Integrity Matters
June 7, 2006

Kleckner was his name, preparedness his game

Question: (S-015)

The following is a part of my remarks at a memorial service for one of my early mentors, Donald C. Kleckner, whom I first met in 1963 as a freshman at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois:

"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 Nov. 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 I was reminded of by his death:

  • 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.

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