Tomorrow you may not die

I ordered a copy of The Collegian Chronicles years ago and was recently flipping through it. It’s a sort of history of Penn State from 1887 to 2006 through the pages of The Daily Collegian, the campus newspaper. Its dedication honors Ross Lehman, Class of 1941:

Ross B. Lehman, executive director emeritus alumni association in Office of Student Affairs, from Feb. 1, 1948, until his retirement April 1, 1983; died Dec. 12, 2003 at the age of 85.

Ross was one of the pillars of the State College/Penn State communities. He and his wife wrote a widely read Centre Daily Times column called “Open House” for decades, and like Joe and Sue Paterno he and his wife embodied some of the best aspects of the Penn State ethos. Skull and Bones at Penn State endowed an award in his honor:

It is given annually to a freshman who exemplifies the ideals of Skull and Bones: unselfish service and leadership to the Penn State University community, and the elimination of false pride, excessive self-esteem and grand ideas of personal glory.

A leadership award honoring virtues opposed to false pride, grand ideas of personal glory, etc. is somewhat distinctive now, isn’t it? Who talks like that any longer?

The Collegian Chronicles is dedicated to Ross Lehman, and this bit stands out:

While in captivity in a German prison hospital, Ross recalled awakening one morning to see “the most beautiful, indescribable patch of blue” sky. It was his moment of revelation. “I said to myself at that moment, ‘Each minute of life is an eternity, and it’s how that minute is lived, how acutely one perceives it and absorbs it within his being, that determines how much a man becomes a sun: he generates or he explodes.”

Ross once advised: “Live nobly while you live. Tomorrow you may not die.”

Tomorrow you may not die. A hard phrase, like a needle in the eye of the “live like each day is your last” sentimentalism that justifies doing basically whatever.

I guess I’ll throw my chips in with the Ross Lehmans of the world, and try to be friends with those who do.

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