In every stage of our lives, we are always looking for some one that would be a perfect example for us to look up to. For some that example may be a superhero, or well respected politician, doctor or preacher, and for others it can be their parents, teachers or a famous athlete. We are trying to imitate the qualities of the people we so admire and be as disciplined as they are, and there is this picture in our minds of who we want to be, but it seems something is always lacking. It seems as though knowing someone who nearly resembles the person we want to be, would greatly help us become that person.
Bill Dixon is that rare example that seems to lack in our society. He is soft spoken, well mannered and sophisticated. Yet, as you begin conversing with him, it becomes obvious how unusually kind and caring he is in life. His best quality is that he listens. During the thirty-five years that he was the Dean of students at Ouachita, he has perfected the art of listening. Certainly, by dealing with troubled and somewhat disobedient students for so long, it can be expected of him to be a good listener.
Because of his gentle and calm nature, he does not resemble a stereotypical dean who is that authoritative and scary figure students are used to know. Rather, his persuasiveness and ability to connect with students and understand them made him the Dean that former students respectfully talk about even after so many years of leaving Ouachita. Despite that he always made it clear that he meant business in any situation. Even at this point, most alumni who come back to visit have a story to tell about their encounter with Dean Dixon. Over the years, he had managed to become a father/counselor figure for many troubled students who now lead successful lives.
He radiates energy to all people around him. His seemingly immeasurable energy makes you aware of how rapidly you frequently declare yourself exhausted. His immense affection for life, humans and accomplishment makes you realize of your own negative mind. He is always hopeful, no matter what. He is well aware of all the impressive accomplishment of his life, but he is very humble, modest and careful about mentioning them.
After retiring as a dean, he took over the Travel Program at Ouachita in 2000. The program was originally designed for alumni but the plan was that it would ripple out to a larger group. “It has brought more people to Ouachita circle and the university has definitely benefited from it,” he said. “That was the original plan.” He officially retired last year but the word “retired” does not really apply to him. He now conducts business in his office at home and works longer than he used to.
“I am now doing what many people would like to do,” he says speaking of his life after retirement. “I travel quite a lot, my health is good and this puts me in a very enviable position that many people would like to be in.”
One thing he enjoys the most is travelling and he is fortunate to do a lot of it. Over course of his life, he has travelled to thirty something countries and every year he plan tours to at least three more places. This year, he has Egypt, Brazil, Israel, Jordan and Costa Rica on his agenda. He has seen the world and many people all over the world have come to see him. Each room in Dixons house is filled with traditional gifts from Africa, China, Peru, Brazil, Israel, Egypt and all the countries you can think of. Their whole house is an international museum.
Despite of all the amazing places he has been to, he finds China the most fascinating of them all. He cites his fascination with the Chinese history, culture and music as reasons for his attraction to the country. But most important of all, the graciousness of the Chinese people and all the friendships he has cultivated from there, are the main reasons for his visits to the country at least once a year since 2000.
“I have found the Chinese to be exceedingly gracious and by nature open to friendships,” he said, “and it is always great to go back and see my friends there.” “Nowhere in the world have I seen a progress that is so pronounced as in China,” he said, speaking of him witnessing and observing some major changes China is currently going through.
He talks about his wife in a way that is very affectionate and respectful. “I have been very blessed to have the wife I have,” he admiringly speaks of her, “she is not only wife but my best friend. I think that everyone needs that kind of a help-mate that can be the encourager and the person help you put the brakes on if you need to.” They have been married for almost forty-four years now and are perfect example of how to make the marriage work.
During his travels throughout the world, he has perfected another admiring quality: tolerance. His experience with many foreign cultures and beliefs and close to forty students with different backgrounds who have lived at his house in the past thirty years have enriched his life and outlook on things significantly he says. Surprisingly, his main source for tolerance comes from his faith. Most commonly, the roots of hate, conflict and intolerance are, rightly or wrongly, attributed to religion. His faith has taught him to accept and enjoy people regardless of their culture, background and religion. He looks for good everywhere he goes and knows that positive attitude can take you a long way. He would focus on what we have in common, which in most cases is a lot, rather than very few and seemingly important differences we have that keep us apart. “I have a strong Christian faith and this has been a key factor in helping me to learn and see and do as much as I have tried to do in my life.” He truly lives his faith.
“I was taught to say one important prayer and I have tried to say it every day of my life,” he said, “that prayer is: Lord, give me opportunities and a sense enough to realize those opportunities and have the backbone to do something about them.” That has been the main motivating factor for him to learn and try different things outside of the box. He enjoys writing, travelling, cooking and history. He has tried painting in the past and takes great satisfaction in doing restoration work to antiques. “I may not be master in anything,” he said, “but I enjoy what I do.”
Bill Dixon is a man with very few regrets, great integrity and patience. “I hope that integrity is something that I exhibit to everyone.” He has lived a full life and feels like he has fulfilled his purpose in life. When talking to him, you can’t help but notice many biblical references that he makes to support his points and I was tempted to ask how he would do as a preacher? “I think I would be terrible,” he responded with a big smile, “my talent does not lie in great speeches or words that would cause the audience to be spell-bound. My talent lies more on one on one than a crowd.”
I wish I could be like him.