Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Alum's perspective on memoir: 'My life is richer'

By Gary Sweeney
       During Marshall’s Homecoming weekend in October, my wife (Anne) and I got to visit a very good friend – Maurice Cooley – who we cultivated a lasting friendship with during our days at MU. Maurice serves our alma mater today with his enthusiastic leadership in helping black students gain an education at our beloved Marshall [as director of the Student Relations Center].
       Maurice escorted me and Anne to the on-campus bookstore to meet Craig Greenlee. Craig and I are graduates of Marshall's W. Page Pitt School of Journalism & Mass Communications. But because I’m a few years older, we never had any journalism classes together. 
       Craig had a book signing for November Ever After on Homecoming Day. His book is unlike others that have documented the heartache that Huntington, West Virginia faced during those dark times which started on the night of November 14, 1970.  It's about the tragedy that we – as young students – did not know how we should act or react. Most of us had never been forced to deal with the emotions associated with death. Not only that, but we had to come to grips with losing most of our football team and coaches, our classmates and friends. Some of us had friends whose parents were passengers on that ill-fated flight.Click here to view "Video Tribute to the 75"
        I’m happy I that purchased a copy of Craig's book.  Not long after Homecoming, we traveled to Texas to see our older daughter (Rebecca), her husband, and three of our wonderful grandchildren. During our visit, I finished the book during the wee hours of quiet nights and early mornings. 
       I laughed.
       I renewed friendships of long days past...
       I cried often! 
       Craig played football for the Herd during our days at Marshall University. He [along with the rest of the large freshman class] was recruited by Coach Perry Moss to become a part of something greater. MU’s undefeated freshman team of 1968 provided tangible proof that the school was serious in its efforts to become a formidable force in college football. 
       Our days in Huntington (West Virginia) were not pleasant ones when it came to football.  Marshall was very close to having the longest losing streak in the nation. Craig was one of many black athletes who accepted Coach Moss's invitation to play football in West Virginia.
      Because Craig had given up the game of football, he was not on board the plane in 1970. I believe God had a new purpose for Craig ... and it would take over forty years before Craig would pen a book about what it was like to be a student at MU and a former Thundering Herd teammate. 
       God has blessed my life often and He continues to do so.  I don't know why Maurice chose to introduce me to Craig Greenlee during Homecoming of 2011. 
       Thank you, Maurice. 
       My life is richer because of November Ever After.

Gary Sweeney is a 1969 graduate of Marshall University.

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