Jodie had seen how valuable the connections had been before classes began, but those connections were electronic. She was anxious to see how those connections continued when students arrived on campus. Her professor taught large classes with up to 200 students. How did those connections work in such large numbers?
I remember our first class my freshman year. We were in a large auditorium. When the lights went down and you began to speak, the room was silent. I think that each of us valued how you reached out to us over the summer. The room just felt different than any other classroom I had been in.
Then you put up two slides that really connected with me. The first one was of experiences we will soon have that are natural and not things to panic about. You got a huge laugh when you said “don’t worry about the ending of a current romantic relationship there are lots of other possibilities here”.
Then you put up another slide of more serious challenges. Included were such things as the death of a loved one, parents getting a divorce, and loss of a job by a parent. You made the point that these were areas where you need to seek out help. All we needed to do was to reach out to you.
Every one of those issues was something I had experienced in the past year. My grandmother died. She was my caregiver. My father is an alcoholic, and he lost his job. That led to my parents’ divorce we even lost our home.
I did reach out to you. As I described my situation, you asked me lot of questions. Then you said that this was a new day and a time to start over. You asked me to see you again the next day. When I entered your office, there was another student there. As it turned out, the other student, a junior, had much of the same experiences I had as a freshman. When he shared how he started over, your advice from the previous day really made sense. The other student and I became close friends, and that connection opened up an entire new perspective on life for me.
Every class that first semester had a story at the end of a student who had become successful despite challenges that seemed insurmountable. I set a goal of becoming one of your stories.
Just recently when I was named CEO of my company, you sent a personal note with the ending of: “I’m proud of you.” That meant more to me than anything you can imagine.
Todd – Class of 1988