For the first time since the spring of 2004 I do not have a child who is a student at the University of Georgia. Danger is done — the third and final Huckaby child to earn the right to walk proudly through the Arch on North Campus instead of around it. Dang, it has been a short decade.
“Danger” would be Jenna Elizabeth Huckaby, the free spirit of the Huckaby clan — the one-time Queen of the Teenage Eye-roll — and the person responsible for most of the gray hair in my beard.
Jenna was accepted as an early-admit at Georgia a little over four years ago. That’s not an easy thing. My acceptance letter to UGA came addressed to Darrell Huckaby or current occupant. That’s not how it works now. There was only one problem. Jenna insisted that she wasn’t going to college. She already knew everything, so why waste time on a degree.
She wanted to go to Peru and be a missionary — and it would only cost me $14,000 a year. Luckily for Jenna, UGA, the world and me, I have never been one of those parents who let their children make their own decisions — at least not the giant ones. I told her that she was going to be a Bulldog and that was that. Her resentment lasted until she had been at summer orientation for about 30 seconds. She fell in love with all things Athens and for four years has poured her heart and soul into the college experience.
Friday evening she will graduate, with honors, from the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. I know there will be a lot of proud papas in the Sanford Stadium audience, but none will be more proud than yours truly.
Jenna didn’t just attend college, she embraced it, and I would wager that there have been few students who have attended UGA that have been more active in a wider variety of activities that my own “Boo Boo.” Most of her energy was expended at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, and I will be forever grateful to Nathan Byrd and Franklin Scott for loving my child — and hundreds of others — through the highs and lows of her college days, through heartbreak and adventure and every major decision she had to make.
How can you thank someone for helping your own child grow from an indecisive teenager who would change majors six times in six semesters into a confident young woman who is ready to save the world, one soul at a time, beginning with the most unloved people on the planet.
As a member of the BCM Jenna has taken part in more than a dozen mission projects — from New Orleans to New Mexico to Africa and points in between. She has spearheaded many projects in which her mentors allowed her to make her own decisions and her own mistakes. She has fed the homeless and raised money for missions around the world and here at home. She has led worship and small groups and counseled other young women and served as their mentors.
Four straight years she took part in the BCM’s magnificent spring musicals. I had to watch her die, this year, at the hands of Tarzan. (She played a leopard.)
Four times she participated in the BCM Ride for Christ and on one of those rides she got on a bicycle on Lumpkin Street in Athens and rode 300 miles, into an oncoming tropical storm, to Jacksonville, Fla., — all in the name of Jesus Christ. When a reporter asked her what she did to prepare for the feat she said, “I borrowed a friend’s bicycle the night before.”
That’s Jenna. Live for the moment, seize the day, fly by the seat of your pants, never do today what you can put off until tomorrow and squeeze every ounce of life out of every day.
Somewhere along the way she found time to work at the Fanning Institute for three years and she apparently went to class and did homework because she earned a degree in public relations with certificates in New Media and Leadership. She did all these things without benefit of shoes.
And I am sure she gave Franklin and Nathan a few gray hairs, too.
Now she is going to spread the light of Christ into a dark world and will be working without a net, wherever the wind takes her. But she will have a firm foundation, thanks to so many people — so many that I could never thank them all.
So now I have three children with multiple degrees from my alma mater and my cup, indeed, runneth over. It’s been a great run. Someone asked me how I would feel, being without a direct connection to dear old UGA after all these years.
Not to worry. My grandson is due on Aug. 2 and I am sure he will be an early admit in December of 2032.
Trough the grace of God and with the help of the miracle workers at M.D. Anderson, I believe I can hold on until then.