Since 1969, John Clay Buck has resided in the same town his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and even his great-great-grandparents once lived. But he traveled a long and winding road before finally settling in Cookeville, Tenn., with his wife Jeanne.
The son of a Navy officer and a member of the Army, Buck lived in 41 houses all over the world. After serving in Vietnam he worked for seven years as a technical adviser for local governments in Tennessee, eventually gravitating to healthcare and senior living administration.
Buck became associated with CHHSM in May of 1987, going to work for Uplands Retirement Village in Pleasant Hill, Tenn. He retired in June of 2004 with the distinction of being Uplands’ longest-serving executive director. During his career, he also served in several executive roles on the CHHSM board.
Growing up in a military family instilled values and perspectives Buck says he carried with him into his work with CHHSM. The interdenominational religious services he attended on military bases gave him a broad understanding of Protestant faith.
Raised as a Methodist, Buck says he easily found common ground with members of the United Church of Christ despite his initial unfamiliarity with the denomination.
|John Buck with his granddaughter, Sara Elizabeth, now 7.|
“I didn’t know the first thing about the UCC," he says, adding that his association with CHHSM inspired him to learn about and honor what the church stands for. “And it got me back into the fundamentals of reading your Bible and studying both independently and with organizations in my own church. That was good for me.”
Buck’s military background instilled what he calls “some pretty rigid parameters of operation.” That called for some adjustments on his part while working with CHHSM.
“I realized I was around people who were more flexible, better informed and often better educated than those I’d known before," he says. "I had to have a more inclusive, consensus-making style instead of just pushing ahead. Not that they would have let me get away with that!”
Buck, now 67, and his wife, Jeanne, have two grown daughters and four grandchildren.
Q: How did you get to know CHHSM as an organization?
A: I attended my first CHHSM annual meeting probably in 1988 or 1989 and met the leaders of some larger institutions at that time. In the mid-90s, I was invited to be part of the first Transformational Leadership class. Then I had 17 others, mostly executives, in that class as compatriots and friends, people to share with, and those friendships are still intact after 20-plus years. Then I was invited to be on the board, and I stayed on as treasurer, vice chair and chair, maybe nine years altogether. After I retired, I was invited back to be the southern regional representative, which I did for three years.
Q: How did serving with other CHHSM leaders affect you?
A: They were organizationally and managerially very competent. But much more than that, they had a great sensitivity to the folks they served. They spoke of them respectfully, and a great camaraderie grew from that mutual ethic. They remain an extraordinary group of people. They serve with all of their competence and no ego. I had never met people who devoted so much time, talent and interest and didn’t want anything for it.
Bryan Sickbert set a high example. He made sure every chair was in on the decision-making process. The easiest thing for an administrator to do is just go ahead and do something and not consult with the board. Bryan never did that.
The most meaningful thing was that I got the chance to serve the servants. From the CHHSM board member perspective, the servants are the member organizations. From the perspective of an Uplands executive, I got to serve ministers and lay people. I was working for some very competent people, competent not only in their education and experience levels, but sure of their faith connection to what they were doing. Their faith was reflected in everything they did. That requires a lot of thought as you work through decisions and projects. I had the highest examples of people to demonstrate that, and I became better at it.
Q: How has CHHSM changed your life?
A: I take great pride and satisfaction in what I did for the organization and certainly in what it did for me. Being around folks who were formally trained in theology and who practice it has meant that, as a lay person, I’m better able to articulate my faith. My faith didn’t need to be increased, but it needed to be focused some so I could project it to my grandchildren. I’m so grateful to have a better understanding, more knowledge and more competence so I can help them as they wade through the lessons of their lives.