Follow your passion, even in the bonus years

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Life section of the Annapolis Capital, Sunday July 1, 2012

The idea of “leaving a legacy” is a popular bonus years theme.  It came to mind a couple of weeks ago as I was driving past Severna Park High School and noticed the sign outside the sports arena.  It reads, “The Andy Borland Field House.”

Because I had a casual acquaintance with Andy Borland long before he had buildings named after him, I decided to give him a call to see if we could meet for coffee to chat about his bonus years’ life since his 1998 retirement as a teacher and coach.

Andy Borland is a bear of a man – a Jesse Ventura shape with a Yul Brynner hairdo and a convivial twang that points to his birthplace in Durham, North Carolina in 1939.  Katie, his wife of 49 years and mother of the Borland’s three daughters, taught English as a second language for 28 years and is active in gardening and art appreciation classes at AACC and co-leads a Woods Church Christ Care Bible study where Andy is an Elder.

To prepare for our meeting, I went to Google and found that, following college in NC and a year as a teacher at Annapolis High School (starting salary $4,900), Andy journeyed to Severna Park where he devoted 35 years to young people as a teacher and the high school’s athletic director and coach.

And coaching he did:  Andy was a golf coach, wrestling coach, head track coach (winning the school’s first state title as a team and the first-ever individual state champion, pole vaulter Mike Hampe), head football coach (with a 146-103 won-loss record) and, from 1977-1996, the school’s athletic director, during which time Severna Park won 43 state titles.

That’s when I understood why there is also the “Andy Borland Gymnasium” at the Severna Park Community Center and the “Andy Borland Weight Room” at the Severna Park High School.  Quite a legacy!

We met as planned at the Atlanta Bread Company on Ritchie Highway.   I arrived early, and when Andy walked in, he headed for my table, but was interrupted twice by people getting up to shake his hand.  During our first 20 minutes, five more people came by, each of them saying something like, “Hi, coach.”  Or, “Good to see you.”  Or, “How’s it going?”  Greeters were all former students and most were former players.  They ranged in age from early 30s to mid-50s, spanning his career at Severna Park.

One man walked up (he later told us he is now 38) and, after greetings, said, “Coach, I want you to know that, after 11 years, my girlfriend and I finally got married.   We tied the knot last April.”  Andy stood up, shook his hand and congratulated him.

After the greetings, we talked.   Andy had a commendable career as a teacher and coach.  When he “retired” in 1998, he could have kicked back and enjoyed life.  But he didn’t.  He just kept going, like the Energizer Bunny in those old TV commercials.  That’s when Andy and Katie – who used to spend their summer vacations traveling  the US and more than 70 countries in Europe, Asia, South American and Oceania – downsized into a new home in Old Severna Park.

Shortly thereafter, however, a restless Andy signed on as the volunteer assistant coach for the Green Hornets, a youth football club where he coached from 1999 through 2008, including a team with Drew Hutchinson, one of the Borland’s seven grandchildren.

In 2001, Andy added the Severna Park Community Center to his post-career portfolio, chairing the Center’s capital campaign, leading a team that raised more than $4.5 million to fund new facilities and services.  SPCC is an impressive operation that serves more than 4,000 residents a month – including young people, families, seniors and home schoolers in a variety of programs.

“But the need for financial support is on-going,” Andy quickly added.  He then went through a list of maintenance items and the price tag for each.  Judging by the look in his eye, I think I might be a recipient of the next SPCC fundraising appeal.

As we finished coffee, Andy invited me to his home to show me his woodworking shop.  He has an impressive lay-out, about the size of a large garage, with all kinds of tools.  But it turns out that woodworking is more than a hobby.  Instead, it is another charitable activity that works like this.

Andy, a member and past president of the Annapolis Woodworkers’ Guild, uses his home shop to make toys for Sarah’s House (a local shelter for broken families) and Toys for Tots – all under the auspices of AWG, which also does work for Historic Annapolis, Habitat for Humanity, SPCA, and other Annapolis area non-profits.

Andy and seven woodworker friends – a fireman (Terry Cecil), a businessman (Tom Longest), and five others in their post-career years (Al Veiel, Jim Jordan, Don Ames, Paul Dodson, and Hugh Houghton) – meet bi-weekly in his shop to make wooden cars, trucks, crayon holders and other toys, having completed 100 the last four working sessions with a goal of 1,000 in time for Christmas.  Andy and Katie also give a specially-branded and dated hand-made wood toy to every baby that is baptized at Woods Church.

“What drives you to do these things?” I asked.  Andy said, “I like people.  I like being around people, especially young people.  I like helping a boy become a man and then watching him become a job-holder and then a father or an uncle and seeing him embrace his family, his church and the community.  That is a huge paycheck for me.”   He thought for a minute and then added, “I always counseled young people to find a passion; get involved; give it their all; make things work.  My passion is to work with young people.  Now that I’m retired, how could I do less?”

As I leafed through his many awards and recognitions, Andy said dismissively, “Those are all history.  What is important now is the time I have to give back to people who have been very generous to Katie and me and to a community we love.”

As I thought about Andy’s purpose-driven life and those thousands whose lives he has touched, I was reminded of the words of C.H. Spurgeon, the late 19th century British Baptist known as the “prince of preachers,” who said of true legacies, “Carve your name on hearts, and not on marble.”

Though he is a master at carving wood, Andy Borland is using his bonus years as he used his working years: To shape the hearts and minds of young people and help those who serve them.  That is a real legacy.

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