In the past few days I’ve experienced what every college professor relishes in – reconnection with former students. In some ways, seeing a student graduate is like letting my dog Chili off her lead – I never know if she’s going to go chase the bunnies or remain close by and be obedient. There’s been more than one occasion when freedom has meant chasing a cat, when it should have been all about sticking by me while we check the mail or get the newspaper.
I have been fortunate through the years to have great students and to enjoy living a portion of McMurry’s core values – that personal relationships are the catalyst for life. Those relationships begin as students come in as freshmen and we begin to learn about each other – about our families, the importance of faith in our lives, how to balance needs and wants, where education has and will lead us. I believe my students know me well, know my wife and sons, know that I really, really care about their success as students today and professionals of the future. Students at small colleges like McMurry probably have no clue that their faculty live vicariously through the lives of their students, and that we feel great pride and a sense of credit and accomplishment when our alums become successful. They take a piece of us with them and leave a piece of themselves behind when they have spent four years in our classes and offices. And when they then graduate and go off, I know I always worry that they will chase cats and rabbits and neglect to stay in touch.
I have seen the beginning and endpoint of that journey in the past week, starting with Student Preview on Saturday. Talking with prospective students and their parents is always enjoyable, as I emphasize the strength of our programs and more importantly the strength of our relationships with students. If those in attendance at Preview could only have a glimpse of the outcome of a McMurry education! I was reminded of that on Sunday, when Dr. Sharla Owens sent a friend request on Facebook from California where she practices and teaches emergency medicine. Our college-age sons were just little guys when our family drove down to Galveston for her graduation from UTMB. Then today, Dr. Chad Johnson, alumnus and physician in El Paso, contacted me to discuss a high schooler he knows who is interested in McMurry. Chad was my barometer on the quality of our science courses during his time at McMurry. Anytime I needed to know how we were doing, he was willing to answer truthfully. And yesterday I was privileged to spend an hour or so with Dr. Gena Jester Nichols, catching up on people and old times, and learning about her research on Adenoviruses and how her Wake Forest PhD has prepared her for her new job as a Research Scientist at Tulane.
Three different students, three different success stories of moving through the years from teacher-student to mentor-apprentice, and finally to friends and colleagues. It has been a very rewarding week for me because these three alums have chosen to reconnect with McMurry’s science faculty. May those who enter as freshmen next fall do likewise over the years to come.