A Tribute to Dr. Don Gehring
OCTOBER 9, 1937 – FEBRUARY 11, 2020
31st President (1980-1981) of the then Southern College Personnel Association (SCPA),
By Dr. Diane Waryold, Professor Appalachian State University &
SACSA Foundation Trustee
Thank you SACSA for providing the opportunity to share with you a tribute to Dr. Donald D. Gehring. I am honored to say a few words to memorialize Don. I have included a picture of a sunset on Clearwater Beach, Florida from Frenchy’s restaurant. Don traveled to Clearwater Beach for countless years as he founded and served as the 1st President of the Association for Student Judicial Affairs (ASJA), now ASCA – Association for Student Conduct Administration, in Clearwater. He “held court” at Frenchy’s on many occasions. Don was a ray of sunshine to many and had the following quote noted on his email correspondence.
“The sun is my greatest physician” ~Thomas Jefferson~
As we journey through life, it is important to reflect upon our joys and the special people that bring sunniness into our lives. Those we treasure and hold near and dear to our hearts. Don was amongst those that top my list. I so admired and loved this man. I am of the belief that the people that we meet during life’s journey, are the individuals that we are destined to meet. Don entered my life in the formative years of my career in student affairs. He was 22 years my senior and helped me to illuminate the passion I had discovered for student conduct and to discover talents that I never knew I had. I was just a few years post masters when I attended my first SACSA conference in 1986 as instructed to do so by Dr. Melvene Hardee. I had devoured several publications authored by Dr. Gehring including Administering College and University Housing: A Legal Perspective (1983) and was subscribed to The College Student and the Courts, D. Parker Young & Gehring (1973, 1977). I had an interest in exploring how the social forces of society impact student behavior on campus as evidenced by my first conference presentation on this subject at the 1988 SACSA conference. And thus, our common interests in student conduct and housing ignited the way of an enduring mentorship and friendship. As a young professional, I knew that I was experiencing some good fortune, but I did not recognize at the time the magnitude of this good fortune. My life has been changed in such profound ways by meeting Don Gehring and I consider our meeting one of life’s greatest blessings.
Don’s impact on the student affairs profession is extraordinary. He has been recognized by SACSA, ACUHO-I, ASCA, ACPA and NASPA. Some of his accolades include:
- 1987 - Melvene Draheim Hardee Award for Outstanding Contribution to Student Affairs Work in Higher Education
- 1993 - H. Howard Davis Award for Outstanding Service to the Association
- 1989 - S. Earl Thompson Award for Outstanding Contribution to College Housing by someone not directly related to housing.
- 1993 - Received the Talking Stick Article of the Year Award for the entry "Hate Speech, the First Amendment and Housing Policy”
- 1993 - Distinguished Service Award
- 1994 - The Association for Student Judicial Affairs renamed the annual Summer Judicial Affairs Training Institute the Donald D. Gehring Judicial Affairs Institute (now the ASCA Gehring Academy).
- 1997 - D. Parker Young Award for Outstanding Scholarly Contribution in the Area of Higher Education Law and Judicial Affairs
- 1991-1996 - Selected to serve as a Senior Scholar
- 1985 - Outstanding Contribution to Literature or Research
- 1990 - Robert H. Shaffer Award for Academic Excellence as a Graduate Faculty Member
Don’s significant involvement with SACSA includes the following:
- 1973- Nominating Committee
- 1974-1976 -Membership Committee
- 1978-1980 - Executive Council as Member-at Large
- 1979 - President-Elect
- 1980-81- President
- 1983-1987 - Associate Editor The College Student Affairs Journal
- 1987-1991 - Editor, The College Student Affairs Journal
- Editor, Special Journal Issue on Staff Development
- Many conference presentations throughout the years including a keynote address at the 2015 Greenville, SC conference.
Don was a gifted story teller and was instrumental in adding to the SACSA history and folklore pertaining to the story about the “Gavel and Gravel”. In 1978, there was a misprint in the conference program that spoke to the passing of the “gravel” instead of “gavel.” As President, Don capitalized on this and asked members of the Executive Council to bring a stone (gravel) from their representative state. To this day, when the SACSA President passes the gavel to signify a transition in leadership, the story of the gravel and gavel is shared with the membership as an important SACSA ritual (The Story of the “Gavel and Gravel”, author unknown & n.d).
In closing, as I prepared to author this missive, and to craft some words that I will share at Don’s memorial later this month, I asked some colleagues to provide words that come to mind when they think of Don. This Word Cloud (below) speaks volumes about Don as a quality person, passionate leader, and the impact he as a mentor had on so many.
As student affairs educators, we have an obligation to carry on the legacy of those who have graciously mentored us by providing a ray of sunshine as we work to impact and encourage students in positive ways. As Erik Erikson quoted, “I am what survives of me.” Well done Dr. Gehring!
Gehring, D. D. (1983). Administering college and university housing: A legal perspective. Asheville, N.C: College Administration Publications.
SACSA- The Story of the “Gavel and Gravel.” (n.d.).
Young, D. P., & Gehring, D. D. (1973 & 1977). The college student and the courts. Asheville: College administration publications.