Read Executive Director Megan McElfresh's letter to President David Judson on his final day of service at the 2022 Conference in Toledo.
To David Judson
On the last day of his service as SGAA Presidency, 2017 – 2022
From Megan McElfresh
What I love about working for David Judson is that we both love to give gratitude, but we would really prefer not to deal with it so publicly ourselves.
We know how lucky we are to get to do this every day for a living. We just love digging into the work. SURELY… surely, there’s someone else that needs this public moment, right?
So, David, the only thing I can promise you this evening is that I will try to keep it brief. For both our sakes!
Working for David, having him as a boss, is one of the hardest, most challenging, and simultaneously energizing things I have experienced. The thing about David is – he is the King of stained glass! And nobody wants to let down their King! David has never had to ask me to go above and beyond. I am simply so terrified of disappointing him that I am willing to do just about anything to make sure that I don't disappoint him!
I will never forget the phone call, the evening David called me to offer me this job. I was so hoping that I would be able to work more on the magazine but I never in my wildest dreams thought that THE DAVID JUDSON would hand me the rudder and ask me to be the first mate of the entire SGAA ship!
And then I showed up for the job and it was… not exactly what I signed up for? We quickly realized that none of us knew what we had signed up for. And there was a lot of really not sexy, really, really brutal work ahead of us.
So, we embarked on this journey together. And I cannot imagine getting these things done with any other human. In the face of overwhelming challenges, David never wavered. His commitment and passion for this organization was my beacon, and my foundation as I found my way. At first, we spoke every. Single. Day. Most days before he even got to his office. So, within a couple of weeks, the system that fell into place was this: I would wake up and get to the office by about 6am and try to get as much work as possible done by the time David called between 10 and 11, sometimes as early as 9:30am (his 6:30am!) and that was the pivot point of my day. I would have been up to my eyeballs in budgets and archives and spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets, and then David would call and we would dig into all the logistics for our evolving strategy – anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour. Every day. Sometimes more. Then I would chip away for the rest of the day, and we would do it all again.
We set – in retrospect – insanely ambitious goals. And the only way we were going to reach those goals was to constantly monitor and adjust and pivot and check in with the data. The data, was our rocks.
ROCKS! Can you imagine a bunch of stained glass artists using ROCKS as a symbol of progress? We FIX rock damage!! And now ROCKS were ALL THE THINGS! David would call to check-in on our ROCKS, and board meetings were a chance to check-in on how well we were progressing as a group on our rocks! After every board meeting with David, we all had new rocks.
So as we were talking about what to do for the KING of stained glass, this incredible friend, mentor, colleague, comrade-in-arms, and all around inspiration to all of us… we were stumped. I mean, the man has everything—he just bought a new building and he has all the fancy equipment, what could we possibly do for this guy?? This rock in our organization?? And that’s when we realized, the best thing we could do to honor the unprecedented leadership and sacrifice that David has shown us, was to bring him our measurables! Was to show up with our rocks ready to go, just one more time.
If my amazing outgoing SGAA Board members would please come forward with your rocks.
I could stand here and make some more jokes about rocks but my partnership with David over the last five years, while it was certainly built on those rocks, became something else. Like our work together, something was built from those rocks.
David, for me, you are more like a piling. A safe place to moor the ship. Not because you wish your ship to rest and grow barnacles, just because you need a quick rest in a safe cove before you get back out into the hurricane. There is growth, or there is decay, but there is no such thing as stasis. And in a crazy world like this, for my first few years trying to navigate these often tumultuous waters, when under every rock it felt like there was a nest of snakes, thank you for being my mooring, my beacon, my first President.
Yours in glass and gratitude,