He met his wife Rachel when both were students here and he credits the College not only with that budding romance but with turning his life around as well. After finishing college, mostly, he came back to Arkansas City. He worked for Cowley College for thirteen years, eventually becoming the Vice-President for Institutional Advancement.
To many of us, Ben Schears personifies the best of the best at Cowley: friendly, cheerful, enthusiastic, dedicated. To some, our Core Values might be nothing more than a poster, a short list to be memorized right before the accreditation inspection. For Ben, treating people with respect, demonstrating integrity, holding himself to high standards and being a servant leader are essential aspects of his being.
Over the years, he—to many students, employees and other supporters—became the face of Cowley College as he worked tirelessly with the Foundation, adopted students as family, provided support and encouragement to his own team of employees and modeled cooperation and support for other staff members. He had thought—and many of us had hoped—that he and his family would be ours until he was at least as old as I am now even though he’s barely halfway there at this point.
Sometimes, though, the things we want and believe are for the best are not part of the Plan as it unfolds.
I know as sure as I know my own name that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. I know that we will look back and see a plethora of wonderful things that emanate from the wellspring of this turning. But I still do not yet like this change.
Among a myriad of actions and reactions stemming from the changeover in administration unfolding at the College this year was Ben’s decision to apply for the presidency of Northwest Kansas Technical College. It was a surprise to some that Ben would consider leaving Cowley; to those who knew the circumstances, it was no surprise at all. We saw the way the changes ate away at him, eroding the best parts of the personality that we loved. To see the sadness in his face, see the light gone from his eyes, the joy from his laugh was to share in his sorrow and make it our own. And we were helpless to change things.
But he was not helpless. He interviewed for the position and accepted it when offered. Not without mixed feelings. The man bleeds black and orange and wakes up spitting tiger drool. There’s a part of him that always will be loyal to Cowley College. But he will become as much a Maverick as any alumnus out in Goodland, Kansas. He will lead in love and humility and he will carry the care of his new college as if born to it. He will become as loved there as he is here.
And he will be missed.
I walked down an empty hallway this evening and paused by the doorway at the east end of Suite 206, Galle-Johnson. I looked into that empty office and felt its hollow darkness. I ached at the absence of that impish grin and bright-eyed laugh. I grieved for the loss of his presence, his walk amidst the folk of a crowded room, the genuine pleasure on his face and on the faces of those he greeted. I grieved and gave thanks for every moment I’ve had with him and his family.
We walk through the sun and shadows of this life. There is joy and pain. Those who love as Ben Schears loves will always feel more of both. They will weep and laugh and leave their marks on others’ lives in their passing through.
And we will all be the better for knowing them.