When choosing an “All-Together-One” award recipient, the members of Ommicron Delta Kappa wanted to be sure the decision was not based on a laundry-list of the nominee’s activities. The decisive factor wasn’t how much, but how meaningful the nominee’s experiential connection was with the people those activities concerned.
Recently retired and wanting to busy himself, Roger Myers looked for employment in human services in order to make those connections. By February of 2005 he found that position, driving JMU’s athletes to and from their games.
But Roger’s spirit of community, for all its depth, could not possibly have been predicted the day he graciously gave up his Thanksgiving vacation to drive 54 students and faculty members to Biloxi, Mississippi on a Katrina Relief trip.
One student, Jillian, explained, “The Katrina Relief trip was planned to accommodate as many members of the Madison Community as possible and in order to do so, we needed a charter bus, and more importantly, a bus driver that was willing to sacrifice his Thanksgiving with his family; Roger was our guy. As soon as he heard about the trip he said he wouldn’t let anyone else take the job.”
The commitment in and of itself shows a dedication to “community” on a large scale, but it was Roger’s profoundly personal connection to his passengers that would leave an indelible mark.
In the words of Lindsey, another student: “Instead of spending the night in the comfort of a hotel room, Roger spend each evening sleeping on the bus in order to be there in case of an emergency at night. He refused to be anywhere else than right with us during the entire week. He ate meals with us, visited us at our work sites, and continually praised us for the work we were doing when we were tired and ready to take the bus on home. He served as a father to each one of us and began to know us each by name as the trip ended. At the end of the week we gave him a picture and thank you card that he proudly displayed on the dashboard for the rest of the trip.”
Roger has a history of selflessness. It was in Charlottesville, UVA Hospital, nearly eight years ago, that Roger gave his wife Gloria a kidney. “He’s unselfish. Giving. Wonderful” Gloria affirms.
The All-Together-One award is to honor the unsung hero in the community, dedicated but modest. No other recipient so deservingly meets these qualifications than Roger. His student’s say it all: “He is so proud to be a part of the community, and willing to do anything to improve the lives he touches. I could not imagine the trip without the spirit of our fearless bus driver guiding the way.”
The Katrina trip is an example of how “community” is built by brick, and by heart. And once in a while a kidney too.
“He’s the greatest human being. He nearly cried when he departed us and told the students how much he loved and respected them for their courage and hope in Mississippi. He's the best” – Mary Landrum.
I would like to close this speech with the bus ride back from Biloxi, as recalled by Lindsey, “Even as the trip came to a close, Roger refused to let us walk off that bus and out of his life forever. At a rest stop, about half way through the ride home, he stood in front of us and told us how much he had enjoyed spending Thanksgiving with us and did not want to loose touch once we got back to JMU. He then handed out 54 index cards that he had hand written with his name, his wife’s name, cell number, home phone number, and address so that we could come for a home cooked meal whenever we liked. I first couldn’t believe he had written out each one of those cards and I then couldn’t believe that this man I had just met a week ago wanted me to come to his home.”
On behalf of JMU and ODK, and all the people you have touched, we thank you Roger.