Omega Mu Voice
James D. McLean, Jr.,
On the remembrance side, one very telling incident was during John _______ presidency. In those days it was customary for national fraternities' visiting field secretaries to visit with the University President. At the time it was Winthrop C. Libby., and the field Secretary was Barry Mees, a great guy and fresh out of a Canadian university. He had all the positivity and enthusiasm of a new puppy under the Christmas tree.
I was utilized as the house "fixer" for campus issues. If something outrageous happened in regards to the brotherhood, he always said, "Find McLean, put a tie on him and tell him to find the person who can make this go away."
Recognizing that Field Secretary and the university president in the same room dynamic had all the potential to be a lot like open gas valve and match in the same room, I was delegated by John to escort Barry to the meeting. Libby, a great guy, and about as dry a Mainer as you could find, looked an awful lot like Abe Lincoln with a shave. When we walked into his office his six foot six or so lanky frame was slouched in one chair with one of his feet up on another chair and his hands were high-steepled in front of his non-smiling mouth. He managed to move just enough to shake hands with Barry, without rising. Barry was filled with positivity and new-guy enthusiasm.
President Winthrop C. Libby
The conversation, to the best of my memory went as follows:
Barry, "Hi President Libby it is a real honor to be visiting the U of Maine and its very historic chapter of Phi Gamma Delta. I am Barry Mees, Field Secretary for Phi Gamma Delta. I am a recent graduate of (I forget which school, but I believe it was the University of Western Ontario). So what do you think of Phi Gamma Delta at U Maine? Barry was as animated and leaning forward as Libby was leaning back and unresponsive in a manner that would do the Sphinx proud.
Libby, (through steepled hands and with no sign of warmth) "Well. Mistah Mees (pregnant pause)....... "That is a COMPLICATED question".......... pregnant pause as Barry leaned forward in positive anticipation)..........."On one hand, Mistah Mees".......... pregnant pause as Barry leans even more forward and Libby slumps even more backward........ as individuals, they ahhh the most TALENTED group of people I have ever seen on this campus........... (if Barry had a tail, it would have been wagging at the speed of sound)........ "but"
"Libby slumps even more backward........ as individuals, they ahhh the most TALENTED group of people I have ever seen on this campus..........."but"
"but" ........ (looooong pregnant pause)............ "collectively, they ah my wust nightmayuh (Barry looks like he has just witnessed a triple homicide), then, with no pause pregnant or otherwise Libby puts both feet on the floor and leans forward into Barry and says, "what can you do Mistuh Mees to pull theyuh chahtuh.......)
At this point Barry looks like the fourth homicide victim, and I know he isn't, but I am..............
Libby stands up and pointedly offers his hand and thanks Barry for visiting, signaling that the meeting is over.
It was a long walk back to the Castle, and I was effuting bullshit as quick as I could think it up, ie. "Barry you gotta understand, Win Libby is a real Mainer..... they are always pulling your leg and doing it with a straight face..... BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, (improvise), BLAH BLAH, "If he didn't love us he wouldn't be kidding us......"
"It was a long walk back to the Castle."
Jim McLean, back turned, left; relaxing with a coed, right.
I went back to see Dr. Libby about a week later, and as tactfully as I could, asked him what was on his mind and why did he conduct the meeting in that way."
He grinned, patted me on the shoulder and said, "I'm an educatah and I thought that young Canadian fellah needed to luhn that the world can be a hahd place. Take the stahch out a bit, so to speak......I also wanted to push you along a bit. I am quite amused by yoah ability to talk yoah way outta just about anything, and thought you might luhn from a bit of a challenge......."
Libby "Is Mistah Mees gone?"
Libby: ...and I see yoah lights ah still on?"
Me "Yessir, Mr. President, sir......."
Libby (laughing) "Then I guess we both did owa job. Good day, Mistah McLean.”
Libby (laughing) "Then I guess we both did owa job.
Good day, Mistah McLean.”
“What if the space be long and wide,
That parts us from our brother’s side
A soul-joined chain unites our band,
And memory links us hand in hand.”
(Phi Gamma Delta fraternity song)
Chip Chapman, ’82