An old friend called back last fall and said, "I'm sending a student by to see you. She is a finance major but likes sports and I want you to give her some advice about her career interest in sports."
There are many times when I get calls from students or friends of students with a similar interest. It is quite rewarding to meet responsible students with the right stuff, including refreshing principles and enterprising initiative. The story has an exciting conclusion and has led to a heightening of my confidence in young people, but her story is linked to the friend who sent her my way.
Earl Leonard is a Georgia journalism graduate who worked for the late Sen. Richard B. Russell in Washington before joining the Coca-Cola Company, where he wisely invested his money in the company's stock. He enjoyed a number of splits and options over the years when the stock was constantly ascending.
When he retired, the value of his stock would have enabled him to underwrite the cost of a building which would carry his name. He didn't want that. With a longtime interest in helping young people, he developed a leadership program in the Terry College of Business, which has provided college kids an exposure that has made it one of the best programs of its type in the country.
During his long career with Coca-Cola, Leonard observed that many college graduates came into the workplace lacking leadership skills. "The computer changed everything. No longer were college graduates going into the workplace and being given assignments from a supervisor in a routine boss-employee relationship," Leonard noted. "They were suddenly given assignments that required research and creative thought. They had to present problem-solving papers and marketing concepts. I thought that while they were on campus, they should get something in the way of practical experience and an exposure to real-world business function."
Through Earl Leonard, I came to know Jori McMurtrey of Evans who, for the past several months, has worked in UGA's sports communications office, where there are a number of capable young students who are competent and versatile. In our first conversation, Jori said that she was interested in trying to find an opportunity in Major League Baseball. She made inquiries with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and also the Oklahoma City RedHawks and the Gwinnett Braves.
One day she said that she had applied for a Major League Baseball summer internship. That brought about an opportunity to recommend her to an MLB executive, an old friend who took a special interest in her application. Eventually she got the good news she would be spending the summer in Manhattan, confirmation that enterprise and due diligence makes a difference.
Getting to know Jori has meant that I have gotten to know many of her friends. Her sorority sisters, her guy friends -- all good kids. Like Michael McDonald, who graduated summa cum laude, but wants to coach football. He will be learning about the nuances of the 3-4 defense of the Bulldogs' Todd Grantham this fall.
You likely don't know these recent Georgia graduates, but if you did, you would appreciate that they are the opposite of the ones who bring about the bad headlines. None of them ever went on a drinking binge. None of them got drunk and did anything stupid. They simply went to class, studied hard, made good grades. They are productive and responsible citizens already.
I have a friend whose son is a downtown bartender and knows the wild kids -- those bent on an undisciplined, wayward culture. He told me about the kid who recently tried to throw a bottle through a plate glass window and about two others who were having sex in a stairwell.
There are plenty of advocates of an Animal House-like atmosphere on our campuses, but there are just as many Jori McMurtreys and Michael McDonalds you don't know about.
Someday you will.
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.