My full name is Ray Glenn Ray. Go ahead and laugh. I encourage it. In training sessions to get a laugh,
I often tell people that my parents didn't think I was smart enough for three different names. However, as I was growing up, I liked my confusing name. Even today a bank teller or a police officer will have an unrestrained laugh when they hear my full name. Our names are important and personal to each of us. They are an intimate part of our identities.
There were four children in my family, Sylvia, Joe, me, and Jack in that order. Dad had six other children by a previous wife and so we were his second litter. I was Dad's ninth child and fourth son.
I think Dad always got his way when naming his boys. Dad's first son was a junior, William Brown Ray. His second son Jim Ed was named after Dad's Dad, James Edward Ray. My Grandfather was born in 1864 and died in 1907. By the time my family came along, Dad began naming his boys after a matriarchal and patriarchal family member.
My brother, Joe, was named after Dad's brother, Joseph M. Ray who was the president of the University of Texas at El Paso. We were all impressed with Uncle Joe. Joe's second name, Adin, was my Mom's Dad's name.
Jack's first name came from Dad's sister's husband, Jack McDonald. He was the poet laureate of Slippery Rock, Pa., and wrote the poem that to this day explains how the town got its name. Jack's second name was that of Mom's Uncle Hewson who was blinded in a duck hunting accident at the age of 12. Even with that disability, Uncle Hewson earned his college degree and taught Spanish in the Jacksonville, Fla., school system for many years.
Sylvia's middle name is Ann from my Mom's Mom and her first name is the only one in the family that is not familial. The name means "from the forest" and its beauty has always fit her. We boys shortened it to Selvy when we were young.
My name is the most unusual of the bunch. The first Ray is for my Dad's other sister's husband, Ray Harman, who was a bank president in Bowling Green, Ky. Glenn was my Mom's brother's name. He was an iron worker in Columbus, and was quite the life of any party. He was always fun to be around. I aspired to be the source of laughter like Uncle Glenn.
I used Ray Glenn Ray as my official signature until I was 30 and then shortened it to R. Glenn Ray. With his naming process Dad was trying to connect his boys to family of the past. Although I did not use Dad's process in naming my children, I believe it is a good one. Our past is still part of us. Remembering it strengthens our identity.
If you dig back far enough, there may be a horse thief or two in our backgrounds but most of our ancestors helped build this country. Today, we should step up to the plate and take leadership roles of our own.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.