On Saturday, I attended the memorial celebration for the late Royce Flippin ’56 at Cap and Gown. As all his friends everywhere feel, this sad passing of a great Princetonian leaves us all lacking.
Over 45 years Royce was frequently in my life, showing his support, offering his advice. When I was a beleaguered USG student government president in 1975, then amidst a depressing mid-career miasma, and then during an inspiring Princeton-connected ecobusiness start-up, and then through my prostate cancer scare (as he had also experienced), Royce Flippin was always present for me.
What a suitable name! “Royce” ... a king amongst us, an angel in our midst. Ever giving, guiding, exuberant, and exemplative of the servant leader’s way, he was a goliath of goodness. Busy as he was, caring always for so many, somehow he always made me feel like I was the most important person on his mind. Life is a team sport, he used to say. I am grateful that he chose me to be one his life’s teammates.
At the service we heard about Royce the Legend. His athletic exploits at Montclair High School and then at Princeton are the stuff of dreams. He was a hero of the memorable 13-0 Princeton victory over Yale in 1955, scoring the first touchdown. But we also heard about what was actually more important to him: selfless service to others.
This reminded me of two pithy utterances that mark the measure of this fine man. A Camp Dudley boy, Royce once told me the camp’s timeless motto, which so epitomized his own life: “The other fellow first.” Late in life, when I once came to worship with him at his Trinity Church in South River, New Jersey, I asked what he was now doing to keep himself busy. His characteristic response: “Meeting needs.”
If I ever get to heaven, one of the first I’ll seek out will be Royce Flippin. He won’t be hard to find. Knowing Royce, he will likely be right there at the Pearly Gate, with that twinkle in his eye, reaching out to make me feel special and help me settle in.