The following is a transcript of President Dennis King's address given at the dedication of the Don C. Locke Library on October 17, 2016.
In Act 5 of Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony speaks these words over the body of the assassinated Brutus:
He was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, “This was a man.”
Five hundred years earlier, Shakespeare might have had Don Locke in mind as he wrote these words: This was indeed a man! Don embodied much of what we value as universally good. He was an intellectual who valued education, as exemplified by his years of service to North Carolina State University, UNC- Asheville, and most recently, to A-B Tech. The graduate students whom he shepherded through to doctoral degrees remember him as a caring, nurturing individual who prodded, encouraged, and drove them through to graduation. One called him an unforgettable mentor. Another said, “I would not have graduated if it were not for Don.”
But Don’s greatest loyalty was not to teaching; it was to the issues of equality and brotherhood. It is not an exaggeration to say that he dedicated his life to these noble aspirations for the good of society as a whole. His writings-- which are considerable and which are archived in the library we dedicate to him today-- share this common theme: We are all equal in the eyes of the law, the Constitution, and, most importantly, in the eyes of our Maker. And as a corollary to that principle, those of us who have much, must share our talents and treasure with those who have little. Don believed this and lived it until the end.
Don was always teaching the principles of equality and brotherhood, even outside the classroom. So when A-B Tech selected me as its new president in 2014, Don sought to stretch and sensitize me by taking me-- at his own expense-- to a play in Chicago, entitled Amazing Grace, dealing with the life of the reformed slave trader who wrote the hymn, in part to expiate his past. As the entire audience stood and sang Amazing Grace at the finale, Don, Marjorie, and I held hands and hugged. The emotions were dynamic, powerful, and unforgettable. That evening, I began to understand Don Locke.
A few months ago, I attended the Asheville Lyric Opera’s production of The Man of La Mancha. It is the story of the idealistic Don Quixote who wanted to purify a bleak and sorrowful world. As I listened to the “show stopper”, Don Locke immediately came to mind. I expect you will have the same experience as you listen now to faculty member, Jonathan Ross, accompanied by administrator Brinda Caldwell on the piano.
“The Impossible Dream”
While not presently attained, Don’s dream of equality and brotherhood is one we can all share in order to make Asheville, North Carolina, and our nation better places for all of humanity. I paraphrase the lyrics now: Don’s heart does indeed lie peaceful and calm as he is laid to his rest. And the world is better for this, that he, sometimes scorned and reviled, still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the radiant stars of equality and brotherhood.