is which of the 26 trips was best which is like asking which of your children do you love most. They’ve taken me all over the world – just about every country in Europe; Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana in Africa; India, Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Japan in the Far East; Turkey, Jordan and Israel in the Middle East; Brazil, Argentina and Peru in South America; Australia and New Zealand – and all have been great.

I do, however, have my own personal “Seven Wonders of the World.” The best known are the Great Wall in China, Taj Mahal in India and magnificent Machu Picchu in Peru, perhaps the most spectacular of all. Lesser known but no less impressive are Iguacu Falls, the two-mile falls between Brazil and Argentina; Meteora, the monasteries in Greece built atop 1,000-foot sheer rock formations and seemingly unreachable by foot; Abu Simbel, the monstrous temples in Egypt that were moved to higher ground to avoid flooding by the building of Lake Nasser; and the tribes in Peru who live their entire lives on floating islands made of reeds on Lake Titicaca.

Growing up in Zearing, a town of 500 in central Iowa, might not be considered lucky to urbanites but for me it could not have been better. We created things to do and despite having polio at the age of four, I was able to play high school baseball and basketball. I also knew at an early age I wanted to be a sports writer and earned a BA in Journalism at the University of Iowa while serving as the first Rose Bowl editor and two years as sports editor of The Daily Iowan, an award winning campus newspaper.

My early career took me to two Iowa newspapers, two years with the Muscatine Journal and 15 with the Ottumwa Courier where my luck continued. The Iowa Sportswriter of the Year in 1969, I was all but promised the job of editor only to have Lee Enterprises decide it needed to promote one its bright stars from Montana for the position.

Had I been given the job, I would never have been in position to have been offered the job as Sports Editor of The Kansas City Kansan where I was able to travel with the Chiefs and serve as official scorer for the Royals; write two books including the only history of the Kansas City Chiefs entitled “Warpaths:” and cover The Woodlands and become the only back-to-back winner of the Greyhound Track Operators national writing award.

Needless to say it was one of the very best moves of my life, followed by another just as good six years later by coming to KCKCC.

To illustrate just how lucky I’ve been, you need only to glance at the opportunities I’ve been afforded – golf with four Hall of Famers, Tom Watson, Ernie Banks, Len Dawson and Jim Colbert along with singer Englebert Humperdinck (twice) and interviews with such deceased legends as Bob Hope, Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Louis, Mickey Mantle, Walter Payton and Victor Borge. Others include actors Sidney Poitier, Robin Williams, Kevin Costner and Pat Boone and Sports Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Joe Montana, Gale Sayers, Stan Musial and Whitey Ford.

While in Ottumwa in 1973, I also started a 22-year marriage that brought me three great stepchildren and a son born in 1974. Two are still in KCK, son Paul with Bluescope Steel and daughter Ginger French, an adjunct instructor at KCKCC. Her twin brother, Ed Coil, works in landscaping in Sarasota, Fla. Unfortunately we lost the fourth, September Wynn Coil, who died of cancer way too early at age 44 in 2005. Cancer also took my only sister at age 36 and a drunk driver killed my mother at age 60 in 1969.

On a much better note, the best thing to happen came Jan. 31, 2003, when I began a 10-plus year relationship with my significant other, Beverly Sawyer, who literally pulled and dragged me up Machu Picchu and other demanding climbs on our 16 trips abroad together.

So what’s ahead in retirement? Lots more golf with all the guys who beat me to retirement and, of course, more trips abroad (I’m open to suggestions). Nor will I stray far from KCKCC. There are too many good programs and good people to just walk away. It’s been way too good to me and a part of me for way too long to just walk away.       
PHOTO: Petting a lion in Zimbabwe was one of countless highlights for retiring Alan Hoskins on one of his 26 trips abroad with Kansas City Kansas Community College. (Photo by Beverly Sawyer)