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.
Although the BIMS program is too new to have any graduates, there are MANY McMurry Biology graduates who have gone to graduate and professional programs aligned with biomedical science. Each summer, I send out an update on what’s happening at McMurry to my former students. I always ask them to “check in” and let me know what they are doing. Here’s some of the responses I got this summer.
- Dr. Andrew Hockert completed his doctorate in Cell Biology & Biochemistry at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (TTUHSC-GSBS) and now is teaching molecular biology and biochemistry at Cumberland University.
- Dr. Abby Crume received her D.O. from UNT-TCOM and is in a surgical residency in Maine.
- Dr. Gena Jester Nichols completed her doctorate in Immunology from Wake Forest and is in a post-doctoral position at Tulane.
- Kira Chumbley completed her masters in Medical Microbiology from TTUHSC-GSBS and works as a Senior Research Technician the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, and teaches microbiology at a community college for fun.
- Dr. Yancey Natividad completed his Doctor of Pharmacy degree at UNM.
- Sheena Banks continues in the PhD program in Immunology at UTMB, where operations were severely interrupted by Hurricane Ike last fall.
- Jessica Crawford is a third year medical student at UTMB.
- Dr. Cari Roark Sloma, who completed her degree in Medical Immunology from Mayo Graduate School of Biomedical Science is now on the faculty at Ross University School of Medicine on the island of Dominica.
- Stephanie Coffey is in her fourth year at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M.
- Dr. Asha Kurian is an internal medicine resident/endocrinology resident in Arizona.
- Dr. Clipper Strickland has returned to Abilene to establish is practice after graduating from UH-College of Optometry.
- Dr. Kendra DeBerry has graduated from UPenn School of Optometry and is practicing in Ft. Worth.
- Drew Hillhouse should be nearing completion of his PhD in Medical Microbiology from UMizzou-Columbia.
- Dr. Stacy Beaty completed his MD at UT-Houston School of Medicine and has joined the Shannon Clinic in San Angelo.
- Dr. Sam Nixon completed his DPT degree from Hardin-Simmons and is in private practice.
These are just a sampling of the reports we get from our students. Each is a success story. Each is a student who came to McMurry with dreams and worked hard to make those dreams come true. I hope the incoming freshmen this fall will be featured in a report like this 5, 6, or 7 years from now.