At Funeral Mass

By Nathan O. Hatch

On behalf of the Wake Forest community near and far, let me extend to Nancy and to all of Skip’s family our deepest sympathy and our prayers in this hour of tragic loss. Wake Forest is profoundly grateful for the gifts that this remarkable man displayed as he walked among us. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for sharing Skip with us for the last six years. He was a remarkable teacher and mentor, coach, and friend. And he served as an extraordinary ambassador for this university.

In recent days, all of us have witnessed an outpouring of affection at the sudden passing of Skip Prosser. Someone has called it an “avalanche of emotion” and I agree. Why do so many of us in the Wake Forest family and far beyond love this man? Why do we feel we owe him such a debt of thanks? Why is it that his life touches us so deeply? Let me point to at least three reasons.

First, Skip lived life to the fullest. He was a font of energy and excitement-about the game of basketball, about the latest book he was reading, about the charitable causes that he supported. Skip energized our students and the entire Wake Forest fan base. He set high goals and challenged others to follow. He was a passionate supporter of other coaches and sports on campus. Last fall he and Nancy traveled to Oxford Mississippi with the football team and sat in the pouring rain with the other Demon Deacon faithful. Skip attacked life at full throttle and it was hard not to follow in his wake.

Second, Skip took everyone seriously. Skip loved to engage people and he did so without calculation or pretense. He touched children, he touched senior citizens, he touched soldiers in Kuwait, he touched the average Wake Forest student.

More than seven hundred memories of Skip Prosser have now been posted on the Wake Forest web site. The following is the story of one recent graduate:

“I can’t sleep right now,” he begins, “like many I know. This is just a terrible feeling. Skip wouldn’t know me from Adam, but I remember when I was first visiting Wake I was in the Pit with my dad. My dad was wearing a Steelers t-shirt and I was just a young face deciding where I wanted to go to college. Skip walked in, saw my dad’s t-shirt and took a direct route to our corner table. This gracious, always-giving man sat with my dad and me for an hour and had lunch. He obviously had other, more business related things he could have been doing. But he just sat there, talking Steelers football.”

“My dad finally got around to asking him what he did at the university, and he mentioned that he was the new head basketball coach. And then he sat there for another 30 minutes to talk . . . about Wake Forest. He loved his new school, its students, faculty, staff, setting, and personality. He loved his job. Most of all, he loved other people. And it was contagious.”

“I left the Pit that day, got in the car, and the minute I had left campus I knew I had to go back. It was settled. I was a Demon Deacon for life.”

“And I never said thank you. I wish I would have been able to in person. Nevertheless, thank you, Mr. Prosser, for changing my life indefinitely. You will always be an inspiration for me.”

Skip took everyone seriously.

Third, Skip’s life reflected the values he professed. He came to coaching as a straight shooter. He educated student athletes. He followed the rules. He was loyal to his players and his friends. He kept perspective even on the hypercompetitive hardwoods of ACC basketball. He hated to lose, but he did so with grace. He could laugh at himself. He never pretended to be something he wasn’t. His life was a breath of fresh air.

Skip you loved life, you touched people, you did things right. We love you for who you were and for that legacy.

Let me conclude with a stanza from an elegy written in 1677 by the President of Harvard College, upon the death of a dear friend. He suggests that there is no greater monument to someone’s life than the lasting affection of those who knew him. It is that kind of outpouring we have witnessed among Skip Prosser’s family, players, coaches, students, colleagues, friends, and fans.

Could you but into the hearts of thousands peep,
There would your read his name engraven deep. 1

Skip Prosser, your name will always be engraven deeply within our hearts.

Urian Oakes, An Elegie upon the Death of the Reverend Mr Thomas Shepard in Donald Davie, ed., The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse (Oxford, 1981), p.127.

But live he shall in many a grateful breast,
Where he hath reared himself a monument,
A monument more stately than the best,
On which immensest treasures have been spent,
Could you but into the hearts of thousands peep,
There would your read his name engraven deep.