John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Do You Know How Lucky You Are?

Well, of course you do. But maybe there are some facets of your life that you naturally take for granted, in the case I have in mind, like being around college students on a regular basis.

I am thinking of this because I was “around college students” every day of my professional life for 32.5 years. And then I took “early retirement” and have been working in a national higher education non-profit organization since then, and now all my “students” are adult higher educators like myself. So I am not teaching undergraduates on a regular basis and while I love my current life, I do miss those students. However, when I visit campuses I always ask to meet with students. Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend about 75 minutes with a group of 60 graduating high school seniors in the little town where I have the good fortune to live, Brevard, North Carolina. I was speaking to them about the theme of making a successful transition to college.

And they reminded me, quite movingly, of my own former students. How could I have forgotten the sheer energy, pulsating, driving, pushing, mental, physical, hormonal energy? How easy they are to move to reaction, engage in responsive dialogue in class, move to insight and appreciation. What a pleasure and privilege to work with such wonderful developing people. We should never take this for granted.

And I couldn’t help but being reminded of the new HBO series I have been watching, Pacific, about the US Marines struggles conquering the Japanese held Pacific islands in World War II. Unlike to standard Hollywood war movie with middle aged heroes like John Wayne, or even still relatively young actors in their 30’s, my students yesterday at age 17 and 18, reminded me of why old men like me have been sending young men, and now women, like these to die, for centuries.

So what are all the constructive uses we could be making of all this energy, enthusiasm, willingness to be opened up and challenged? What an opportunity we have ever day to make a difference. Oh how I miss this. How lucky you are if you can have this every day. Above all, don’t take this for granted. And your students won’t take you for granted.

-John Gardner

One Comment

  1. yottagooApril 12, 2010 at 10:32 amReply

    I give thanks every time I walk to my office at Scottsdale Community College in Scottsdale, Arizona. Being able to spend my "working" life on a college campus makes me a lucky man.

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