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Help! Navigating the treacherous waters of academia

So this past weekend, my department held an end-of-career conference in honor of one of the professors. My department is comprised of several different sub-fields, and this professor is in an area of study completely different from mine. Moreover, this professor has not said a single word to me in the several years I have been a grad student in the department.

I did not go to the conference. I could list many excuses, but that is an exercise in futility.


Today, I get an e-mail from the department head, chastising the grads for poor attendance at the conference. Significantly over half of the grad students did not attend. He was pretty upset. I can understand some of it, since part of being a grad student is going to these sorts of things to support the department as a whole, regardless of whether it benefits you individually. However, I have a very good record of attendance for departmental events, even those not in my field, while many other grad students do not attend any events in my sub-discipline.

Here's the kicker: I need travel funding from the department ASAP, and the department head is the gatekeeper of the treasury. How do I word this in an email without provoking his ire? Do I apologize for not attending? Explain myself? Just shut up?

I'm kicking myself for not emailing before the weekend, but I have been super swamped. It's just a terrible coincidence of timing, since I'm sure a week from now the whole thing will have blown over.

(tl;dr) How do I get a professor who is mad at me to give me money anyway?

Edited because Kinja ate my first Professor Cat.

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