With plenty of differences between them,
a former president and a former GSC student had compassion in common..
David Coyle ’81
year was 1979: Jimmy Carter was President, American hostages had
been held in Iran for months, inflation was rampant, disco infused
the culture and we were upset that the price of gas had hit a dollar
I arrived at Glassboro State in August to complete my degree, got
myself settled in a Crossings apartment and became familiar with
the campus. Being a communications major, I noticed the college radio
station and spent a great deal of time there over the next two years
as a disc jockey and newscaster.
Fast forward 10 years. I moved to the San Francisco Bay area. After
the big earthquake in October, I decided to become more involved
helping the community and took a marketing position with the local
United Way. In July 1991, I worked on a project securing celebrity
endorsements for a United Way campaign, writing to dozens of celebrities
with ties to California, hoping to get a few to provide public service
spots for the state’s radio stations. I began to get tapes
from the likes of singer Eddie Money, test pilot General Chuck Yeager,
guitarist Robert Cray, weatherman Willard Scott and TV’s Batman,
One day I received a call from former President Reagan’s office
in Los Angeles inviting me to record some spots. During the ’50s
and ’60s, he had made speaking appearances on behalf of United
Way and other community causes. He was glad to pitch in again. On
the morning of August 8, 1991, I headed to Los Angeles with United
Way Executive Vice President Carl Ware.
We took an elevator to the top floor of the office building and were
escorted into the conference room. It was impressive, with photos
of the President with heads of state and dignitaries lining the walls.
The picture window at one end had a sweeping view of the adjoining
20th Century Fox movie lot.
Mr. Reagan entered from his adjoining office with a broad smile.
At 80, he looked more his age in person than he appeared in the media.
True to his reputation, he was friendly, humorous and willing to
After introductions, he sat at one end of the long conference table
in front of the microphone and we rolled tape. His experience as
a sportscaster, actor, two-term governor and two-term president showed
as he nailed each spot in a single take. We then had just enough
time for a brief photo session.
Several weeks later I sent an 8 x 10 photo from the meeting to Reagan’s
office for his signature. Within a week, the signed photo was returned
to me. Now, 13 years later, watching his state funeral on television,
I still recall the events of that day with clarity and a smile.
I have fond memories of my GSC years and, as Reagan was elected President
then, I closely associate him with my college experience and the
news events that defined those years. I still find it somewhat surreal
that our varied interests in community service crossed paths on that
day. No matter how important or busy we become, it is more important
to take a few minutes to show compassion for others, regardless of
our politics. Thanks, Gipper.
David Coyle is Western States Director for Global Impact, an alliance
of international human-itarian aid organizations. He lives
in Pleasanton, California.