I first saw Frank Tate as he approached the podium of a large lecture hall, which was actually a converted hardware store. We were in the middle of downtown Scottsbluff, Nebraska. It was 1967, and I needed some discipline, direction and confidence.
It was the first day of class in the brief history of Hiram Scott College and at least 100 of us students were seated in rented folding chairs. We were not a typical group of college kids: mostly young men who had returned from Vietnam on the GI bill, or underachievers who had been asked to exit accredited universities.
Dr. Tate stepped up to the cheap microphone and began speaking to this unruly bunch; however, we couldn’t really understand much of what he said. Later, I learned he had recently survived a throat cancer operation, which had muddled his voice. As soon as I heard him speak, I worried my fellow students would lose interest, or worse, start laughing. But within minutes, the hall was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. These war-weary boys would have pounded anyone who dared to make a sound. We sat rapt as this gentle and brilliant man spoke of meaning, of poetry, of purpose. This was the captivating power of Frank Tate, my closest friend. In our early years of knowing each other, Frank told me I was worthy and capable. Later, he mentored me to be open to diverse ideas and to follow my passions. In over 40 years, I never heard Frank say a discouraging word about anyone. Ever. His gentle guidance, delivered often with humor, provided a foundation of knowledge and confidence to hundreds of young people trying to find their way in the turbulent 1960s and beyond. For a number of years, I worked for Frank in academic settings and, later in his life, he worked for me as a writer and editor for The Change Companies®. Frank, the brightest, kindest man I’ve ever known, was born in Tuscola, Illinois, in 1916. He died, comfortably, peacefully, at my side in Carson City, Nevada, on December 24th of 2004. His final words were, “Don, quit fussing over me and get about your duties.” I still miss Frank, particularly on disquieting days. Then, I reflect on his life message: All of us have the opportunity to get about our duties of playing a positive role in the lives of those around us. There is meaning, purpose and poetry to share. Frank’s spirit lives on. Let’s all get busy.