By Nick DAngelo
My mother has many strong opinions, as most mothers do. One of her most fervent beliefs, though, is that a community helps to educate and nurture a child.
Throughout my life, she constantly repeated the phrase made famous by Hillary Clinton, “It takes a village,” and she never had any qualms about sharing the credit for the growth of her two boys with the teachers, neighbors and friends who made a difference.
Mom would agree with President Ainlay, who noted in his 2009 convocation speech that Union is an “academic village.” Moreover, the community here deserves more than a bit of credit for anything, and everything, we have achieved.
Our professors and mentors have contributed in unique ways, most completely through inspiring passion, strengthening intellectual vigor and providing unwavering support.
These are some of the remarkable men and women who made my four years the best they could have been.
Inspiring passionate ideals is one of most fundamental roles of our mentors here.
We have all developed special relationships with faculty members who have helped us find our individual passions and purposes. Andrew Morris, my instructor, academic advisor, thesis advisor and mentor, not only inspired my love of history, but also helped me to channel it into true scholarship.
Additionally, Mary O’Keeffe, known fondly by her students as the “Tax Goddess,” helped me figure out what I want to do with my life more than any other teacher.
She has led by example, proving that regardless of what one chooses to do, it must be for the betterment of society as a whole.
Inspiring passion is not isolated to your specialized discipline, either.
I was terrified to take calculus, but I was at ease as soon as I walked into Alan Taylor’s classroom.
His passion for his subject is contagious, and it is now my belief that everyone should take calculus, and should be taught by Professor Taylor. Quite simply, passion breeds triumph.
That passion is often complementary to the intellectual vigor that is expected of Union students, and our professors nurture that throughout our time here.
Joyce Madancy is as tough as the samurai warriors she lectures on, and probably more intimidating, but if you want to become a better writer, she is the master to imitate.
Oftentimes, being challenged can be daunting, but it is also rewarding if you have the right guide. Brad Lewis’ passion is transitive, and he is one of the last true scholars in a discipline that sometimes ignores the individual in favor of that which can be quantified.
Development of intellectual character often occurs outside of the classroom as well.
During my time as chair of the Student Conduct Committee, Dean Trish Williams and I did not always agree on policy, but she challenged me to articulate my positions.
Her confidence in student leadership, which fosters mutual respect and productivity, helps make our student body strong.
More than anything, students have relied on faculty members as advocates and enthusiasts. Union is graced with some of the most devoted cheerleaders of student action, including Hans Mueller, who is among Union’s most passionate advocates for student involvement.
Through his work on the Golub House Council, where we began service concurrently as Chair and Faculty Representative, he has fought tirelessly to ensure that student voices are heard.
I could list a dozen more campus advocates, but here are three who had a particular impact on me.
Brian Cohen not only teaches in a vernacular, he takes an active interest in his students and faithfully celebrates our community.
For three weeks in Eastern Europe, Anastasia Pease was our fearless leader and guided with the tenderhearted compassion that she brings to her teaching.
Anyone who buys coffee every morning knows Joyce from Dutch Hollow, and she knows everyone.
Since her first day, Joyce has been an avid reader of this column and has often supplied the sparks that became some of the best articles I wrote.
It is that kind of support that makes Union a home for so many students, and the personal commitment of its members adds to the vibrancy of this “academic village.”
While graduation is a time for celebration, it is also a time to express gratitude.
Too often, caught up in our own applause, we forget to say thank you to those who made our success possible.
Take some time in the next few weeks to say thank you to the supporters, the advocates and the champions. They are Union.