Memorial Service for SMU Police Mark McCullers

Remarks by SMU President R. Gerald Turner

July 28, 2016

SMU President R Gerald Turner at memorial service for Officer Mark McCullen
SMU President R. Gerald Turner

Thank you for joining us for this memorial service for Mark McCullers.  This is a somber day on the Hilltop.  Both the family and the University are honored to have you join us for this service in which we grieve the loss of Mark, but celebrate his life.  Some of you have come from far away, and we are grateful to have your presence as your personal statement of honor to Officer McCullers.  You will hear much more about Mark throughout this service.

Americans are blessed to be citizens in a country governed by the Rule of Law.  As we have seen in other parts of the world, such a government structure is not easy to put in place.  It is even harder to maintain the necessary civic structures:  a legislative branch to pass the laws on behalf of the citizens; a judicial branch to interpret them for society; and an executive branch to enforce laws and to govern.

Crucial to the existence of a constitutionally-based society are schools to teach our children the skills and knowledge necessary to live under the Rule of Law.  A second crucial group is the police and other peace officers who enforce the law and help secure a peaceful society.  Therefore, both effective teachers and committed police officers have irreplaceable roles in a constitutionally-based society.  The best have a calling, and those who answer it know that they will not get rich, but they will uphold an American legacy of service to their fellow citizens.  In many ways, they are the linchpins of a free society.  Although there are a small number of teachers and some police officers whose inner struggles and prejudice disqualify them for public service, the overwhelming majority feel this calling to their chosen profession and develop a strong personal image centered on their professional identities. So you hear them say, “I am a teacher”; “I am a cop.”

In a university setting, these two worlds come together on a daily basis.  Although the purpose of the university is educational, campus officers can face real risks, as has been shown on several campuses in the recent past.  In addition, the constitutional right to peacefully protest is often first expressed and protected on a campus.  Moreover, the undergraduates who inhabit the campus are still maturing, growing to become the voting guardians of a constitutional society under the Rule of Law.  During this growth process, Mark’s colleagues could tell you how some students fully investigate the outer limits of the Rule of Law and test the boundaries of authority.  In such instances, campus police have a greater educational role than might those in municipalities or other areas of responsibility.  As a result, it takes an intelligent, confident, interpersonally skilled, and patient individual to make a good campus police officer.  Often, like Mark, the best ones have teenage or young-adult children of their own, so they have seen or heard it all before.  The loss of such a talented, committed person grieves his colleagues on the police force and fellow peace officers across the globe.  It also is a great loss to the University community because an individual who helped teach good citizenship and responsible behavior under the Rule of Law has left the campus.

So, today, we grieve the loss and celebrate the life of Mark McCullers as a family member, peace officer, and a member of the University community. Poet John Donne, in 1624, wrote a beautiful poem, entitled “No Man Is an Island.”  It speaks well of how we are all lessened by the loss of one of our fellows, let alone the kind of personal loss that the family and the law enforcement and the University communities feel today.  Therefore, I close with “No Man Is an Island” by John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.