“I occasionally daydream about winning the lottery and using the money to shore up support for international students and contribute to other worthy causes crippled by the pandemic.” Hugh McGuigan
With VU professor Liz Wuerffel and Welcome Project assistant and filmmaker Carmen Vincent videotaping, I interviewed Hugh McGuigan at his Valparaiso home. For a quarter-century McGuigan directed Valparaiso University’s Global Education program, both for VU students seeking to study overseas and international students from all over the world, including Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, Bolivia, China, Mexico, and elsewhere. A large proportion enrolled in the VU’s Engineering program and, almost without exception, excelled academically.
Hugh grew up in Minnesota and after graduating from college and a stint in the army, he continued his education while working in international programs. He came to VU from Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, after meeting future wife Sandy, who worked at the university. He built up the program to such an extent that when he semi-retired (he still helps out and occasionally teaches a course), it took two full-time administrators to replace him. McGuigan was particularly proud of international programs that involved the community, including an annual celebration of diverse cultures that involved entertainment and exotic cuisine to which local schools and civic groups were welcome. Hugh often spoke to clubs such as the Rotary and Kiwanis about global education opportunities and involved local eateries such as Don Quijote in providing food for special occasions. He was particularly passionate in arguing that we all are global citizens and that cultural exchange is invaluable for promoting international understanding and civility. Afterwards we enjoyed blueberry muffins that wife Sandy had made, and they told us about a Thanksgiving dinner where they hosted 18 international faculty and their families, including young children, giving rides to those without cars, picking up dinners at Strongbow’s Restaurant, and explaining the various traditional holiday foods, such as turkey (most guests favored the dark meat) and cranberries (one guest poured gravy on his and seemed to enjoy it – I like turkey gravy on anything). Afterwards, Liz and I commiserated that the anecdote wasn’t on tape, but we plan on interviewing Sandy at a later date.
Hugh McGuigan and I both attended Saturday Evening Club (me via zoom since Alissa and Beth were visiting for the weekend). Speaking from Florida was former IUN medical school director Pat Bankston on the need for humility, civility, and reason in our present polarized age of rampant tribalism. He began with the Charles Dickens quote from “A Tale of Two Cities,” that this was the best of times (i.e., rapid development of the anti—COVID vaccine) and the worst of times (some Republicans making vaccine and mask mandates a partisan issue). Bankston quoted a former SEC member who repeatedly claimed that we were going to hell in a hand basket. He used the phrase “exhausted majority” to describe those like himself tired of the vulgar and overheated political rhetoric. The phrase reminded me of Nixon’s use of “silent majority” a half—century ago, but when it came my time to speak I noted that despite efforts by Trump and his minions to demonize anyone who disagrees with them, more unites Americans than divides us. I concluded, “Count me among the exhausted majority.”