Saturday, April 13, 2024

My Dear Friend Keith Drury (5)

Celebrating Keith Drury (1)
Keith Drury the Churchman (2)
Keith Drury and the Department of Religion (3)
Keith Drury and Wesley Seminary (4)

I may do one more post tomorrow, but I want to finish the chronology.

Keith retired in 2012 while I was Dean of the seminary. Steve Lennox and I edited a Festschrift for him with a familiar title, Call Me Coach. It had entries by a number of us -- Sharon Drury, Amanda Drury, Chris Bounds, Bud Bence, Bob Black, Wayne Schmidt, Wallace Thornton, Burt Webb. I don't think many people ever read it, but that's usually true of Festschrifts. We thought it was fitting to independently publish it.

2. Keith downsized. For a time, Keith owned several properties around IWU. That was a thing for a while. The person who owned the most was Wilbur Williams. Terry Munday had several. Russ Gunsalus had a few. I had one. I think Keith came in second or third. In the words of Lex Luther, "You can print money, manufacture diamonds and people are a dime a dozen, but people will always need land."

Tangent: As I dread doing my taxes this weekend, I'm remembering how Keith loved to do his taxes. There was something wrong with that man.

By the way, he was the one who recommended that I divide my taxes into two buckets -- my personal bucket and my minister/writer bucket. Because ministerial taxes are a little more complicated -- and because I have book royalties and preaching/writing income -- he recommended I have a sole proprietor bucket. That way, I could also take my expenses with websites. research, etc and balance them against writer/ministry income. He was just way ahead of the game on those sorts of things.

I had coffee from time to time while Keith was still in town. Over time, most of our contact was through email. I tried to visit him in Brooksville in February, but our schedules just didn't align. I'm annoyed that Russ did manage to visit with him for a couple hours that same week.

3. Many will remember that Keith's live commentary on General Conference was better than the conference itself. During the 2016 election, we had a little Facebook group going as the results from each state came in. Prognostication was a hobby I had taken from him. Of course, his predictions were always better than mine. He could just see more of the variables than I could.

I think Nassim Taleb is spot on about people like me who like to make predictions (The Black Swan). There are just too many variables for any of us to do it well. Yet we don't stop. Our failed predictions don't stop us. We seem to forget how bad we all are at it. The book Freakonomics talks about how someone throwing darts at a board did better than a group of experts on the stock market. It's why we need to be constantly adjusting our goals and targets.

A couple years ago, I made a prediction to Keith that something would happen in three years. Keith said he'd write it down (with a tone of skepticism). New variables already have me doubting my prediction.

4. Most know that Keith was a contrarian. If a person took one side a little too strongly, he would take the other. In politics, it was much the same. If everyone around him assumed that Republicans were right on everything, he might take the opposite side to keep them honest. If everyone around him assumed that Democrats were right on everything, he might take the opposite side to keep them honest.

Jim Garlow told a story this week on Facebook about how they both took the opposite side on some issue. Then a few months later Jim said he had changed his mind. Keith said he had too, and they argued the same issue again on the opposite sides. That's a pretty good window into his personality.

Keith occasionally would make it clear to me that he was on the evangelical side of several key issues. But you couldn't stereotype his politics because his position on any one issue was determined by what he thought God and the Bible taught, not some human political party or some other group. He didn't align exactly with either party, and that probably is what a kingdom-minded person looks like.

5. As somewhat of a tangent, I remembered yesterday that Keith had a bit of a bias against the South. Of course, he never let these biases interfere with his decisions. He made light of them. For example, he always made fun of Nazarenes for their bathroom fixtures. How do you tell you're at Nazarene headquarters? By how expensive the furnishings are in their bathrooms. 

His bias against the South came from the fact that his great-grandfather (I think) rotted in a Confederate prison during the Civil War.

6. I wish I could say that my emails to him these last few years were joyous. Some of them asked for advice. Some of them were me griping. Sometimes I gave him gossip. I wish more of them had been like the near daily email exchanges he had with a group of other Wesleyan retirees (Bud Bence, Bob Black, Dennis Brinkman). Russ Gunsalus told me this week that he hoped Sharon, Dave, or John knew the password to his email because it was most certainly full of gold (and probably some contraband).

Tangent: Bud Bence and I have been working on a Wesleyan Church History course for my organization (Campus Edu) and Kingswood. I was glad that Keith got to see those videos. In one of them, Bud and I sit on a bench in Anderson where the Wesleyan Church was formed. Bud talks about his father and the Wesleyan Methodists. I talk about my father and the Pilgrims. Keith loved it.

Some of my emails were griping. He often had a way of pushing back on my gripes. If I told him that the seminary faculty were getting on my nerves he would remind me that I hired them. If I told him I thought some leader was making the wrong decision he would show me how their decisions might make sense.

I will say that he seemed to have a bias toward strong leaders. I think he thought it takes strong leadership to get through all the junk that people and organizations throw at someone. But of course the problem with strong leaders is that they sometimes blur into being bullies or trigger happy. We didn't agree on everything, but he was surely right far more often than me.

7. Some of my emails sought advice. When I told him I was going to Houghton, he told me he thought it might be a good move. Life was a game of chess to him. You make a move. Life makes a move. You don't always know where the moves will lead, but you keep playing the game until you find out.

(To be honest, several of us had always kind of mocked Houghton for being arrogant. We felt like IWU had snuck right past them in the 2000s without them even hardly realizing it.)

Keith had actually been on the Houghton board for a while when Dan Chamberlain was president. Once he wondered if Dan was trying to keep the board members from eating with the students so that they wouldn't hear anything negative from the students. But when he finally got a chance to eat with them, they were pretty positive about the school. By the way, I suspect Chamberlain had some savvy, but I'll leave those thoughts for some other day.

I told Keith that I always thought of Houghton as the Wheaton of the Wesleyan Church, the school that the smart kids went to. I thought his response had a profundity and nuance that I had come to experience regularly around him. He said, "I don't know if Houghton attracts smart kids or if it makes them smart."

I applied for some leadership positions these last few years. He wrote a reference for at least one of them. I always sent him my cover letters as I applied, and he responded with his impressions. The last one he said was bold. I didn't have much of a chance, but it was bold enough that I might get someone's attention. (I didn't :-)

For years I have been notoriously too quick to email things. When we were founding the seminary, he strongly urged me to put a 5-minute (or even a 1-minute) delay on the emails I was sending. And if I asked him what he thought, he seemed to think I should at least give him an hour or two to respond before going ahead and sending. He could be really unreasonable sometimes. :-)

In these last couple years, I think I sometimes gave him information he didn't have. That was a big switch. I used to be amazed at how Keith knew everything that was going on in the church. (JoAnne Lyon is still like this, by the way.) But it was because he was someone who was on everyone's shortlist to tell about stuff. I got some information like that this week, and it was a little sad to think that I couldn't email him with it.  

8. I met Keith when I was barely in my 30s, and he leaves us with me in my late 50s. When I was 52, it was shocking to realize that I had turned the age he was when I first met him. He used to say that his 40s were much worse than his 50s. In his experience, in your 40s you look back and see all the capacity you are losing. In your 50s, he said, you look at those in their 60s and see all the capacity you still have.

I haven't found it that way myself. I suspect his 40s are my 50s, and his 50s will be my 60s, assuming I tarry. It has been in my 50s that I've experienced my first real sense of diminishment.

A few years ago, Keith felt a great deal of diminished energy. He assumed it was age. But he actually narrowly missed a heart attack. As I recall, he used a map of the Appalachian Trail as a symbolic way to track his recovery. And recover he did. I haven't mentioned how he hiked so many trails around the country in the summers. Countless IWU students have pictures of him on hikes like these. Jeremy Summers and I actually hiked up Ben Nevis in Scotland with him in 1998 just before I got married. 

In the 2000s, Keith, Jim Lo, Burt Webb, and I did the Indy marathon. Jim -- being the beast that he is -- ran the whole thing, ran back to us, and then walked the rest of the way with us. I ran half, jogged back and walked the rest of the way. A great experience and Jim Lo has shared the picture more than once. 

He also canoed one summer. One book he self-published was Walking the Trail of Death, a journal of his reflections in 2006 as he followed the 660-mile path of native American relocation in 1838. It is just hard to imagine Keith having any physical problems. He was always the one to leave other hikers in the dust. 

9. So much of history is lost with the passing of each soul, and Keith's soul was about three or four times as big as the rest of ours. 

And, of course, it still is. I'd like to think that he's having regular coffee now with his parents and brother Elmer. Perhaps he occasionally visits Wilbur Williams, the old David Smith (1998) or Duane Thompson, former DoR professors. Perhaps he and Earle Wilson have a chance to arm wrestle from time to time.

Most of all, he can eat at the table with Jesus. We'll eat with him again too, soon enough. 


Sun and Shield said...

A great series. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Well written and such a huge tribute to such a good man. Thanks Ken for the inside scoop.