“Whenever I saw him, I lit up a bit because he was such a positive force in the universe,” Roger Verdon said.
News of Gary Sandbo’s death at age 77 came with crushing force. On Saturday morning, September 16, he had been at the funeral of a beloved friend. He delivered an eloquent tribute, returned to his seat and collapsed. In a moment he was dead.
Sandbo’s last words were about the beauty of someone else, the power of his friend’s love of teaching, of his selfless dedication and service. Sandbo had also been a teacher, a world-class coach, a passionate civic volunteer, a Christian who lived the Commandments so easily and modestly, as though they were born in him. His final act was to praise a friend.
For Gary Sandbo, giving was not second nature, it was ingrained. He believed in understanding and encouragement; his hand light on a shoulder softened the deepest trouble.
And that smile, its golden squint, eyes alight with mischief and affection, a grin loaded and ready to go off.
Like Roger, we lit up a bit whenever we saw Gary Sandbo. Our world is better because he lived in it. He was what good people dream to be.
School has begun and small college campuses are a big part of small cities. Only weeks ago they stirred, busy in a snap, taking deep breaths and looking here and there as though they had just come out of a long nap. Curbs were lined and parking lots packed with cars and trucks, many from away.
Campuses carry special ambiance, landscapes of energy and color: the garden settings at Bethany, Bethel’s majestic limestone in North Newton, the venerable brick and stone at McPherson College and Wesleyan in Salina, all settled in the shade of old big trees.
They share a semester’s prelude: Vans and wagons tossed against the curb, doors open, piles of clothing and boxes of whatnot lying about, trains of people loaded to their chins, sliding in or out of doorways and along the halls like overweighed stewards after a long day on the trail.
Early days were for searching: for a place to park, for the lost power cord, the missing back pack, a better chair, a code to log in; or for negotiating: a place to park, a bigger closet, a later class, a reluctant window, an open window, a not-so-reluctant roommate; for local menus and carryout, for time to have a look around.
The grounds now are astir, people moving along the walks, among the gardens, past the statues and fountains and the stare of an administration building. Here is the thrum of opening weeks, prelude to autumn, its brisk dawns and freshly laundered air.
Summer, its oppression and heat, is stuffed to memory. The town, pants pressed and shirt tucked in, looks on. Youth has returned thin-clad and loose, carrying promise and energy and the grit and pluck of inspiration.
The campus rustles, liberated, stretching its arms. Students move over the grounds as though skating to music, and the campus seems to cohere – a thrilling thing to watch, bodies at last freed in their persistent attempt to catch up with the spirit.
A campus brings the revivifying energy of youth, of classes for the enrolled and lessons for us all.