Our lives are a chain of events. Who we are – our beliefs, attitudes, habits, knowledge and skills – are the result of events that shape our lives and people we have come in contact with. By that, I am referring to those whose paths have crossed ours.
I’ve been very fortunate in my life. God has blessed me in many ways. If you look back over your life, it’s hard not to see that a higher power must be in control.
My father was the son of a sharecropper and never went to school beyond sixth grade. Yet, through hard work and determination, he became a very successful businessman. He was a great father, and the example of his life taught me the value of work and family.
In 1972, a 20-year old kid too lazy to study, flunked out of college and ended up at Fort Polk, La. This was an “attitude adjustment,” and six months later, I came home a changed young man. In 1973, I married my high school sweetheart and wanted to finish school. My wife and I traveled to Georgia Southern and literally begged to be admitted. I was granted admission – on a probationary status.
In 1975, my favorite economics professor at Georgia Southern, Emmett Deal, asked if I wanted to go to the University of Georgia for a master’s degree in agricultural economics. I had done well at Georgia Southern and was accepted to UGA – but again, on a probationary status.
While at UGA, Dr. Ed Brown was a big influence. He was an Extension economist and from him I developed the desire to work with farmers. I also thought about pursuing a Ph.D. My wife was reluctant (had already worked to help put me through school) but agreed with the idea.
I applied and was accepted to Purdue University (Ed Brown had also gone to Purdue). I have always wondered how a guy from Georgia who had struggled so much academically could possibly have gotten in. Perhaps a “higher power” was not through with me yet!
While at Purdue, I made two Cs – one my very first semester. After just the first assignment, the professor suggested I drop the course! But I was determined not to let this professor and these grades discourage me. My last year at Purdue in 1980, I applied for a position with the University of Kentucky. I never heard back from them. Something just told me to give them a call. I did and was invited to interview and got the job.
In 1990, I interviewed for a position with the University of Georgia. I thought I’d be a shoo-in, but the job was offered to Jerry Crews, a close friend at Auburn. We were both from Georgia and had always talked about moving back home. So, I was shocked that he turned the job down but otherwise I would not have gotten the job. Being home was a blessing. My father died just three years later.
The first person I had an opportunity to work with at UGA in cotton was Dr. Johnny Crawford. More than anyone in this profession whom I have ever met, Johnny has a real passion for both his work and farmers. He has been a major influence, and I’ve tried to emulate him.
Each of us is shaped by our “lifeline.” For me, that lifeline is wonderful parents and in-laws who have taught me the importance of God, family and hard work; a loving and supportive wife and family; influential friends, co-workers and professors; and a chain of events that, without a doubt, has been in God’s hands.
Because we often focus on the short-term, we are frustrated when things don’t go our way. Only God knows the long-term and how things will ultimately turn out. He is in control. Each day God provides opportunity for our lifeline to cross paths with others. You never know what influence others will have on you or, more importantly, the influence you can be on others.
– Don Shurley, Tifton, Ga.