Eulogy for
Gene Courtaney

Presented by Gerald McCarthy
Given at Rotary Club May 1, 2012

There is never an easy way to distill 80 years of a person's life into an adequate assessment of who a person was - and why. However, I think Gene Courtaney will always be remembered for his love of people and his service to the common good; for his gentle spirit and his contagious joy; his deep love for his family and his determination always to do what was right and necessary.

Gene's life also reminds me of a most meaningful refrain of a hymn titled "We Are Called" and it seems to me that it explains who he was. The words to the hymn are:
Those twenty five or so words inspired him to study hard and have high expectations and provided the "How To" basics of a game plan for life. Gene was the first to admit that he was blessed in many ways and fortunately had parents who subscribed to a Hoosier Heritage of high ethical principles, responsible and accountable conduct, and a strong work ethic.

He was devoted to his family, friends and country and this love was certainly reciprocated as his family-and especially his wife Phyllis- who cared tenderly for him during his extended hospitalization. Phyllis, like Gene, was raised in Versailles, IN and was reared in the same value system. They, as well as their six children and their families, regularly returned to the homestead where Gene was raised in which they called "The Land". This was an anchorage for them for reunions, recreation, and reflection as the situation dictated, and is now Gene final resting place.

As an AFROTC student who received his BS in 1953 and a MS in 1954, he was commissioned in the Air force and assigned to the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio where he received his training in human relations and education. In 1957, Gene was ordered to duty at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska for 4 years and then back to Purdue in 1961 where he was assigned to the Air Force ROTC Detachment as an instructor and concurrently a PhD candidate which he completed in 1966. Then, after a short assignment to the Air Force ROTC Headquarters at Maxwell AFB in Alabama, he was assigned to the faculty at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado. This was to be a most unusual, challenging, and satisfying assignment lasting nine years.

In his first year he had a faculty appointment which no doubt gave him a student's perspective of "life as an Academy Cadet". Thereupon, he was appointed as the Associate Director of Admissions and a key member of the Superintendent's staff responsible for the review and subsequent admission of some 1,200 men and women annually out of more than ten thousand candidates. After five years Gene was appointed as the Commander, US Air Force Academy Preparatory School charged with the indoctrination, orientation, and evaluation of potential appointees to the Academy. He held this leadership position for three years until retirement in 1976.

In his various Air Force assignments Gene touched many lives and certainly at times found it necessary to demonstrate his "do the right thing" philosophy, and strong sense of values. He was a role model for many service members-old as well as young-and upon retirement after 22 years, Lt.Col. Dennis Eugene COURTANEY was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Gene and Phyllis returned to Purdue where he worked in the Registrar's Office for 22 years in a myriad of positions. He often joked that if you -or the public-didn't hear anything about the Registrar's Office, they were doing their job: providing the highest quality service to each individual student in making sure that their records were accurate and that they were on schedule to graduate. He was always generous with his time, professional expertise or a positive word. I don't think that many students or their parents ever recognized the stupendous Graduation Exercise coordinated by the Registrar's Office that is a most memorable occasion, and, in addition, the fact that each person who proudly walks across the Elliot Hall graduation stage has his or her diploma.

After this retirement, he remained active in a host of activities. Gene loved to travel and showed keen interest as always in the lives of his 6 children, 16 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren. He was a member of this Rotary Club for more than 30 years and was Club President in 1999-2000. Service was no stranger to him and he was active in the Purdue University Retiree Association, a member of First Christian Church and an elder and trustee, his Fortnightly literary group and his weekly coffee friends. From a larger group there were his friends from Westminster Village and members from the Military Officers Association of America. Lastly, there were his tennis friends from a group that has been playing for more than twenty years, which included 6 fellow Rotarians.

I think we all have special memories of Gene and hopefully we can take away some of the many lessons he taught us. We can remember the fun times when we laughed together and we can always look back upon a life well lived and treasure his friendship. One parting thought: Gene was very humble and unpretentious. He touched so many people and it is safe to say that he answered the CALL and incorporated these characteristics into a Life Game Plan that made a difference in the lives of so many people. Let us take a moment of silent reflection of this good and decent person who has always made a difference.