PRESIDENT'S PEN

The call, selflessly answered


Hanging above a desk in my office is a framed quote, an excerpt from a poem by Dr. Melanie Almeder, an English professor here at Roanoke. She shared the poem on the occasion of my inauguration as the College's 11th president in 2007.  

"Do your best," it says, referring to one of my mother's frequent instructions for my brother, sister, and me. "Do your best" applies wonderfully to what we wish for our students at Roanoke.

Three words; simple, but weightier than most paragraphs. Those three words set very basic expectations of anyone in pursuit of a goal - professional or personal.

When new students arrive at Roanoke, we begin their orientation reminding them of the basic values of Roanoke, including the idea of serving the broader community in which we live.  It is one of the "Four Pillars of a Roanoke Experience" that we promote to our new Maroons.

"Do your best," is about excellence in pursuing academic work here, and it is about excellence in the pursuit of making the world a better place for others.     

Late last year, inspired by the many altruistic, humanitarian, philanthropic acts of Roanoke alumni, I considered the impact of compiling their stories in the same printed space. What a powerful way to illustrate how the Roanoke experience - moreover, the Four Pillars - is carried out in the world and what happens when students are encouraged to aspire to do something greater than themselves.

Roanoke is more than a utilitarian place. It is a place of values and virtues that serve society, exemplified in the graduates we produce.

The result is this special issue of Roanoke magazine. Its theme, simply, is "Doing Great Things," an extension of the three words plucked from Dr. Almeder's poem and my mother's voice. In this magazine are the stories of people fully engaged in giving back. They bring to life a passion sparked during their years at Roanoke, a passion that placed them on a path toward serving the human community.

They are proud to be defined by the fruits of their labor.  I am proud that they are Maroons serving society in their compelling ways.   

Sheltering the homeless.

Helping low-income individuals establish their own businesses.

Empowering environmentally at-risk communities. 

Giving disadvantaged students access to a college education.

In doing their best, these alumni are "Doing Great Things."

"I received the call to aspire to the highest standards possible loud and clear during my college years," said John Hummel '91, an attorney in Oregon who works for a nonprofit that operates community health clinics caring for underserved individuals. "What did the caller say? That if I worked hard, asked for help when needed, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone I would be rewarded by being well-prepared for the next chapter of my life. The caller was right. I'm glad I answered the call."

John is not alone. Many Roanoke alumni have answered that call - in very diverse ways, none greater than the other.

John's story and those of nine other alumni appear on the following pages. Told in their own words, the stories movingly show that seeds firmly planted at Roanoke do indeed take root and flourish. It is very affirming to know that there are thousands of similar stories in the Maroon Nation. 

Michael Creed Maxey

 


About the Author

This story originally appeared in the Roanoke College Magazine. It's produced twice each year with news and features about Roanoke alumni, students and faculty. View more magazine stories.