One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for February 23, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
I have read a lot of books but probably three that have influenced me the most would be the Bible, The Road Less Traveled, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. On Saturday I attended a memorial service for a colleague at UNC Pembroke named Dr. Tony Curtis. At that memorial service three themes were evident that those books had exposed me to previously. I will write more about those messages later in the post.
Anthony Ray “Tony” Curtis was a full professor at UNC Pembroke in the Department of Mass Communications. He passed away on Friday January 23, 2015 at the age of 74. He died about a month after he received a diagnosis that he had terminal cancer. Tony Curtis came to UNC Pembroke in 2002 and was just a wonderful teacher. I got to know him when he first arrived on campus because I was in his building “Old Main” often taping a TV show for UNC Pembroke Athletics in the studio that was located there. I also served with him on several university committees including one that he and his wife Dr. Judy Curtis were passionate about “The Friends of the Library”. Judy Curtis is also a professor at UNC Pembroke.
Tony Curtis was a long time educator going back to 1967. He had taught at Penn State, Ohio University, Salisbury University, The Union Institute, and Hood College before arriving at Pembroke. Those experienced served our students well when he arrived on campus because he was an outstanding advisor and teacher. At UNCP he received the university’s Most Outstanding Teacher Award in 2012. While I was Director of Athletics I encouraged our student athletes to create MVP award to give to faculty that they felt made a difference in their lives at Pembroke. Tony has received that award four years running with the same message coming from the student-athletes Dr. Tony cares about us.
In addition to being an educator Tony Curtis had a distinguished career as journalist and a great hobby as a FCC-licensed amateur radio operator. He had been involved with amateur radio since the age since he was 14. He also was an author and wrote 72 books about computers, communications, space science, and astronomy. He was at the time of his death a NASA Solar System Ambassador.
Earlier I mentioned his memorial service and themes that were included that I had gotten from my favorite books.
In the Bible there are so many great lessons and passages that can inspire us. At Tony memorial service Psalm 23 was used and the first line defined Tony.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”
The first lines in the book The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck clearly defined the way Tony Curtis lived his life.
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
I did not know that Tony was abandoned when he was born. That fact came out at the memorial service. I can only imagine the trials he experienced from that event. He suffered with a number of health issues including heart problems. When you were around him none of those emotions or issues came to the surface. What he gave you was his joy for life. You never got from Tony Curtis “woe is me” attitude. He accepted that life was difficult and as Scott Peck says he was able to transcend that.
In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey he talks about Habit #2 which states “Start with the End in Mind”. In that chapter of the book he states that results are created twice-once mentally and second physically. We have to visualize what we want before it become a physical reality. Tony thought about his students and what he wanted them to become. He was proud of his students. I think in the end he wanted his students to feel good about themselves and what they could accomplish.
One of the exercises that Covey uses to drive home this habit is to have each person write their own eulogy. He wants you to determine what you want people to say and think about you when you are gone. Specifically what would you want people to say at your memorial service?
I have no idea if Tony went thru with that exercise but I can tell you what they said via email, social media, or at the memorial service tells me that Tony did start with the end in mind. He also validated for me that what our university is doing is working. When students express positive emotions on what Tony Curtis meant to them, how he inspired them, and how he cared about them I have no doubt that what we are doing at UNC Pembroke is important work.
There were a lot of students who were impacted by Tony Curtis. Two former students paid him great homage at the memorial service. If you have additional comments to make about Tony Curtis feel free to post them on the comments section below.
The Friend-TONY CURTIS
The Friends of the Friend-FORMER STUDENTS
Wade Allen gave a riveting talk at the memorial service about what Dr. Tony Curtis meant to him as a friend. His talk was full of laughter, emotion, and appreciation. Wade is currently the Lifestyle Editor for the Shelby Star newspaper. He was someone who Tony was proud of.
Victoria Huggins performed a wonderful rendition of “Amazing Grace” and it was clear that she and Tony Curtis meant a lot to each other. Victoria is a current UNCP student and also a Chancellor Ambassador. Before she sang at the memorial she talked about she was home schooled from K-12 and dreamed what college professors would be like when she got to college. She also thought about how they would treat her as a student. She said Tony Curtis exceeded my dreams. Victoria is the current Miss Fayetteville and a former neighbor of mine.
Tony Curtis did not want, did not complain, but he sure did impact people’s lives. All three are lessons I learned years ago from some good books. Tony Curtis ever the professor and teacher at his memorial service reminded me one more time about their importance.
Rest in Peace.