Kenneth Ash-worth, Ph.D., scaled great heights in the world of higher education with brilliance, commitment and diplomacy, not necessarily in that order. And that diplomatic bent is serving him as he changes gears from administration to academia.

Who else, pray tell, could hold teaching posts for the University of Texas and Texas A&M University at the same time?

Well, Dr. Ashworth is doing just that. The longest-tenured Texas Commissioner of Higher Education (1976-1997) is presently teaching courses in public policy development and public administration and management at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and at Texas A&M’s George Bush School of Government and Public Service…

“You’ve got to be kidding,” the printer laughed when Dr. Ashworth explained that he wanted a two-sided card, with different colors on each side.

You are way ahead of me, aren’t you?

Yes, Dr. Ashworth wanted orange ink on one side, and maroon on the other…

In a nutshell, as Higher Education Commissioner, his state-mandated task was to coordinate and “make better” all public colleges and universities in the state. (In these efforts, he fully recognized and appreciated the roles of independent institutions.)

To say that he was in a hot seat most of the time would be a classic understatement. I doubt very much that he ever sat in a cool one, nor sought to.

He represented all institutions, whether large or small, with the same fairness, logic and fervor. And he gained respect, admiration and confidence from constituents throughout the state…

Now in his sixth decade of public service, he says he is “still trying to retire.” My guess is he’s having too much fun teaching graduate students the “how” of administration in theoretical settings where real bullets aren’t used.

I know this Phi Beta Kappan is having fun writing. He’s published numerous articles and authored four books.

One is entitled Caught Between the Dog and the Fireplug or How to Survive Public Service….

Well-known at the lectern as well, Dr. Ashworth is a frequent speaker. A favorite admonition is included in most speeches for administrators.

He says, “Despite all your many good works for the people, do not expect sainthood and beatification. You will never experience the ecstasy of Saint Theresa. Learn to think of yourself as a martyr, specifically Saint Sebastian. The model public servant, he’s the one with his hands tied behind his back and shot full of arrows.”

Now does that sound like someone who’s REALLY trying to retire? Oh, he may retreat to play his clarinet or violin for a few minutes, then hurry right back…

Another guy who loves his work is Dr. David Green, a minister whose undergraduate study was at Carson-Newman College, a small Baptist-supported institution in Tennessee.

He says serving as “designated driver” for his dormitory friends there is one of his warmest memories.

Oh, it’s not what you are thinking…

It has to do with food, not drink. Mention food to dorm guys late at night and there’s salivation. Mention free food, and you’ve got the makings for a riot.

His is a “free food” story. Late one night, he and some buddies were in Knoxville’s first Krispy Kreme store, putting the delicacies away with abandon.

As the midnight closing hour approached, they watched employees trekking to the dumpster to toss the day’s unsold doughnuts…

That’s when the “designated driver” idea was born. On many subsequent occasions, Dr. Green made nocturnal drives to Knoxville, about a half-hour away.

He’d leave the campus around 11:25 p.m., reaching the store just before the doughnuts were deposited in the dumpster.

Upon arrival back on campus around 12:30 a.m., he was roundly cheered…

Finally, my friend Val has a “sounds good to me” theory about vegetarians.

He doesn’t think they choose meatless diets because they love animals.

Val thinks it’s more likely that they hate plants…

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.