Last week, one of the greatest men I knew passed away: Coach Vince Dooley, affectionately known by most as “Coach.”
There will be plenty written about this Auburn graduate who went on to be Head Coach at the University of Georgia. You’ll hear about a National Championship and the Hall of Fame. And when you get past the athletic accolades, you’ll learn about a true renaissance man: a marine, a master gardener, and a historian who audited classes for more than 40 years at UGA.
To me, he was all of that and more.
While an undergraduate, I met Coach Dooley for the first time when I was a part of a fundraiser at his home to support UGA HEROs. After graduation, when we launched Global LEAD, he made important connections for us and joined the first trip to South Africa. When Garrett and I Co-Founded ADDO, he was the first call. He supported the ADDO Gathering and joined us on an ADDO Ambassador trip to Cuba.
I learned a lot from Coach Dooley. It would be impossible to capture it all here, so I’ll share 3 of the greatest lessons he taught me, with his words and his example.
1. You’re never too big to serve. On our inaugural study abroad program to Cape Town, South Africa, students would take classes, participate in adventures like safaris and diving with Great White Sharks, and serve in impoverished areas. One morning the students were headed to paint a library in a local township. At 7:00 a.m., Coach Dooley was the first one in the lobby, wearing jeans and t-shirt, ready to go serve alongside the students. No one asked him to. We certainly didn’t expect it. But if there was an opportunity to help, he was going to take it.
2. Be an agent. The word agent means to work on behalf of others, and this marked Coach Dooley’s life. He leveraged his influence and relationships on behalf of others. When we needed help with global connections, he set up a meeting with Billy Payne (the man who brought the Olympics to Atlanta and was the Chairman of Augusta National.) When we were trying to do business with Chick-fil-A, he invited Garrett and I to a speech he was giving there, and personally introduced us to Truett and Dan Cathy. Most people are stingy with their connections. They hold them close to the chest. Not Coach Dooley. He was willing to work on behalf of others.
3. Never stop learning. In Coach Dooley’s home office was a framed quote from Michelangelo at 87 years old, which said, “I am still learning.” That’s how Coach approached life. When he and I were speaking together to a grocery wholesaler, Coach spent hours researching their business to better understand it. The last time I had dinner in Coach Dooley’s home was July of this year. Laura and I were headed to London the following week. Coach disappeared from dinner for 10 minutes and then returned with a book that he encouraged me to read. He shared about Churchill and WWII. His desire to keep learning inspired me.
What makes my relationship with Coach so special isn’t that it was particularly unique. His generosity toward me is how he was with countless individuals. However, he cared for me personally, as I and my wife Laura have cared deeply for him and Barbara all of these years. It’s difficult to express in words how much our relationship and his influence on my life means to me, but I hope these words encourage you to live your life with the kind of intentionality and purpose that marked Coach Dooley.