Good afternoon everyone. We have come together today in reception, a send-forth for Reginald T. Braggs, our colleague and an honorable member of our Stallion Nation.
AUN is not just a workplace, it is a family, so when someone departs the family to pursue other opportunities or priorities, it hurts. AUN is a special place devoted to teaching and learning, but there’s nothing in the curriculum to teach us how to manage the complex emotions that we experience when someone departs. We use receptions as one way to celebrate the achievements and contributions of the departing colleague, while also expressing the mixed emotions of loss, happiness, surprise, anxiety, and gratitude. It is a moment where we can, together, pause as a community.
Reginald T. Braggs. US Navy Commander, AUN Assistant Vice President, leader, and mentor of the New Foundation School, head of the Atiku Center and community engagement, advisor for Honor Society, Assistant Dean of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship, coordinator of AUN 101 and First-Year Experience, emcee for Jazz Night, basketball player -- your hats at AUN are as varied as you are. Reginald T. Braggs. During one of my first interactions with you, I asked you, “What does the T. stand for, your middle name?”. You are not just Reginald Braggs, you are Reginald T. Braggs, that T as tall as you are as a person. You did not respond to me immediately, so I began teasing you, trying to guess what the T stands for. Was it T for Terrific? Reginald Terrific Braggs? I was going to find out!
I never imagined a day when we would be hosting a reception for you with the purpose of gearing up to watch you sail away from AUN. But here we are. You are a former Navy Commander, so sailing away is something you know how to do, but it still catches all of us by surprise. We all want to stop that ship’s anchor from recoiling so the ship can stay inshore!
I met you in the summer of 2017 when I first joined AUN. And since then, your presence in my life is like a ribbon that is sewn through all of my experiences at AUN. You have been my colleague, friend, and confidante, and as I look back on our nearly three years together, all of my best memories include you as part of the narrative. I am grateful that AUN provided the medium and platform for our paths to cross, and that we were given a chance to walk parallel paths on this earth for a short while. We can never know what’s just around the bend, or where our individual journeys take us during our lifetimes, and sometimes our paths diverge as we chase our own dreams. Reginald Traveler Braggs?
If you want to know and understand who someone is, the easiest thing to do is to look at the friends they surround themselves with. Friends have a profound influence over us; they can strengthen our convictions, and they have the power to transform us and help us grow by showing us alternatives in thinking and living. Reg, you have done that, on many occasions. I have been a witness to your dedication to NFS, which is unparalleled, earning you the affectionate nickname of “Baba-B” from the students and staff. I have been a spectator to your teamwork on the basketball court, helping the Veterans stay just one layup, jumpshot, or rebound ahead of our youthful AUN undergraduate team, who have legs as quick as stallions during a game. I have been in awe of your quiet faith in your creator, as you give yourself over to him to guide you in this lifetime. I have found myself copying you, pirating from you, wanting to be more like you – they say imitation is the highest form of flattery. I just wanted to be “cool” like you. Reginald Talented Braggs?
Jazz Night brought out the music inside of you. Jazz is a truly international language, the sound of surprise, and the one musical form that maps onto what is inside of a person. You bravely shared all of that with us during our Jazz Nights, in a most disarming way, building community and reminding us to take a beat and connect with each other. Reginald Thrilling Braggs?
Reg, an African proverb comes to mind now:
“When the music changes, so does the dance.”
What is that dance? It is basketball, of course!
Some of my best memories are from Friday nights, at the Commencement Hall, watching you play basketball. You were not playing basketball, you were dancing down the court, in a beautifully rhythmic way, in tune with your team; it was more like a music festival than a basketball game. When the world lost Kobe Bryant earlier this year, you were the first person I thought of, and I was the one who directed University Relations to place a note on our AUN Facebook page expressing condolences and rest in peace for Kobe. His life, and his death, are beyond basketball. He was setting up for an even more profound second act in his life. As was said about American essayist Henry David Thoreau, who also died around the same age as Kobe, “No man had a better-unfinished life.” In fact, Kobe Bryant said this about his own second act:
“Use your success, wealth and influence to put them in the best position to realize their own dreams and find their true purpose.”
I see this same philosophy in you, Reg. You have used your training, skills, and talents to help others realize their own dreams and purpose in life – our colleagues, our students, and our NFS young women have all benefited from your influence and time. Reginald Tremendous Braggs?
In quieter moments, I have observed you in ministry with your deep, profound, and private faith. As tall as you are, your faith is as deep, and I have always felt it and been in awe of it. Thinking of faith, and philosophy of life, I often return to Buddha. Reg, when thinking of you and your faith, this wisdom from Buddha comes to mind:
“One moment can change a day, one day can change a life, and one life can change the world.”
Reg, you have done this, without even realizing it. “One moment can change a day” – many times you have simply given me a smile, or sent me something funny to read, or sat and listened while I expressed a moment of frustration. Your gift of one moment of your time has changed my day countless times at AUN. Thank you. “One day can change a life” – Reg, remember in summer of 2017, you were in Abuja, and you spent one day with the Ministry of Women Affairs, and you worked with them to bring all of the recently released Chibok girls to AUN? One day in Abuja has changed not just one life, but many lives, of our NFS students, who came to us as girls, and have now blossomed into mature, “classy ladies.” No one else could have done that. One day in time launched a program that would set the course for our NFS students to begin their lives again, thriving. AUN can never adequately convey our appreciation and gratitude for how you built the team at NFS to accomplish this feat. Just, wow. “One life can change the world.” Your presence on this planet has not gone unnoticed, you have changed the world just by being your original self; you are contributing your chapter to the book of life, you are leaving your fingerprint, especially at AUN, and now you will sail away from AUN, into unknown waters, for your next adventure, that next place that is meant for you. All of us eagerly await to see what you will do next. Reginald Thriving Braggs?
Reg, thanks for all of the great times we have had together. On behalf of AUN, I wish you good luck and all the best in the future; we will miss you tremendously, but please know you are forever a Stallion. Thank you for your service to AUN, Baba-B. Like a true naval commander, you are an officer and a gentleman. Listen to what the great statesman and General who built Athens, Pericles, once said: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” What you have woven into the lives of us at AUN is permanent, and all of us are the better for it. Reginald Trainer Braggs?
I will credit Buddha again for reminding us of two more important things, at receptions like this one:
“When the student is ready, the teacher arrives; when the student is truly ready, the teacher disappears.”
Reg, I believe your 8 years at AUN was in the role of teacher, for all of us, because as students, we were ready for you. But now, the teacher, you, will disappear, signaling that all of us are truly ready, you have taught us well, trained us, transformed us, and we can now stand on our own and carry forth all you have taught us how to do. Your legacy is intact here. Reginald Teacher Braggs?
Endings and departures are sad, but Buddha was also wise when he reminded us that “Sunsets are proof that endings can be beautiful.” Today is a beautiful day, as you depart us for distant shores, and we wave to you until your ship slips over the horizon. You will always be welcome back here, we will always be ready to receive you and hear the tales of your adventures in faraway lands.
Reginald Tall, Thoughtful, Talkative, Tantalizing, Tender, Tactful, Teasing, Thorough, Tidy, Tough, Trusted, Tank, Truthful, and above all else, Treasured, Braggs – thank you for being all of the Ts, and so much more.
I am a pirate, and today, I give you full credit for the tagline I always use, because it was yours all along, never mine, it just lives through me:
AU – N!
AU – N!
AU – N!
Thank you, Reg, and journey mercies.