I should have posted this long ago, but I have not been rushing anything these past few months.
On Sept 2nd, 2013, a friend and mentor of mine died. His name was Nopadon. P’Pog. Arjahn. I called him Arjahn Nopadon, the man who opened doors for me. There were many great people I had the honor of meeting during my time in Thailand, but few were as clearly instrumental as this man.
Educated at some of the finest Universities in Thailand, Arjahn Nopadon received a full-ride scholarship to get his Masters at University of Hawaii, Honolulu. He wasn’t thrilled, until he stepped off the plane, looked around and thought, “This is nice! Okay!!” He stayed for five years, perfecting his English, studying and embracing and understanding American Culture in a way few can boast.
There are a lot of gaps in his story, but sometime about twenty years later, he taught Interior Design at a one of the Bangkok universities, and met my dear friend, Mod Dang. When Mod Dang finished, she went to work for a small firm. Six months later, Arjahn Nopadon contacted her, “You should come back to school. Get your Master’s degree, plan for your PhD. I’ll help you find funding.”
He was one of those people who sees someone’s potential, speaks truth into lives, and before anyone realizes the reality – they listen. They change their behavior, they change their plans, they look for something bigger and greater – and they become that something, wonderful.
Rarely did those he scoped out immediately recognize what he was doing, because he disguised his plans in a 70s-brush-over hairstyle, aviator glasses and unexpected anecdotes. In conversation with Arjahn Nopadon, people forgot they were in the presence of greatness, forgot that this man was a highly sought-after researcher and professor, flying from one end of the country to the next weekly so he could teach at five different universities. His vision was magnificent, and contagious – his laughter mixed with the mountains of research his PhD candidates buried themselves in every night, more fearful of letting him down than making a visible mistake.
After Mod Dang completed her Masters of Interior Design, Arjahn Nopadon encouraged her into continuing with her PhD. He was her adviser, her friend, like a father to her. By extension, when I met them one night over dinner at the end of her stay in Indianapolis, he spent half an hour with me before stating, “I will help you live in my country. I will make this possible.”
It was Arjahn Nopadon’s close friend, P’How who first invited me to work with his firm, Ongsa Architecture, Inc. It was Arjahn Nopadon who opened the doors for me inside of Thailand, who befriended me based upon my friendship with Mod Dang and took the practical steps for me to make my dream of working overseas a reality.
He passed away from a sudden and unexpected heart attack while lecturing, doing exactly what he loved, influencing lives with a passion and kindness few can match.
As I’ve attempted to process his death, to grieve his passing, I realize just how unworthy I feel to have called this man a friend and mentor. He was a highly sought-after researcher, pushing his students to change the way they influence lives through design, architecture and marketing, known the world-over. Because of this man, my university has two more partner universities in Thailand, and lives upon lives will be changed from the cross-cultural exchange. He did this all out of a deep-seated kindness, and love of people, which I attribute to his faith in Christ. There is no telling how many lives have already been changed because of his generosity and open heart, and I am one of those people.
I can only hope to one day pass on his vision of Wise and Gracious Pedagogy.