By Dean Whittaker

None of us wants to think about death or dying. We pretend that we are immortal and in some ways, we are. Last week I sat with a friend of thirty years as he lay in his bed at home receiving Hospice care after a long illness. We talked about his life and how he endeavored to make a difference to communities recovering from economic setbacks, re-structured a federal agency to be more responsive to small business needs, and directed a state agency in its efforts to assist expanding companies.

During his lengthy illness, we had many conversations about workforce development and the role of education. He pondered the skills needed by students as they face an increasingly competitive world economy. He labored over compiling his thoughts into two articles that he entrusted to me to share with you. I think you will find them to be thought provoking and insightful. You may read them by following these links. The Global Challenge. West Michigan’s Response.

As I was leaving his bedside, he turned his head toward me and said simply, “thank you.” What better comment could one friend make to another friend? As I left the room with tears filling my eyes, I thought about my friend Dick Durkin and the contribution he made to all of us. Dick passed away peacefully on August 8th, 2007, with his wife and adult children at his side.