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Honors Day: The Act, Gift and Obligation of Dedication

By Kyle Stinehart
Honors Council President
Honors Day Convocation
May 7, 2011

ImageThis morning I want to ask a seemingly obvious question.  Why are we here today?  Easy, right?   We have been inducted into an honorary, are receiving a white coat, a ring, a pin, or some other form of academic or professional achievement.  When reflecting on this question for myself, I believe that the answer is dedication.  The successes we are honoring and celebrating today stem from many forms and sources of dedication. 

Part of our success comes from our personal dedication to our life as a student and our future as a contributing member of society.   Allow me to state what most students like me see as obvious: academic life at Ohio Northern is rigorous.  Not in a bad way, but in a way that facilitates challenges, pushes the boundaries, and tests the unknown.   Many students begin their ONU career as former high school valedictorians - students used to high achievement and academic success.  Earning good grades in high school was not much of a challenge for many Ohio Northern students.  College however, was a new experience.  For some, myself included, so was the art of studying.  Essays became longer, tests and exams became more difficult, free time was shortened, and time spent at the library was extended.

Outside the classroom, our activities are vast and time-consuming.  A balance between academic work, organizations, athletics, service activities, employment, and a social life began as a new and unfamiliar challenge and continues to test us every year.  The balance is rewarding, but it is not easy.

We are not given these honors today for merely making it through these challenges, we are given these honors for learning and growing from them.  By using these hurdles as a learning experience and a stepping stone, we have been empowered to grow and develop as students.  This first form of dedication, personal dedication, is important, but not sufficient for academic success.

So why else are we here?  Although the demands of our education have, at times, seemed relentless, the honors we receive today do not come only from our own motivation, will, and personal dedication.  Allow me to share a brief story.  It was a fall morning and classes at ONU had just begun for the year.  While it was a normal morning for most students, this particular day had started with an unexpected event to students who were in the Mathile Center.  The building experienced a major gas leak causing morning science classes to be cancelled.  As I walked past the Tundra however, I noticed something unusual.  It wasn't the smell of gas fumes or the influx of maintenance personnel.  Instead what caught my eye was the distant sight of Dr. Woodley…in a golf cart…broadcasting a physiology lecture at the top of her lungs to nearly 150 pharmacy students who may or may not have hoped for a return to bed that morning.  Relentless?  Sure.  Dedicated?  Absolutely.

We have been fortunate enough to receive the gift of dedication from a supportive group of family, friends, faculty, staff, and alumni that believe in us.  Their dedication, along with our own, is necessary for success as a student.  While the academic journey may be a challenge to us, it certainly isn’t easy on them either.  My parents are great listeners, but needed patience to listen to my constant worries about difficult classes, impossible deadlines, the MCAT exam, and the seemingly never-ending process of medical school applications.  Growing up, education was always an emphasis in my home, and I think it's safe to say the same holds true for most everyone gathered here today.

Luckily, when we left home, our second set of parents, the faculty and staff, were right here waiting for us at ONU.  The Govekarshelped me choose a major that would accomplish my goal of attending medical school.  Dr. Woodley provided the timeline I needed to succeed.  Dr. Suniga, Dr. Motz, Dr. Young, and Dr. Aulthouse offered comfort, support, reassurance, and advice when I needed it the most.  Dr. Allison spent sixteen years facilitating student service in Jackson, Mississippi for Habitat for Humanity, trips that were a highlight to my time at Northern.  Jane Crace, Jane Brown, and numerous other ONU support staff made sure we were armed for success, whether it be through motherly advice or home cooked meals.  Chaplain Vern LaSala dedicated an entire career to guiding and supporting Ohio Northern students.  Supportive alumni of our university made our education possible through scholarship funds and state- of- the- art buildings.  President and Mrs. Baker spent twelve years molding, guiding, and growing the enriching environment that makes ONU the great place that it is today.  These are just a few of the never ending acts of dedication given as a gift to us from our family at home and at ONU.

In short, our personal dedication, while necessary, is not sufficient.  These acts of selfless dedication by those around us helped bring us here today.

We can take honors day a step further.  A challenge that we all face involves channeling our work and the support we receive into something meaningful.  I would urge you to take today's honors not merely as recognition of your personal dedication or proof of the dedicated support that we receive, but as an invitation and a challenge to pay it forward. 

We are the recipient of a gift, something that we can give to others and return the favor granted to us.  Used solely for the advancement of our personal career, much of the gift is wasted.  Used for the benefit of society, and the gift is multiplied, spread, and sustained.  In a world where only a few percent of the total population has a college education, we all have something extraordinary and unique to offer. 

The spirit of ONU guides us to do this immediately.  We've engaged in service in Hardin County, across the country, and around the globe.  The work that we do gives our gifts to others and in small but certain steps, makes the world a better place.

In closing, I would ask that the students here with me today reflect on our hard work, but most importantly, thank the people who support us and continue the rewarding process of paying forward the great gifts we've received.  The more we are given, the more we can give back.  Life as a student is just the beginning of this fascinating phenomenon.



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