Integrity Matters Broadcasts, 2006

June 7, 2006

A Mentor: Dr. Donald C. Kleckner

Dear Friends:

On Friday, June 2, 2006, the three adult-children of Dr. Donald C. Kleckner asked me to participate in the memorial service, honoring their father with my words of appreciation for how he had impacted my life. Their father had been my mentor for 43 years. Their request was an honor with sobering demands. How does one encapsulate four decades of a vibrant relationship into three minutes? The three minute time - limit was Don's final request for those invited to speak in his honor. So, three minutes it was!

Don, Jane and I shared a lunch last fall, 2005, shortly after his wife, Mary's death. We stayed in contact via phone, but not often enough. Don was 86. Words of advice! If you are thinking about contacting a friend, a family member, a former associate, even a foe, do so or risk the pain of regret. Integrity is always about doing the right thing, and one of them is making relationships whole, whenever possible. Dr. Kleckner, my college dean and president, spoke often and eloquently about attitude, planning and enthusiasm. His gifts to me were confidence and preparation.

Jim and Jane Bracher and Donald C. Kleckner
Dr. Donald C. Kleckner, in Pebble Beach, California, on April 27, 2004, celebrating with Jane and Jim Bracher, the launch of Integrity Matters.

Below is a copy of my June 7, 2006, Integrity Matters newspaper column, printed weekly in the Salinas Californian, with some of my reflections shared during Don's funeral service at his home church in Redlands, California.

Kleckner was his name, preparedness his game

The following is a part of my remarks at a memorial service for one of my early mentors, Dr. Donald C. Kleckner, former President of Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois, whom I first met in 1963 as a freshman. Later he would become President of Chapman College, Orange, California; and, then moved on to Redlands University in Redlands, California.

"Once, and only once, I stood before a homecoming crowd and spoke off the cuff on behalf of the student government. The following Monday morning, at 8 a.m., he gave me a stern lecture about preparedness. It was not a two-way discussion. Accepting any assignment is a moral commitment to be prepared - no matter when and no matter where. Proper prior planning prevents poor performance." Famous retailer, J.C. Penney may have originated the phrase, but Don Kleckner knew how to instill it.

On November 17, 1973, at 3 a.m. California time, then-Chapman College President Don Kleckner took another call from me. After listening to my concerns, he suggested that fear and anxiety are often effectively conquered with planning and preparation. After thanking him, I stayed awake until I found a memorial statement that described how I would like to be remembered: 'When I die, I hope that those who knew me best will say, "Jim Bracher did not fear the weather and did not trim his sails, but instead, challenged the wind itself to improve its direction and to cause it to blow more softly and more kindly over the world and its people."'

A photograph of my teacher and mentor of 43 years graces our board room, a constant reminder to my wife, Jane, and me, of Dr. Kleckner's wisdom, wit and generosity. According to Don, "attitude determines altitude for those who are prepared."

Integrity and relationship lessons his death taught me, yet again:

  • Contact friends, especially mentors, when you think of them. Be proactive or risk regret.
  • Make each encounter memorable by being supportive and positive.
  • Listen more than talk; paying attention to the feelings and needs of others.
  • Share important lessons learned with others.
  • Write down how you want to be remembered - an epitaph or memorial statement.
  • Measure your integrity by how often your actions fall within the shadow of your memorial statement.
He made a difference and will be missed. In the meantime, keep in touch.



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