Brutally Honest: Farewell President Jeffcoat

Denny Patterson

Last week, Millikin said goodbye to Dr. Harold Jeffcoat, the institution’s fourteenth president. When the news of Jeffcoat’s decision was revealed, numerous students and faculty were in shock. I know that when I read the email, it took me a moment to process what I just read. As a writer and reporter for this paper, I have been busy covering how numerous members of the faculty and staff are either leaving or stepping down from their positions, and how there are currently search committees in the process of finding interested applicants to fill up the vacancies. I just met with Jeffcoat the day before the news of his retirement was revealed. I was interviewing him about the statuses of the search committees.  He didn’t mention one word that he himself intended on leaving by the end of the week. This decision seemed to come out of nowhere. It was so sudden.

We all have that certain faculty member we just click with. After meeting with him on several different occasions, mostly to interview for news stories, I began to click with President Jeffcoat. When we first met, I didn’t know what to say to him. He was the President of the university, and I was just an incoming transfer student. No pressure there, right? Upon meeting, he asked me where I transferred from, what I was majoring in, etc. After a few minutes of conversation, he proceeded to tell me that if I ever needed any help or just wanted to chat, don’t hesitate to stop by his office. This showed me that he was man who cared about the students. To be involved with higher education for almost 38 years, Jeffcoat had a passion. He was committed to reaching out.

Many college authority figures, mainly college presidents, constantly sit up in their offices and never interact with the student body. That’s really a shame. Jeffcoat was a student’s president. There is no need for any student to be apprehensive about approaching any of the administrative officials here at Millikin. Just because they are the top dogs on campus doesn’t mean they’re not people just like you and me. Jeffcoat even told me that all of his best moments while here at Millikin involved the students. Jeffcoat was always out and about attending performances, recitals, events, etc. He was probably more involved and outgoing than some of the students. There was nothing more joyful to him than to see the students do what they love to do best.

One of the reasons why I chose Millikin was the fact that faculty and staff members aren’t just teachers, they are mentors and friends. Every time I walked into Jeffcoat’s office, he was so welcoming and eager to help me out with my article. Once they were published, he would congratulate and compliment me on my work. His kind words would always raise my spirit and make me feel good. They also might have raised my ego just a smidge.

I was always the kid who tried to maintain a good relationship with the authority figures like principals, deans, advisors, presidents; all of the above. It’s not because I was a suck up, it’s because they can really be beneficial to my future. It’s the beginning process of networking. They have the contacts that can help you with your career goals and aspirations. Many students don’t realize that. Building a strong relationship with any faculty member here at Millikin will be helpful to you in some way or form.

As a student journalist, I ask for any university president to be involved and communicate with the student body. The president is in a way is like the mama goose. He/she is overseeing all of their ducklings. By pushing and encouraging us, I believe that is the number one way to earn the respect of students. I have a great amount of respect for President Jeffcoat and I always will.

As I wrap this up, I can almost feel a few oncoming tears about to sneak their way out. So many people are leaving, and it’s kind of scary to wonder who might be next. We might only be here for four years, but within those four years, we meet and communicate with hundreds of people. Every president is going to have people either for him or against him. I know many people were fond of Jeffcoat and it truly is heartbreaking to see him go. But that’s how life is, and Millikin will be anxiously waiting for its new president to come aboard.