The Grateful Dad

GSU BrochureLittle did I know how a lunch at Dreamland BBQ would set off a series of moments that would significantly alter the life of our son. It simply started as two friends enjoying some pulled pork and ended with….well, it hasn’t ended.

Jim Barber, of M3 Companies, was the tenant representative for our insurance firm. He had brokered a great deal for our lease, and thereafter I often called on him to assist with reviewing charges from the landlord and other tenant surprises that made their way to my desk. Jim and I developed a friendship that extended beyond business. Our friendship led to occasional lunch meetings at Dreamland where we shared business, faith, family and college football; It didn’t matter he favored “War Eagle” and I, “Roll Tide.”

On this particular day as we were sharing updates on our family, I casually mentioned how my son appeared to be losing his zeal for school. As a sophomore at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta, Seth had recently conveyed he was having a difficult time staying motivated in his pursuit of a major in Hospitality. He wasn’t getting much direction, wasn’t sure what classes he needed to take and was feeling lost. I “happened” to share Seth’s frustration with Jim. Who surprised me by saying, “I’ll mention it to Diana.” Diana was Jim’s wife and, unbeknown to me, “happened” to be a full-time Senior Lecturer at the School of Hospitality Administration at GSU. College—life!–would never be the same for Seth.

The Tipping Point

I remember the excitement in Seth’s voice as he phoned to tell me about his conversation with Dr. Barber. Suddenly he had a renewed interest in school and was excited about Hospitality. Dr. Barber explained which courses he needed and how to get the best out of his time at GSU.

Over the next three years he soaked in the instruction led by Dr. Barber and Dr. Debby Cannon, Director of the School of Hospitality. Working his way through school within the hospitality industry, he was able to immediately put their teaching into practice and experience real-life examples of the principles being taught. Several times he would call and tell me how the very concepts being taught in class were point-on with what he was experiencing in his job at Houston’s.

Classes led by Drs. Barber and Cannon gave the students opportunity to hear from some of the industry’s best, including Ritz Carlton’s Horst Schulze. Seth, along with fellow students, took advantage of international trips to see some of the highest quality hotels around the world where they were able to learn best practices in the industry.  (It’s no wonder why Georgia State’s Hospitality Program is one of the best in the world.) Further opportunity was given to the students to experience the industry from both the consumer and provider side through a “sleepover” at the Grand Hyatt in Atlanta, an experience that put Seth on track for starting his career with Hyatt.

sethShortly after meeting Seth, and knowing he was working his way through school, Dr. Barber provided Seth with the opportunity for a leadership role on an upcoming international trip. In exchange for fulfilling the responsibilities, Seth was given a discounted rate on the trip. It was this type of sensitivity to his needs, and recognizing his enthusiasm for the industry, that gave me great admiration for Dr. Barber.

To supplement his education, Seth was later given greater opportunity to interact with Drs. Barber and Cannon as he served two years as the President of the GSU Chapter of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, (AH&LA). Here, he received further leadership training and was able to represent the University in various Hotel Industry student gatherings which took him to New York City and to Lausanne, Switzerland for the Young Hoteliers Summit.

Affirmation can be motivating; and Seth was affirmed. There were numerous phone calls  in which he would recount some encouraging word or email he received from his professors. This affirmation and encouragement further fueled his drive to exceed in school and work.

Thankful for Those in our Village

Jim Barber, Dr. Diana Barber, Seth, & Dr. Debby Cannon

Jim Barber, Dr. Diana Barber, Seth, & Dr. Debby Cannon

This week Seth is set to graduate from GSU with a degree in Hospitality. Upon graduation he moves to Washington D.C. where he will begin a management program with Hyatt. We are proud of our son and grateful for the diligent effort he put into his education and on-the-job training, working his way through school. Yet, we have others to thank for their role in preparing him for the next phase of life.

Being grateful for the people in our Village who have certainly contributed to his development, this past week Julie and I had the opportunity to meet Drs. Cannon and Barber for lunch. It was an honor for us to personally thank them for their remarkable contribution to our son’s education and growth. Not only do they have expertise in the subject matter, but they take personal interest in their students—desiring their success and achievement. Their commitment to their students is laudable.

Thank you Lord

It was gratifying to know that I could be a part of a connection to help my son through school. Yet, ultimately, I know my lunch conversation with Jim was no accident or happenstance. I often thank God for how He directed that noontime conversation.

Like many parents, I regularly pray for my children—not knowing how God may respond. Sometimes I see God’s obvious hand, at other times it is not so clear. In this story I am certainly overwhelmed by God’s graciousness in leading in the life of our son.

The Moral of the Story

Finally, in case you missed the moral of this story, let me make it clear: Never pass up the opportunity for BBQ at Dreamland.


For another story from the life of Seth, take a look at The Stranger at Six Flags.


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