I want to talk about a small campus in Kentucky. Established in 1780, its one of the oldest universities in the United States. Transylvania taught me how to not only have a voice, but also how to use it effectively. The professors engaged me in every subject, as it is a liberal arts institution, and so I became more aware and open minded than I’d ever hoped to become.
See, when I say engaged, I don’t mean they simply lectured and forgot about the students. I regularly talked with professors outside of my classroom. My friends at other colleges and universities complained they never saw their advisers or professors. Meanwhile, I constantly had access to both.
I talked with Anthony Vital for hours about how Wordsworth was an absolute traitor to the Romantic cause, and that’s why Byron was obviously the superior Romantic writer, if only in spirit.
I discussed with Scott Whiddon about the rhetoric of, not joking, dating sites and the whole language of advertisements in conjunction with selling a romantic narrative.
Martha Gehringer believed that I wasn’t a serious writer, but she supported my efforts in writing none-the-less, and thanks to her I knew about Strunk’s “Elements of Style” and “The Handmaids Tale.”
Elizabeth Corsun taught me to see through narrative structure, to read between the lines and see the history behind the words in a sentence.
From the Registrar to the whole Financial Aid Office to Herr Weber to Tay Fizdale to Mike Vetter (sorry I still became an English Major, sir) to President Shearer himself, I could pen a hundred different love letters to so many people on that campus. I even became a part of a Love Letter in a project helmed by Professor Kremena Todorova and Kurt Gohde. The love and support on that campus makes it one of the best places to learn in the country.
Every single moment I spent on that campus made me a better person, and I felt secure there to become that person.
And even outside of the classrooms, the staff were like family. I knew Miss Erika and Marcia from Jazzmans, the same Erika who is now also a hero. I got coffee and a lot of great advice from both of them, as they helped me through some tough study sessions in the cafe. When I heard that Miss Erika picked up a chair to wield off an attacker, I felt too proud for words. She was quoted saying, “These students are our babies. Nobody’s going to hurt one of them without a fight.”
I cried when I read that line, because I know she means it. She and Marcia are there for every student who needs them, in the good times and the bad. They are amazing women, and they are a part of what Transylvania so great, what makes it feel like a home and not just some dorms and old buildings.
I applaud Joy Henderson, how she stayed with the stabbing victim from the attack, holding the wounds until paramedics arrived. It takes a strong person to go into the fray to stay and help in an ongoing attack, not to mention courage. Her fortitude amazes me, as well as her caring so much for someone in need of dire help.
Campus security men and women are dedicated to helping students. You call them and they are there. These same people would drive me to my dorm in the dark of the night from campus parking and start my car if my battery died to go home for winter break. They tackled the attacker after entering the coffee shop, refusing to let him harm any more of the students.
To top it all off, President Seamus Carey assisted in the take down. Humbly omitting that fact from his letter to the campus, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming pride that my alma mater chose this man to represent us. A man who values the students more than his pride and ego is exactly what Transylvania is all about.
I am so unbelievably proud of my alma mater. I know that perhaps current students might not feel that way, with maybe their sense of security gone. Yet, the swift response from the staff to security to the administration all coming together to stop this senseless act of violence is astounding. I have to respect the actions taken by all of the people involved, and also recognize that these people were heroes long before this news hit.
Many will want to talk about the attacker, feed into a vicious news cycle that wants to give more focus on the violence than the school. I refuse to be a part of that cycle. Call him terrorist or by name, no one should be given fame for doing something so horrific. I would rather focus my narrative on the people who mean the most to me, and the ones who deserve recognition.
Everyday, Transylvania University endeavors to be the best place for its students to learn. From the classrooms to the cafes to the offices, this university is built on foundations of compassion as well as liberal education ideals. Not all people have felt as secure as I did, or as welcome. Every institution will have its faults, but I can honestly say that Transylvania was the best choice I could’ve ever made. Even years later, I’m proud to say I’m a Pioneer.
Hail Transylvania, thine own are we.