MILLIGAN COLLEGE –– Laughter brought on by fond memories punctuated the memorial service held Friday for Milligan College’s 14th president Donald R. Jeanes, who died Monday morning at age 66.
Milligan President Bill Greer, who succeeded Jeanes, spoke fondly of the man he considered his friend and mentor and whose legacy he said would forever be synonymous with the college in a celebration of life service held at the school’s Seeger Memorial Chapel Friday afternoon.
“Don touched the lives of thousands,” Greer said shortly after the service began at 1 p.m.
Jeanes was president of Milligan from October 1997 until his retirement in July 2011. Jeanes succeeded Marshall Leggett as Milligan’s president. Leggett gave the benediction at the service Friday.
Greer recalled a humourous story about he and Jeanes being stuck in traffic on the interstate one time. Jeanes, apparently determined to not be late getting home, put their vehicle into four-wheel-drive and pulled into the median of the interstate, across a hill and through a grove of trees to get them both home sooner.
The crowd laughed at Jeanes’ driving.
“Don was my friend, my mentor, my confidant as he was to many of you, and I will miss him,” Greer said, turning solemn again.
People began filing into the sanctuary before 12:30 p.m. Friday as Milligan professor of music David Runner played the organ.
A large screen above the lecturn displayed various pictures from Jeanes’ life: him graduating from school, getting married to his wife of 42 years Clarinda, working outside in the dirt, reviewing papers at a desk or smiling while surrounded by his family.
Hundreds of friends who knew Jeanes attended the service.
Milligan student Danica Collins spoke after Greer, telling everyone in attendance that the student body thought highly of Jeanes and his wife Clarinda who sat in the audience.
She said Jeanes had style and class, knew what to say and was always very kind. He pushed the students to always do good in class, for the community and for God, she said. Collins said the Jeaneses were strong examples to the student body of how to behave.
He also knew how to properly wear a polo shirt, she joked to more laughter from the audience.
“He demonstrated how to fulfill Milligan’s mission statement on how to become a servant leader,” Collins said.
Jeanes’ friend Mike Alread said it was hard to know where to begin describing Jeanes’ life.
“You could pick any area of Don’s life and we would be here talking about it until the cows came home,” Alread said.
Alread met Jeanes in Georgia, at Atlanta Christian College in the late 1970s. They immediately became friends. He said Jeanes was his professor, his tennis coach, a mentor, his pastor, his employer and neighbor.
He too told a humorous story, about Jeanes playing golf one day. After a particularly determined swing teeing off, Jeanes asked Alread if he saw his ball, to which Alread replied the ball was still at Jeanes’ feet.
Alread said he once saw a bumper sticker that encouraged people to live a good life so preachers don’t have to lie at your funeral.
“We don’t have to make stuff up about Don,” Alread said, adding the man lived a Christian life.
When another of Jeanes’ friends, Jim Pierson, got up to speak he also talked of the Christian example set by the former president.
“My friends, Don leaves a legacy of a well-lived life,” Pierson said. “In a word, he influenced all of us for good. The principals that guided him were based on the scripture.”
Gene Wigginton, another of Jeanes’ friends who spoke Friday, first saw and heard him at a youth event in Georgia where Jeanes was speaking. Jeanes was young at this time and Wigginton remembered thinking Jeanes was a good guy and he would be interested to see how his career went.
Besides being president of Milligan, Jeanes’ life included being minister, a member of many boards, chaplain, professor, administrator, husband and father. He was also a Christian, Wigginton said.
“He loved God,” Wigginton said. “When it comes to Don Jeanes, I think my first impression was pretty accurate: This is a good guy.”