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Spelman College's In Memoriam Tributes

Remarks from President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. Delivered at the Homegoing Services of Robert Danny Flanigan, Jr.

Tribute to Robert Daniel Flanigan, Jr.
March 24, 2021
Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. President, Spelman College

Lois, Robbie, Mr. Flanigan, to all of Danny’s family members, friends, Spelman colleagues, gathered today, and listening via live stream, if you are like me, you are finding it difficult to grasp that Danny Flanigan is no longer with us.

In fact, it seems like just yesterday that his Spelman friends and colleagues were celebrating Danny’s fiftieth anniversary at the College.

Last fall, even though we were in the middle of a raging global pandemic, we knew that we had to mark this momentous milestone.

To celebrate, we all drove to a parking lot, near Danny’s home, decorated our cars with balloons and signs, and, with Lois’ blessing, we drove a caravan of cars down their quiet, tree lined street in Decatur, honking our horns, like crazy, to show our love and appreciation to a man who had been the cornerstone of Spelman college for half a century.

Fifty years.

Fifty years ago, I am told that a very young, very dapper Danny Flanigan came to work at Spelman for President Albert Manley. At a recent prayer service for Danny, Dr. Joyce Johnson, our organist for the past 65 years was teaching at the time and she tells us that Danny, back then, was “jazzy” and walked around campus with a little “swagger.” Dr. Johnson shared that (close your ears Lois), “all the girls had their eyes on him.” They quickly discovered, however, that he was taken. The year that Danny arrived on Spelman’s campus was the year he married Lois.

Danny started as the assistant to the Business Manager; but he rose quickly through the ranks at Spelman. Danny had a voracious appetite for learning and he would often seek out the best in the business for advice and guidance. As his horizons grew, so too did the horizons of Spelman. He continued his rise to the rank of Vice president of Business and Finance and Chief Financial Officer. At his death Danny was still serving as Executive Vice President, Treasurer, and Chief Investment Officer of the College. But titles do not do justice to what Danny accomplished at Spelman.

Danny made it possible for Spelman to transform itself from a good school to a great one. He made it possible for us to build over a dozen new buildings and renovate a dozen more. He grew our endowment from meager to healthy. He made the college a paradigm of good financial management, delivering year after year not just balanced budgets but surpluses. The more he accomplished at Spelman the more renowned he became nationally. He was held in the highest regard by his colleagues around the country and in his professional organization, The National Association of College and University Business officers.

I know that I speak for my fellow Spelman president, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum who is with us this morning, and who served with Danny for 13 years, when I say that Danny paved the way for the success of a total of six Spelman college presidents. He was a wise counselor to our board of trustees as well and forged life-long friendships with many of them.

In the past fifty years, Danny helped each all of us create a college for Black women that could compete with the best of the best colleges in the country and produce women who were among the most dynamic leaders in the world.

As attentive as he may have been to the presidents he served, Danny was even more attentive to the people who worked for him and with him. Several of them are here this morning. Dawn Alston whom Danny groomed as our CFO, Rhonda Honegan, who served as his chief investment director, Mary Lakeru who was his trusted administrative assistant. Dr. Holloman, who sang so beautifully, was new to Spelman, but still touched by Danny’s wisdom and generosity of spirit. There are many others. Danny was a talent spotter. When he spotted talent, he considered it his responsibility to nourish and nurture that talent.

Around campus, Danny was known as many things: demanding boss and task master, someone with high standards but also, big brother, wise uncle, counselor, mentor, friend, great colleague, all wrapped up into one.

Fifty years. Fifty years is also the number of years that Lois and Danny were married. I have just learned that they met when they were five and seven years old respectively. I am not surprised to learn that. There was not a day that went by when I did not hear Danny mention Lois’s name. It was clear that Danny kept Lois close to his heart every day and everywhere he went.

Lois and Robbie were the center of his universe. One of the things he hated most about the pandemic was being separated from Robbie and all of the rest of his family. I remember, when the holidays rolled around, nothing got a smile quicker from Danny than asking what he did on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I knew what he would be doing on those holidays. He would be with his family, and it always gave him great joy to talk about those gatherings.

Few people get to live lives as full and full of meaning as Danny Flanigan did. In the six years that I had the privilege of getting to know him, we built a warm, trusting and honest relationship. To see the world through Danny’s eyes was to see it through the eyes of someone who could see the facts clearly, understand human feelings deeply, who had an insatiable curiosity about the world and a fearlessness about doing whatever needed to be done.

Thinking of Danny, I think of this line of scripture from the book of Matthew.

Start of QuoteA city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.End of Quote

With a big heart, unerring wisdom and deep love for his work and the people he served, Danny put his light on a stand, and we thank God for all of the good works that he left all around us.

Lois, Robbie, Mr. Flanigan, family and friends, you have my deepest sympathy.

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