Gregg was a precocious thinker, a born leader, a mature writer, and an “old soul.” He was in the seventh grade during my first year of teaching. I tried to match his thought processes; he worked on perfecting sentences. We worked together on student council projects. Through it all we became lifelong friends.
During college, Gregg stayed with us for a semester or maybe two to save money for his future. I was able to hire him to supervise teens during a lunch-time program at the Good Samaritan Center. His future was Western Theological Seminary and marriage to his beloved Vicki. His path took him to South Africa for a year during the heart of the apartheid movement. He became a Reformed Church in America pastor in New Jersey and in Albany, N.Y and then moved on to serve the denomination in many leadership roles. He traveled the world and became an influencer.
He kept in touch, sending birthday greetings annually to my first-born son and to me. We talked on the phone once or twice most years and exchanged “Christmas letters.” When his travels took him to Europe, I asked him if he would have time to look for my father’s grave in a U.S. military cemetery in France. He did. And he brought home a large photo of a beautiful green lawn studded by thousands of white crosses. He later did more research on my father for an article in the Reformed Church denominational newsletter. Just a month ago he helped me find book written by a historian about the battle for Bastogne which tells a sliver of my father’s war experiences.
Gregg’s most recent career choice was serving as president of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, overseeing an overhaul of the facilities, putting the institution financial footing, and increasing diversity among students and faculty. Now after a lifetime of world travel, influence, and leadership, he is retiring in June! My retirement suggestion for him is to write another book.
In recent years, we have met for breakfast whenever he comes back “home.” I never tire of hearing about his travels, the joys and frustrations of his jobs, his take on the condition of the American Christian Church, his many friendships, and his family. He winks when he calls me one of his oldest friends – over 50 years now and counting. Who knew that a seventh grader and his first-year teacher would become life-long friends. When I count my many blessings, I always name this most unlikely friendship.