As I lead my tour groups up the path toward the seal, I like to take a moment and mention the buildings surrounding us. I point to Upham and explain the legend of the Upham arch, and as we walk, I ensure no prospective student or parent hazards a step upon the seal. I discuss the history of Stoddard and Elliott Halls and then I face toward Roudebush.
“This is the main administration building on campus,” I say, “And our president, Dr. David Hodge, has his office here. He has what I consider to be one of the best commutes to work, as his home is located just across the street.”
At this, I tend to get a few chuckles and smiles, but occasionally I’m asked, “What is he like, the president?” My response had always been this: “President Hodge is an incredibly friendly, personable guy. He really values all of his students and their accomplishments.”
Until this point, my only interactions with Hodge were short glimpses of him at campus events: hearing him speak at convocation, seeing his family sit down to breakfast at 1809, and recognizing him a few rows ahead of me at a recent Glee Club concert.
So, to be honest, I never felt as though I could speak from personal experience when questioned about President Hodge on tours.
I heard from friends about their interactions with him how kind and polite he was, but never had I had the pleasure of meeting him myself.
However, recently, my residence hall had the privilege of hosting Hodge for an informal discussion over coffee. Our large group of residents crammed into the lounge of the hall and smushed against one another, one large armchair left empty in anticipation of our guest.
We chattered nervously until a hush fell over the room, as the man representing over 15,000 undergraduate students entered our crowded gathering place. He glanced around, sat down, and began an incredibly interesting conversation. And I now have a new perception of President Hodge that I may discuss during my tour.
President Hodge is a Miamian. He speaks with confidence and passion about the university and its students. Any question we asked was appropriate, none he turned away. And for one with an important, serious position, he possesses and interjects a delightful dose of humor into conversation.
Between discussions of the perception of a Miami student, campus diversity, and the new Armstrong Student Center, we were exposed to a Brad Paisley fan, avid runner, and a vicious broomball player.
I don’t know if it surprised me more that Hodge was so down-to-earth, debunking ridiculous rumors that he and his wife do not reside in Lewis Place or the conversion of the Shriver Center into a residence hall, or if it shocked me that he is able to remain so genuine while staying informed and intrigued with the goings-on of the entire university.
He was well-aware of the problems and improvements needed across the campus and was honest in his suggested approaches to them. And while I cannot quote him directly from his discussion with us, I do remember one remark he made verbatim: “I may not have all the answers, but I know the questions that must be answered.”
Out of all that Hodge discussed, I found this to be the most admirable.
I can only hope that other leaders across the university have this humble approach to criticism, suggestions, and ideas. It was with this general feeling of respect for President Hodge that I left from our discussion.
And while I understand that not every undergraduate has yet had the chance to ask Hodge questions directly, I hope that none will hesitate to speak with him should they see him. He has as much, if not more, love and honor as the rest of us. But be prepared, he takes no broomball survivors.