A Life of Gratitude


In 2004, after serving as a college dean for two years, I asked my director of human resources for input on my performance.

She had a long list of areas needing improvement and one area in which she thought I was strong. I don’t remember all the areas needing improvement, but I do remember the one area in which she offered a compliment.  She said that I frequently thanked people for what they did and who they were, and every time I said thank you to someone it made a positive impact on the college.

After that feedback, I redoubled my efforts to say thank you and to cultivate a culture of gratitude.

I’ve since learned that expressing thanks not only has a positive impact on other people and organizations, but it also enhances our immune systems, sleep, stress levels and personal relationships. Like every UF student this week, I am sleep deprived and also fighting off a cold, and thus today I need to give extra thanks. 

First, I’m grateful for every UF employee, particularly Emily Chandler, whom I greet in the wee hours of the morning as she cleans the second floor of Tigert Hall.  I’m grateful for Professor Karen Bjorndal, to whom we presented the Archie Carr Medal Wednesday night in recognition of her 40 years of research on sea turtles, and all our many faculty members who challenge and inspire students with their exceptional teaching.

On Tuesday, I attended professor Steve Noll’s American history class, as I do once a semester. It will take me 30 years to complete the course, but hopefully I’ll still be president then and Dr. Noll will give me course credit.

I’m grateful for every one of UF’s amazing students, particularly the 49,537 with whom I have taken a photo and the 328 that still need to learn how to pronounce my last name in order to fulfill the new additional graduation requirement.

I’m thankful for the record 38,500 applicants who applied by this week’s deadline to be members of the 2022 class of Florida Gators. I’m also thankful for UF’s 400,000 bats that joined me for a Facebook Live broadcast on Halloween Eve at the UF Bat Houses, the largest in the world. Unlike most celebrities, the bats appeared punctually shortly after sunset, awing the assembled crowd as they do every night of the year.

I’m grateful for the Krishna lunch of basmati rice, eggplant with kofta balls, salad with almond dressing, halava and tea I enjoyed on Tuesday while sitting in the Plaza of the Americas.

Finally, I’m thankful for Thanksgiving break.  Linda and I will be with our children and grandchildren in Chicago on Thursday, after which we will return to Gainesville in time for Saturday’s football game in the Swamp against FSU.  I wish for everyone a break filled with rejuvenation as we prepare for the last few weeks of the semester.

In his column on gratitude two years ago in The New York Times, David Brooks quoted G. K. Chesterton: “… thanks are the highest form of thought, and … gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”   I wish for all Gators not only a blessed Thanksgiving break but also a life filled with gratitude.