A member of our campus community died in December. David Allen. He was my old boss. He taught me a lot. I thought you should know about him.
During my interview for my job at Boise State, David asked me “what motivates you?” I scrambled. I did not prepare for something so profound. I said some cheesy answer about learning new things, which sounds cliché but it’s true: I love to learn. I thought he was testing me, but I’d discover later how serious of a question that was.
David was a deep thinker. He wasn’t interested in surface-level. He wanted to ask big questions. He wanted to ask why.
I was not that way before I met David. I had previously spent 4 years at a dinosaur corporation taking orders. I was used to taking orders. I was used to turning off my brain and grinding. I worked for a paycheck that I would need to live my real life outside of work.
David was without a doubt one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. (Ok, I know that sentiment gets said a lot. You say it when you want to try to convey a hard-to-grasp feeling in as few words as possible, so you mentally compare the person to every person you’ve met… The assumption is that I’ve met a lot of people, and I rank them all based on their niceness. Maybe I do. Maybe I have a spreadsheet. He ranks at the top, I’m telling you.) The truth is, over the course of a few years David taught me both professional skills and life lessons that I never thought possible.
He cared SO much about things I never put much thought to. One time, David told me that he would rather not work on anything at all than to work on something he didn’t believe in. Without trying to change my mind, without trying to put his values onto mine, as a casual observer of him, these things left a lasting impression on me.
Over the years, I observed someone who was wrestling with what it meant to be happy and content. To me, it seemed like it was about chasing the next thing. Solving the difficult problem that no one else saw or even thought could be solved. He always stood back from the problem and looked at it from different perspectives. He helped countless people with their problems in ways they didn’t realize was possible. He would do that in his spare time.
This part’s tough for me to write:
David’s boss told me that when she told David I was still responding to and working on similar projects for my old colleagues while David was out dealing with his illness, he teared up.
I can’t explain how much that little statement impacts me. In some of David’s most difficult moments, he was still concerned about his colleagues at Boise State. He was still concerned about the students at Boise State being able to easily navigate their college experience. He felt so responsible for so many things. I am glad I was able to give him some relief by filling in.
But what really gets me is that the “me” from 4 years ago would not have filled in. The me from 4 years ago would have said “that’s my old job, I’m not doing that.” The me from 4 years ago didn’t ask why.
It makes me happy to see how much I’ve changed, and to know that David got to witness it. I only wish he knew how much of an inspiration he was for so many of us.
As we continue to grieve his loss, we see how much of an impact he left through the progress we make and the big questions we ask.