Sam Harrelson

Sam Harrelson

My Hero: Prof Larry McGehee

To me, Larry McGehee is Wofford College.

This morning, Rion called me and said “we were waking up in a world without Larry.” It still hasn’t hit me yet, but that’s tough. I’m not sure when it will hit me.

As a little bit of background, Larry McGehee was the quirky professor/teacher/friend/mentor/hero that you always see in the movies but never meet in real life. And when you did meet him, you never got past the sly grin and warm heart. His office was a safe haven for the misfits, troublemakers, rabble rousers, jocks, geeks, dorks, eggheads, frat boys, Bible thumpers and homecoming queens.

I’ve often wondered what the Kingdom of God might look like here on earth. Little did I know it was there in Larry’s upstairs office in the Papadopoulos Building. With images of Shaker art and pictures with students over the years (not to mention the books… all the books), his little office was not of this world.

Larry was known for his poignant yet whimsical writing as well as his madras jackets (especially among the students of his Religion 340 class of which I was honored to be a part):

One of my favorite sides of Larry was his interaction with students on Facebook. Up until the end, he was there with a tongue-in-cheek:

“Oct 10: Larry is notiicing that 80% of the Wofford students have more travel experience than Sarah Palin!”

I also loved Larry for his amazing ability to synthesize religion, politics and history. Beyond his SouthernSeen collection, nowhere is that more apparent than in these three Amazon reviews he did.

I traded emails with Larry just a few days ago after I found an 8 year old stack of emails between us that I had printed out. I had just moved to New Haven, CT to start my first year at Yale and wound up living across the street from where he and Betsy lived when they were in New Haven. Larry was the absolute reason I went to Yale. Those emails are absolute treasures. We both had a good laugh about them.

Larry passed on to me a number of things over the years between books, banners, ideas, optimisms and hugs. The one thing I’ll cherish the most is the knowledge that he was always there with a sly grin and open car door to a meal at Ike’s. He still is.

Love you much, Larry.

Posted: 10.26.2008

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