On July 31, 2018, the student union and student activities profession lost an icon when Max Vest, longtime Director of Student Activities and the Tyler Haynes Commons at the University of Richmond, passed away. While many of us knew Max as a light-hearted, super-involved professional who had an overwhelming need to have the latest technology before anyone else, I think I knew him a bit more in-depth, having been his Assistant Director for two years directly out of graduate school, and I saw his deep commitment to bettering his chosen field, to fostering young professionals who would one day be leaders in this field, and to consistently fighting for the betterment and improvement of the student experience at UR and beyond. Yes, I saw Max as a MENTOR of the highest order.
We are all destined to lose someone who means a great deal to us in our profession, so how do we cope with that kind of loss? Do we mourn and grieve? Of course we do. Do we erect statues and plaques, or dedicate awards and scholarships, to commemorate their accomplishments? Seems feasible and practical. But what would they, our mentors, and, in this case, Max, want us to do? Without much ado or fluff, I sincerely believe he would want us to PAY IT FORWARD, to become the mentor that he was to us, to champion new professionals and those who aspire to our profession, and be a living embodiment of service, kindness, generosity, humor, and gentility. I know that’s what Max would want me to do, and I believe that’s what your mentor would want you to do, too, in the same situation. Don’t we owe it to them to comply?
Max would never want to be identified as an icon, by any stretch of the imagination, as he was much too humble for that, but when I was looking for jobs at the end of my graduate career, that was exactly how I saw him in relation to student activities. He was the guru, the expert, the hall of famer in my book. Working for him and learning from him for those two short years would be an honor, beginning a career of my own that is touching now on 30 years. As I watched his career progress through to his retirement a few years ago, I never forgot the times that, even as former Chair of the NACA Board of Directors and general “bigwig” in our field, Max volunteered to coordinate the Dance Showcase at a regional NACA conference or to host half of a regional ACUI conference when it came to Richmond. Yes, he was never too big to do the little things for anyone who asked, and for that, I will always be in awe of this workhorse of a man.
Rest in peace, Max Vest, because you deserve it. I know you are dancing your way through the pearly gates, laser pointer in hand, ready to volunteer on the other side, too! I only hope I can pay your memory forward back here, and be the kind of mentor you showed me how to be. May we all do the same.