A Tribute to a Friend

By Bob Rider

David Thomas Bailey (’50) died on AuguDavid Baileyst 6, 2017, at the age of 90. David was my friend. He was also a critical friend of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, which is the beneficiary of more than $34 million that David has given to the college throughout the years. Mr. Bailey, which is what I called him the first time I met him (from then on, he insisted that I call him David), was a shrewd businessman whose first thought was always about ROI—return on investment.

Those who preceded me in approaching David for a gift explained that whatever he gave the college—what was then the College of Education—could be a beneficial tax write-off for him. This intrigued David, given the highly developed business acumen he possessed. What my predecessors did not know at the time is what program in our college would appeal to him the most and perhaps even tug at his heart the slightest bit.

Charlie Brakebill, longtime UT development officer, told David the story of Mr. J. Clayton Arnold. You see, Mr. Arnold was a simple man whose job was to deliver the mail to people living in the small Middle Tennessee community of Manchester. Mr. Arnold never married and did not have children, but he had three sisters, all of whom were school teachers. Mr. Arnold was also a very wise investor who accumulated a great deal of wealth over his lifetime. When David Bailey heard that this very simple mailman gave the University of Tennessee its first ever $1 million gift, he was indeed impressed. It was upon hearing this story that David’s interest in teachers and the teacher education program at UT was sparked.

At this point in the relationship between the college and David, he demonstrated more than a casual interest in our teacher preparation program and the many other things we were doing to contribute to a better community and society. Now that he was invested in our work, David would throw what he called “zingers” in my direction. He would say, “You’re not doing a good job of telling your story,” and “You’re the dean of three colleges, how come nobody knows about this?” 

While at first, I was a bit overwhelmed by these zingers, I came to look forward to receiving them because they were always on target. As time went on, David’s zingers became less serious and more playful. Our business relationship turned into a friendship, and it was during his last few months on earth that we became closer and closer. My visits to David’s home were more about two friends having lunch together and talking about family, sports, and politics and less about me trying to cultivate another financial gift from a donor.

David Bailey was indeed my friend, and I miss him.

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