by Forrest Wayne Schultz
Anne got right to the point: she urgently needed me to find an endangered friend; she would immediately give me $10,000 just to listen to what she had to say; she would then give me an additional $100,000 if I tried to find him; and she would give me an additional $1,000,000 if I succeeded in finding him before he died. (Anne is one of the wealthiest people around here.) I immediately agreed to help because Anne is one of my best friends. Anne does not hesitate to ask her friends for help if she needs it and she insists on expressing her appreciation for the help you give her. Judging by the dollar amounts, this must be someone really important to her.
After hanging up the phone I got dressed and awaited Anne's arrival. She had called me on her cell phone on her way to my house to pick me up. She knows that because of my poor night vision I do not drive my car on the country roads around here after dark. After she picked me up she told me the gist of the situation as we drive to the home of our mutual friends, Linda & Sam, who own one of the finest mansions in Newnan. It turns out that the missing man is Linda's brother Joe, a lifelong bachelor, who came to live with them about a year ago after he retired from his engineering career. And, the reason they are frantic is that they believe that Joe ran away in order to commit suicide.
When Linda & Sam got home that day they found a letter to them from Joe, which sounded like his swan song to them. In it he implied that he had gone away to end his life. Anne came over and cried with them but then suddenly changed her demeanor and dramatically announced: "Forrest will know how to find him"! She said she could not explain HOW she knew this but she was absolutely sure of it.
At first I had serious doubts about what I could do because I did not know the man (or so I thought) and there wasn't anything they told me about him that clicked until they said he had graduated from Drexel, which is also my alma mater. Then it all came back: very suddenly and very forcefully.
One day (45 years ago) while we were freshman students Joe told me (and he was completely serious) that if ever in the years ahead he decided to commit suicide he would do it on the afternoon of Founders Day. And immediately before doing it he would stand at the south end of the Great Court and when the Clock above him showed 12 Noon he would face toward the bust of Founder Anthony J. Drexel (positioned on the landing on the north side of the Court) and give him a reverent and hearty goodbye salute. Joe greatly appreciated Drexel and Anthony J. for founding it and he felt he should show this gratitude to him before he "shuffled off this mortal coil". As I looked at the calendar, I realized we would have to hurry: Founders Day was tomorrow!!
When Joe and I matriculated in September 1957 it was called Drexel Institute of Technology. Since our graduation it has grown considerably and is now called Drexel University . During our student years there almost all of the classes were held in the Main Building . The Main Building consisted of the original (four story) building, on the northeast corner of 32nd and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia , plus the additions built onto to it along Chestnut Street which resulted in a building approximately a block long. The original building was constructed in a beautiful Victorian style in1891, the year Drexel was founded. The Great Court has a very large square floor located approximately in the center of the original building on the first floor surrounded by open space on the first floor and by balconies which overlook it on the second, third, and fourth floors. At the time I was there the Great Court was the hub of the campus and was so large that it plus the surrounding space plus the balcony space could accommodate almost the whole student body. And one of the favorite places to arrange to meet someone was under The Clock on the south side of the Court. Most of the north side of the Court on the first floor is taken up by three stairways: a central stairway that descends to the basement flanked by two stairways which ascend to a landing approximately 2/3rds of the way up toward the second floor. It is on this landing that the bust of Our Founder, Anthony J. Drexel is located.
I needed to explain all of this to Linda, Sam, and Anne because none of them had ever been on the Drexel campus, and, in fact, they had only ever visited Philadelphia one time, and that was to see the Liberty Bell. We agreed that we would need to fly to Philly as soon as we could the following morning to get to Drexel in time to stop Joe before he made his salute to the Founder in the Great Court at 12 Noon . Sam is an almost-retired business executive who still has access to the corporate jet of his company. He made the arrangements for us to use it first thing in the morning to fly to Philly on our rescue mission. We would take with us the corporate limo which we would then use to drive to the Drexel campus, in order to avoid having to rent a car. Although it had been many years since I had lived in Philly, I still remembered the main roads and streets and knew exactly which ones to take to get from the airport where we would land to the Drexel campus. After we landed and got into the limo to head for Drexel I used Sam's cell phone to call the Drexel Alumni Office and arranged for permission to park in one of the University parking lots near the Main Building . The Alumni Office periodically calls the alumni and I had always found them to be very nice: they were this time also.
Now came the tricky part. We arrived at the Great Court at 10:44 AM, which was well in advance of 12 Noon, but we did not know exactly when Joe would arrive in the Court and from what direction he would enter it. We wanted to be able to see him coming without him seeing us. Just as we had figured out how to position ourselves to watch the area near The Clock, I suddenly remembered something else. (Being back on the campus, in fact, brought back a lot of memories.) I recalled that Joe had said he would make his farewell salute dressed just like he was, which was in his Drexel Jacket, which was dark blue with the word "DREXEL" in gold on the back. (The style has changed since then.) So I told them what to look for. I had no sooner done so than Joe walked up the steps from the basement clad in his old Drexel jacket and began looking around the Great Court . This was at 11:01 AM .
Anne was the first to see and approach him and he likewise saw her first. He was thoroughly astonished. "Anne, what are you doing here" he shouted! Then he croaked, barely audibly, "Linda, Sam, what….?", as he saw them coming toward him. When he was about to faint, I approached him and slapped him back into alertness with my greeting, "So, Joe, you came to say goodbye to Our Founder, did you? Well, now, I don't believe he would approve of the way you plan to "shuffle off your mortal coil", would he? Doing that would bring dishonor to him, wouldn't it? After all, you ARE a Drexel alumnus! Do you think he would want to read 'Drexel Alumnus Commits Suicide'? Let's go back to Jawjuh now and when it is your NATURAL time to go, we will bring you back here and then you can make your farewell with honor!"
Joe, Anne, Linda, & Sam are fictional and are not based on any real persons.
However, Drexel and Newnan are real and what is said about them here is true, and native Georgians pronounce the name of their state "Jawjuh". Newnan is located along Interstate 85 approximately one hour south of Atlanta and is known for its mansions and other beautiful homes and it is reached from my house by driving over country roads. I am grateful for the many interesting experiences I have had here in Coweta County as well as for the many interesting ones I had at Drexel. F. S.
Forrest Wayne Schultz graduated from Drexel in 1963 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. He has lived in Coweta County , GA since 1991. He is an active member of the Coweta Writers Group, serving as its delegate to the Newnan-Coweta Arts Council.