Sunday, June 8, 2014

After nearly 50 years, at least one of the Reggies retires

From Sunday's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

At every workplace, if the people who work there are lucky, there’s That One Person who sort of knows everything that’s going on, who appears as if by magic to straighten the wrinkles, who always seems to be the calm in the daily storm.

At Louisiana Tech, that person has been Reggie Hanchey, a friend of thousands and “just Reggie” or “Mr. Reggie” to everyone. After a half-century of working, 40 of those at Tech, he retired last week to spend more time with Mary Celia, his wife since the spring of 1971, and their four children and many grandchildren.

This came as a surprise to some people because, while there’s only one Reggie, both literally and figuratively, there always seemed to be eight or nine. He’s one of those people with perfect speed, always in the right place at the right time.

Reggie came to Tech from DeRidder as a freshman in 1961 and graduated in May of 1965. After earning a degree in religious education from seminary in 1967 and serving in Ruston as a full-time minister from then until 1974, Reggie answered Tech’s call and returned to his alma mater to serve. A Reggie-less Tech campus for the past four decades is hard to imagine.

If you think about it, the most often asked question on campus since at least 1980 has been, without exaggeration, “Have you asked Reggie?,” or something close to that. Along the same lines, the most common statement has been, “Better ask Reggie.” Because Reggie would either know or know how to find out. Quickly. Reggie was what was inside the flare gun on every faculty and staff member’s hip.

If you know anything about human nature and can imagine anything about Reggie’s main job – first with the alumni relations staff and then as special assistant to three University presidents since 1980 – you know that very few people have the mix of organizational skill, temperament, intelligence and all-around nature to effectively serve as Reggie has. The job calls for one to be part Martha Stewart, part Joe Aillet, part Billy Graham, part first-grade teacher and part – or at least some people expected – God Himself.

“Well, somebody better go get Reggie.”

“Have you asked Reggie? Well, you better ask Reggie. WHERE’S REGGIE?!” And usually, there he’d be, like sunshine breaking through a cloud, only as if he’d been right there, all along. Think Radar on “M*A*S*H.”

Remarkable that Reggie could be so dependable for his school while still faithfully serving his church family as well as his own, plus his adopted family of student workers. Although he spent most of his time around top brass, Reggie was and is maybe most importantly a stealthy teacher of the great unwashed. He once saw a kid crying on a Tech sidewalk and stopped to introduce himself and to help. He didn’t take the boy to the infirmary or to the school psychologist or to his academic advisor: he made the kid his student worker. Trained him. Helped him. Loved him. That young man today says he owes his present job to “Mr. Reggie.”

Bossier businessman Doug Rogers was such a student worker, from 1983 to 1987. At a mid-May Sunday afternoon reception for Reggie, organized by Reggie’s family to celebrate his May 31 retirement, Rogers spoke of the steadiness of his friend: “The student Reggie was the same Reggie we know today: involved, funny, but serious about this endeavors, and surrounded by friends.”

Not a bad way to spend one’s career. Or life.

And finally, Rogers spoke for all Reggie’s friends when he told his old boss this: “You give without expecting anything in return; you put your heart into your work including the young people entrusted to you; you are cheerful in all circumstances; you lend a helping hand to anyone anytime; you have a smile ready even on a tough day; you always have an encouraging word; and the love of Christ shines brightly in your eyes.  You are a very special man, Reggie Hanchey, and we are all much richer because of your devoted service.”