REMEMBERING WOODIE FLOWERS
It has taken me a bit to collect my thoughts on the recent passing of Woodie Flowers. When I originally set about to write about him, I was only emotionally charged. How can you not be if you were in his orbit?! Now, with some time passed, I have processed a bit to think of some of the most lasting memories, and more importantly, things I learned from him.
I remember him telling me the specifications he needed for his FRC kickoff speech back in 2000. He said that he needed a monitor, Mac Book, lavalier microphone, and a power strip to charge his drill. Me, thinking that he was simply standing at a podium to present in front of a thousand people was giving his thoughts and direction to the audience, didn’t understand Woodie fully yet. He was trying to teach his audience. The drill? He ended up proving to the audience that using a simple drill, you could move a 175-pound man up and down on his wood-built elevator. Quite a demonstration!
I was also standing with him and about 5 others that fateful moment on September 11, when we all learned about 911. It was hard to understand, and visualize. We were in a meeting and a little disheveled, and he said “Let’s all take a moment of silent meditation to collect our thoughts.” And then we all dispersed. Always in the moment, understanding his potential impact on others while considering how others felt.
I felt lucky when in a room full of people, he would make eye contact with me and always come to shake my hand and ask me what was new, where my travels had been, and what books I was reading. Of course, he would recommend books to me which I can’t remember how many of his recommendations I did read over the years. Sometimes, I felt like I was in the deep end of my intellect trying to comprehend the books he would recommend, but it was always worth the effort. Of course, I remember the times when it was just the two of us- once in a Chinese restaurant in Georgetown talking about geo-politics, and once in a restaurant in Cambridge where we talked about food and art. You always knew you were in a good conversation with Woodie when he would say “I would argue that…..”
Some of the things I admired about him, is that he was unabashedly smart- but didn’t assume anyone else he was talking to wasn’t. Woodie would also talk about Margaret like they were one in the same. A singular person- Woodie/Margaret. I loved that they were so right for each other. And she, just a gracious and kind to me as Woodie was. I also loved that Woodie was always interested in me first, when of course he had far more interesting things about him than I did about me. Truly gracious! I also loved that his public persona was exactly who he was. He wasn’t one person on the microphone and then another one on one. Usually when I would reflect on a conversation with Woodie, I would think “I never thought of that before”.
And after all of this reflection, I realize….I am not so unique. This is how he made everyone feel in his orbit.