Where is Bob Hope when you need him?
Even his corny one-liners would have spiced up a four-hour roast Thursday for Richard J. Pappas, Harford Community College's departing president, that produced lots of politicians but few zingers.
"I'm very pleased to be here for candidates' night," deadpanned Robert Gell, president of Cecil Community College, following a long line of campaigning elected officials at the podium.
Rick Bowlus of the college alumni council apologized for wearing his baseball uniform to the dinner: "I didn't know I was after the politicians and school officials or I would have walked home and changed."
Dr. Pappas, seated at a table with his wife, Pam, and three children, Brian, Lisa and Dana, took the proceedings in stride. Nearby, about 160 guests were finishing up a buffet meal of chicken Kiev, wild rice, and garlic shrimp and noodles.
In a show-must-go-on spirit, master of ceremonies Leland C. Sanborn, chairman of the college's board of trustees, provided some bright spots in between speakers.
The dapper Mr. Sanborn couldn't resist poking fun at Dr. Pappas' many appearances in a local newspaper. "He continued to be there week after week after week."
The seemingly never-ending newspaper coverage continued to be fodder for the rest of the evening. Del. Mary Louise Preis, a District 34 Democrat, called the roastee "Paparazzi Pappas," and Sheriff Robert E. Comes wondered how the newspaper would fill space when Dr. Pappas leaves his post Aug. 15 to become president of Lake Michigan College, a community college in Benton Harbor, Mich.
The letter "M" was another theme. Dr. Pappas, who is from Michigan, was constantly reminded that "M" also stands for Maryland.
"He always used the big 'M' word -- for Michigan. I hope he does that to them," said County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann as she presented Dr. Pappas with a cardboard "M."
"There has never been enough 'I' in the state of Maryland for Rick," said Warren Hartenstine, a Forest Hill businessman, taking a double shot at the "M" word and Dr. Pappas' ego. Mr. Hartenstine also presented Dr. Pappas with a sweat shirt in size XXL, "so it would be big enough to get his head through."
G. Jeremiah Ryan, vice president of marketing, planning and development at the college, shared a telling quote from his frenetic boss. "He told us, 'I've tried relaxing, but I feel more comfortable tense.' "
Mr. Ryan also said that before working for Dr. Pappas, he "drank, smoked and used foul language for no reason. Now I have a reason."
Another member of Dr. Pappas' administrative staff, W. Stephen Pannill, vice president of administration and finance, told the assemblage that he was going to send Dr. Pappas' new financial officer a few items from his own desk: Tums, aspirin and his stress-relieving squeeze toy.
In the end, Dr. Pappas got his turn at the microphone.
He thanked everyone he had worked with and wisecracked, "I'll be back [to visit] -- although that might not be what some of you want to hear."