The true story is told of a trip to Jefferson City -- a regular errand for college presidents -- to lobby the House and Senate on the budget.
Veteran lawmakers, long jaded and more than a few made cynical by political gamesmanship, sat stunned at what they heard.
The president of one state institution was actually telling them he didn't need all the money that had been proposed for his school's budget.
The man was Dr. Mark Scully, longtime president of Southeast Missouri State College, which later, through a change he spearheaded, would be renamed Southeast Missouri State University.
The story doesn't surprise those who knew Scully through his remarkable life, which ended last weekend after 92 years. Along with his no-nonsense work habits, Scully was legendary for his frugality and for his what-you-see-is-what-you-get straightforwardness.
The results of his stewardship of our university are incredible: Classroom buildings built, residence halls constructed, first-rate faculty hired, enrollment doubling, then quadrupling over his 19-year tenure at the helm.
Mark Scully was perhaps the last of his generation of Cape's leaders -- Oscar Hirsch, Andy Juden, Fred Groves, among others -- all gone but not forgotten.
Something in this remarkable and, yes, often difficult man brought out the eloquence in his friend of 50 years, longtime Southeast alumni director and fellow Charleston native Jane Stacy. Here is an excerpt from the warm, witty, clear-eyed tribute she delivered Wednesday:
"Mark Scully defies description or eulogizing. He spent no time trying to decide who he was or what made him tick. He got up every morning and did the work he found at hand. ... He walked with success and failure and discounted them both. It was all in the living."
Like so many of a generation who grew up poor and lived through the Great Depression, Mark Scully had no truck with the get-in-touch-with-your-feelings crowd. He was a man of action, hard work, thrift and extraordinary dedication to education.
The modern university he served so faithfully and for so long can be said to be his monument. Any leader would be proud to have cast such a long shadow.