This past week was a wonderful celebration of the spirit and passion of the All Saints Episcopal School community. We had wonderful ways to share in the fun with students each day culminating in the amazing Homecoming Parade and festivities this weekend. Last Thursday we started a new tradition with a student picnic in memory of Mr. Jeff Buford. It was such a great time for fellowship, friends, and fun. Mr. Buford was a dedicated champion of our school and tireless supporter of student engagement. He would have been pleased with the time together.
As we prepare for another wonderful celebration with Founders Day 2021 I reflect on the importance of this occasion. From its humble beginnings, All Saints Episcopal School has, over the years, grown into a nationally recognized institution. The growth and development mirrors the kind of transformation that All Saints has made possible for generations of its graduates. Founder’s Day is a time to pause and remember with pride the vision of our founders and to pick up the flame for future generations.
This year our Founders Day will be even more special as we dedicate the annual event in honor of Mr. Buford. I thought it fitting to include some remarks I have shared previously regarding his influence and legacy for All Saints Episcopal School.
Isaac Newton wrote in a 1675 letter “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Today All Saints Episcopal School enjoys record enrollment on a campus with incredible views across 150+ acres, with innovative learning opportunities that have gained national recognition. However, it hasn’t always been as it is now. Our current reality started out as a dream in the mid-1970s amongst some incredible parents and community leaders with audacious dreams. Their dream was to create a school that was an exemplar for education in East Texas. These pioneers persevered through major obstacles and with each iteration could see a little further and have propped up future generations to, in turn, stand on their shoulders.
One of the “Giants” of All Saints Episcopal School is Mr. Jeff Buford. In the early days of the school Mr. Buford was among the most audacious dreamers in regard to the future of our school. He was so passionate about the purpose and promise our school could have in the lives of children, their parents, our teachers, our community and our world. He was involved with every critical turn in the early days and regardless of the sacrifice always demanded anonymity.
As he shared with me in one of our first meetings as I came to All Saints in 2016, he told me he would support the school, and me, in every way he could but he wanted me to know that all he did was “for the spirit and never for the ego.”
Mr. Buford became a fountain of inspiration and encouragement for me, as he had for every Head of School before me. He chose what to say, and when to say it carefully. And, when he spoke...everyone listened. He was one of the most innovative and well-read people I have ever met. He was passionate about serving others and sharing wisdom.
He shared countless books that he thought might inspire others and broaden our thinking with one caveat to “pass it on when you're done.” Additionally, for years he gifted each All Saints graduate with a book to start their new adventure...of course in anonymity. I never left a conversation, regardless of the length, without something to take-away and ponder. He regularly reminded the board and leadership of All Saints the gift we had but yet the responsibility “to steer above the storm” and “teach by doing.” He taught me so much about true leadership, service, and humility.
As I think about Mr. Buford’s emphasis on sharing and passion on inspiration I think about an inward spiritual truth he so revered. This spiritual truth was eloquently explained by the Apostle Paul in the early days of the church, as he addressed a group of motley and sometimes confused, but courageous men and women of Galatia:
Don’t be misled: no one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others - harvests a crop of weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life. So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t quit or give up.
The tremendous impact All Saints has in our community is one of the crops now in harvest from the seeds Mr. Buford dutifully planted. However, the harvest will continue as those inspired by his life spread similar seeds of leadership, service, and humility that will impact generations to come. I am daily reminded of the lessons I learned from Mr. Buford and those I am still learning from him as I watch the many fruits of his labor.
As the days pass, the legacy of Mr. Buford just keeps getting taller. I will forever hear Mr. Buford's voice encouraging us and saying “climb up and look out to the future.” It is our challenge to boldly vision opportunities in front of us and to see further, not merely as far as before.