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Monday, April 19, 2010

How not to drive President Wagner's Model T

I recently had one of those moments in life that I will never forget. No, much to my mother’s continued dismay, I did not get married or have a child. Even better…I got to drive President Jim Wagner’s vintage Ford Model T!!

As a kickoff to its Class Gift Campaign, Emory’s Candler School of Theology Class of 2010 held a silent auction in which students could bid on items donated by faculty and staff. The auctioned goods included coveted experiences such as fly-fishing with David Petersen, Franklin Nutting Parker Professor of Old Testament; dance lessons with Brooks Holifield, Charles Howard Candler Professor of American Church History; and an afternoon sailing with the Rev. Barbara Day Miller 88T, assistant dean of worship and music and assistant professor in the practice of liturgy, on her yacht.

However, the item that immediately caught and kept my attention was the tour of Lullwater and ride in the Model T with President and Mrs. Wagner. After a competitive bidding war with current Candler student Alison Amyx 10T, we decided to split the cost and go together. (That's us with President Wagner above.)

After waiting for warmer weather to get here, the day of our excursion with the Wagners finally arrived last Friday, and it was a gorgeous day. The thrill of disregarding the signs warning of the illegality of driving through Lullwater Park (per Mrs. Wagner’s instructions, of course) was soon exceeded shortly after we arrived and President Wagner looked at us and asked, “Do you want to try to drive the Model T?”

Needless to say, I haven’t been that excited since I found out Zack Morris is speaking at this year’s Class Day.

Following a quick jaunt to the local QT (in the Model T – yes, we have pictures) to gas up, we made our way through campus, down Eagle Row to Peavine Creek Drive, where we decided would be a good place for us to have a go at driving the Model T. Now, before I mention this next part (against my better judgment), let me just say one thing. The Ford Model T was one of the first cars ever made, and so, though similar to the cars you and I are used to driving daily, there are some significant differences between the Model T and today’s automobiles.

That being said, things were going along splendidly with me behind the wheel, but the feeling of having mastered the machine soon came to an abrupt halt … and so did the car … when it came time to turn around to head back down the Peavine Creek Drive. That’s right, I may or may not have hit a curb in the President’s antique car … and I was absolutely mortified as I saw any future career at Emory, or anywhere, quickly vanish into thin air.

I believe my exact words were, “Oh my God, I broke the president’s car.”

If anyone remembers the so called Steve Bartman Incident (and how could Cubs fans forget…), that’s something like what I felt like. After what were the longest eight minutes of my life and several failed attempts at cranking the car back up, it finally started again and we were back on our way…and I was a little more cautious.

Luckily, in Jim Wagner we have a president who is incredibly gracious and kind, and he did not fire me on the spot, but merely shrugged off the incident in a lighthearted way. Even more luckily for me, the Model T is an incredibly durable automobile, and no damage was done.

One thing I know for sure, however, is that not only will I never forget this experience, I’m pretty sure President and Mrs. Wagner will always remember this theology grad … even if it is only as “that guy who tried to destroy our car.”

-- Shawn F. Scott 09T, coordinator, program development, Emory Annual Fund


  1. Great story Shawn! What a great day --- did you take the Blue Pig along?

  2. This is too funny! I thought I had it bad: when I was at Emory a teammate of mine was a family friend of the Wagners and they allowed her to store some of her dorm stuff in their basement over the summer! For some reason, my teammate neglected to tell me that her "family friends" were the Wagners until I had to disregard the Do-not-enter signs and drive into Lullwater! Then, with the care piled ceiling-high of boxes, I had to blindly reverse in their driveway - right next to the Model T! But thankfully, I didnt hit it ;-)

  3. Love it. The Prez seems like a cool guy. I like him very much.