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Emory celebrates Gary Hauk on eve of retirement

“Of incredibly special gatherings, we don’t have that many,” Emory President Claire E. Sterk said as she stood at the lectern in Convocation Hall on Dec. 10. “This is one of them.”

The occasion was the last formal chance for the community to thank Gary Hauk for his manifold contributions to university life on the eve of his retirement, which is official on Jan. 1, 2020.

During his 34 years of service, Hauk made a climb unique in Emory annals and likely unique anywhere — from Emory student to serving as counselor to four presidents in positions including assistant secretary of the university, secretary of the university, vice president, deputy to the president, senior adviser to the president and university historian.

Convocation Hall was an apropos site, being — as Hauk pointed out in his remarks — where he wrote his dissertation as a PhD student and where his working life began, when he served as a reference librarian for Pitts Theology Library, which previously was housed there.

The event attracted four Emory presidents — Sterk as well as James T. Laney, William M. Chace and James W. Wagner — as well as trustees and deans current and former, not to mention the many faculty and staff who had the good fortune to work with Hauk through the years.

All the presidents gave emotional tributes, and the consensus was that, in Emory’s history, no one had served as counselor at that level for so long.

“That says something about who you are, your integrity, your ability to write with such detail, care and grace,” Laney said. Comparing Hauk’s longevity to Dooley, Emory’s unofficial skeleton mascot, Laney got a big laugh from the crowd when he quoted from Dooley’s line that famously begins: “Presidents may come, presidents may go… ” 

All voiced admiration for Hauk’s skill as a writer, with Chace and Wagner especially confessing to the anxiety they sometimes felt about, as Chace termed it, “passing the Gary Hauk test” with something they had written. Sometimes the best course of action, as Chace revealed, was to blur the truth about authorship.

Admitting that he fancied himself a good stylist, Chace talked about taking it upon himself to compose one of the weightier messages of his presidency — the statement to the community on the day after 9/11. Walking across campus after the communique had gone out, he was stopped by a colleague, who commented, “Bill, that was a very good statement; Gary wrote it, right? And I said, ‘Yes, he did.’”

Wagner reminded everyone of Hauk’s flair for lighter prose—something that he often rendered in verse reminiscent of Dr. Seuss on the occasion of a cabinet member’s retiring. For the occasion, Wagner offered the same to Hauk:

You are ready to go
And that we can tell
We will not say goodbye
But just merely farewell
So stay in touch
And be sure to update your address
Meanwhile, God keep you and Sara
God bless 

Following the presidents’ remarks, Sterk presented Hauk with two gifts — one of them an Emory chair, a long-held tradition for retirees. Sterk insisted that Hauk’s would be a “captain’s chair” in acknowledgment of how much he helped steer Emory’s ship of state during his career. The other item was a shadow box containing the placard that directed so many visitors to Office 410 of the Administration Building, where Hauk was located for so many years. Also in the box was a brick from the most recent renovation of the building in 2017. 

When Hauk spoke, he began — historian to the core — by noting that it was Charter Day, “a day that will live in the hearts and minds of Emory men and women everywhere.”

He went on to thank the presidents for “helping me learn and relearn the principal lessons of university administration: that it really is a form of ministry, a matter of listening deeply to people, caring for them personally and finding ways to help them live out their own vocations, their own deep calling. By doing these things, I was able to live out my true vocation.”

A bit of disbelief seemed to infect the audience, understandable in many ways given the length and quality of Hauk’s service. Sterk, for instance, promised, “Gary will continue, just as he has, to shape the institution.” 

Hauk had a remedy for his absence, saying, “The retirement of one person should not allow us to neglect the work of exploring, explaining, remembering and telling the story of Emory. This should be the work of the entire university community.” He continued, invoking Lord Acton, who observed “that history is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.”

Concluded Hauk, “The soul of Emory is worth illuminating because that simple act of illumination will shape our own souls. Do not let illumination cease.”

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