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BILL CRAWFORD — We need more servant-leaders like Dr. Bill Scaggs

BILL CRAWFORD

Despite our torrid culture today, servant leaders still work to make our lives better.

It’s a respite amidst the yammering bloggers, tweeters, and talking heads when local media like this take the opportunity to tell us about their many acts of kindness, charity, and courage.

We should also pause and reflect upon what motivates these generous spirits. The best sources for that remain the Bible and the pulpit. Pastors implore us to serve and to learn from Matthew 10:43-45, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Then, there are leadership organizations dedicated to servant-leadership. “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong,” teaches the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership. “The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”

Such a leader was Dr. William F. “Bill” Scaggs who passed away two weeks ago at age 84.

Most Mississippi community college leaders knew Dr. Scaggs, because he taught, mentored, and worked with them. Over 35 years he built Meridian Community College from a 13th grade at Meridian High School into a highly successful college. He passed on his experiences and servant-leadership ways by teaching for years in the Community College Leadership doctoral program at Mississippi State University, providing a quiet voice of wisdom many presidents relied upon, and personally counseling and nurturing upcoming college leaders.

In Meridian, Dr. Scaggs was appreciated not only for his successes as college president but also for his work as community leader, innovator, mentor, and teacher. I doubt anyone knows how many initiatives he helped start and successfully develop because he never sought the spotlight. I worked closely with him for over 35 years and cannot tell you. He saw his servant’s mission as one of developing program ownership and leadership in others.

His was also the wise and deliberate voice calmly mentoring local officials, legislators, educators, philanthropists, civic leaders, and agency heads.

He and wife Sally were mainstays in the Episcopal Church of the Mediator and the Diocese of Mississippi.

Dr. Scaggs retired from MCC in 1998. He remained active over the next 20 years in various leadership roles, much of that as president, board member, and program coordinator at The Montgomery Institute in Meridian. Through this affiliation he influenced hundreds of community, school, college, and workforce leaders across East Mississippi and West Alabama and co-founded an after-school program for young people most dear to his heart, the Meridian Freedom Project.

The above description does little justice to a life filled with sterling accomplishments. But, what made Bill Scaggs truly extraordinary was not what he did but how he did it, with a spirit of love, kindness, forbearance, gentleness, self-control, goodness, peace, joy, and faithfulness. That was the Bill Scaggs I knew, respected, and loved, a brilliant but humble servant exemplifying the “fruit of the Sprit” (Galatians 5:19-23).

We need more like him.

» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.

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