How do you say goodbye to a great leader, mentor and higher education advocate? A good place to start is a gathering of thousands celebrating the completion of educational goals. This is just what happened on May 10, 2014 at the John H. Daniel Campus of Southside Virginia Community College.
Dr. John Cavan presided over his final SVCC graduation recently and though it certainly is all about the students, this day was about him too. In his tenure, he has graduated more than 12,000 people and spent 31 years at the helm of SVCC.
During the event, Dr. Glenn DuBois, Chancellor for the Virginia Community College System, was the speaker and had the following to say about Dr. Cavan:
“If you are lucky, my friends, you will find mentors and people who inspire you throughout your life. I have. And if you will afford me just a moment of personal privilege, I want to tell you about one that is special to me.
The Importance of John Cavan
For this person, today’s commencement exercise is the final one of his presidency – a significant moment for a man who has loved this community and this college for years. In turn, they have loved him right back.
I am talking, of course, about Dr. John Cavan. Like me, John is a native of New York. That makes him a hybrid, meaning he operates with southern efficiency and northern charm.
You can search high and low, far and wide, and back again and never meet another person who takes the community college mission to heart the way that John Cavan does.
He once told me that he had a re-occurring nightmare – one that would wake him up at night in a cold sweat. Well, what is it, I asked?
Glenn, he said, I dreamed that I ran out of people to recruit to come to the community college. And he was dead serious.
John Cavan would tell you that only two type of people lived around here: Those who were students of this community college and those who someday will be.
John Cavan is enshrined in three different halls of fame for his success on the basketball court. He has competed 120 marathons over the course of his lifetime, including 18 Boston marathons and 29 New York City marathons. (In fact, I even have a picture in my office of him competing in a Richmond race while on crutches.)
But as passionate as John is about those hobbies, I have no doubt that he would stop any basketball game, that he would walk-off from any marathon course if it meant being able to inspire and convince just one more person to attend his college.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that, “It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be judged.”
By that standard, John, I believe that you are the single, greatest community college evangelist that I have ever known. For more than 30 years now, you have spread the word about “America’s Democracy Colleges.” You have inspired a “tradition of education” in more families than we can count. And you have done it all with a passion and energy that is second to none.”
Dr. Cavan will retire July 31, 2014.