“Pomp” was abundant at East Texas Baptist University’s fall convocation the other day. But, “circumstances” were such that stiff formality was avoided.

Oh, the principals had on long black robes, tasseled mortarboards and colorful hoods, but young folks were predominant. And helping the assemblage “stay loose” were the nine grandchildren of Dr. and Mrs. Bob Riley.

The grandkids had a vague awareness that Dr. Riley was being honored for 15 years of service in the presidency. But sometimes a guy “has to do what a guy has to do,” so 7-year-old Christopher Berglund did — convocation or no convocation…

He arrived in Marshall with a loose upper tooth. C. J. (as he’s known around the house) “jiggled it around,” and before the convocation ended, handed the tooth to his dad.

It was wrapped in tissue for the afternoon trip back to Rockwall for pillow placement a few hours later.

And the tooth fairy did what the tooth fairy does…

Dr. Riley, in his 41st year of a brilliant educational career, is a beloved campus leader.

During the processional and recessional, students reached out for handshakes and “high fives.”

Dr. Riley reached back. He has long contended that “students matter most.” And the students know it…

Hearing that “the white-haired guy” was back, some students figured that the speaker might be Bo Pilgrim. The chicken magnate in the pilgrim hat spoke at chapel there a while back, and he passed out evangelism tracts to each student. (Tucked inside each tract was a $20 bill.)

My hair matches Dr. Pilgrim’s. And, my mortarboard matches his hat in blackness. That’s about as far as the comparison goes!

And the $20 bills I could give students would be handy only in Monopoly games…

A sports star at Wheeler High School, the ETBU chief now may well be his teams’ number one fan. He and his wife regularly attend games. Students see him often in the exercise facility, where they “ask questions they’ve been meaning to ask.” That’s fine by him; remember, “students matter most.”

I complimented Dr. Riley on his exercise regimen.

But, I get my exercise serving as pallbearer for my friends who exercise…

That the Rileys are revered and loved throughout the community was not lost on a hundred or so colleagues, friends and board members who pitched in for gifts.

The couple, married for 40 years, was given a handsome plaque and a set of beautiful matching luggage.

The luggage fits perfectly under cruise ship beds. They’ll use it on a 15-day cruise of the Hawaiian Islands, all expenses paid…

The visit to Marshall — on my 70th birthday — was a tonic. How pleasant it was to again be in the midst of collegians.

E-mails, calls and cards inundated this special day. Granted, My wife and I — like the Rileys — have three daughters. And we still can’t do a thing with ‘em…

One theme prevailed in the birthday greetings. “Remem-ber, 70 is just a number,” many friends said.

I know. I know. But so is 12 midnight.

In my youth, it was a magical hour. Now, it is a somber reminder that there’s to be no more food or liquid until medical tests are completed the next day…

I am comforted by a highway sign at a retirement community in Arizona. It reminds that “mid-life begins at 70.”

So, I enter my eighth decade with my head held high, mostly because I’ll never get used to my trifocals.

Along the way, I hope my eyesight is keen enough to notice 7-year-olds in convocation audiences. Maybe there’ll be other youngsters determined to use the time constructively, even if it’s like, uh, pulling teeth…

Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to newbury@speakerdoc.com His Web site is www.speakerdoc.com.