In life we all have the unique opportunity of getting to know others while moving through progressive stages of closeness. Naturally we are uncomfortable, not used to change and in many ways unsure of our next step. So often we move through stages of romance and illusion but then stop at a stage of criticism. However, the next step can be the most important, it is the stage of understanding, appreciation and acceptance. In a short story I heard recently, a man commented on how he changed his relationship with his wife. He wrote, “What really worked well wasn’t being critical of her, goodness knows she could think up as many things wrong with me. What worked was understanding her, appreciating her and letting her know that I accepted her for who she was. What I got in return was much more than I ever anticipated.” That is what I want to share here. I want to share what I have come to understand about Campbell, what I appreciate about it and how I have come to accept Campbell for the place that it is.

Campbell University’s Forward Thinking is something that has become apparent to me over the last few years. Being a junior this year, I have seen many changes take place on Campbell’s campus. I have watched the Inauguration of Campbell’s fourth President and sat where a new fountain is now built. I have walked past a renovated D. Rich which was in the middle of renovation one year earlier. I have seen Buies Creek’s first four-story building erected, watched the removal of structures all over campus and witnessed a massive overhaul of dining services all across campus. Visiting Dr. Campbell’s grave before sitting in front of his university’s fourth presidential inauguration I thought to myself, “It’s all still going along.” Everything is flexible, everything is growing and changing, and all that I enjoy here is the work of many many people whom I will never meet. Yet something in all of these activities tells me that it is all going in the right direction. I think, since 1887, the mission has stayed the same. I attribute that to vision and forward thinking, which Campbell University is really doing well.

Dr. Peterman and other professors who I have been honored to know remind me of what college is designed to be. I have now lost count of the times I have walked into Dr. Peterman’s office just to talk. She, like so many other professors at Campbell, shows me what it means to be aware and attentive. Sometimes people just get it, they understand what their time is worth and they dedicate themselves to constant self-evaluation. When I stand at her door, she drops everything and smiles, telling me to come sit down. She could tell me she was busy and I wouldn’t bother her, because I know she is. She could talk but tell me she only a few minutes and I would be quick, because I know she does. Yet, she doesn’t. She doesn’t tell me she is busy and she doesn’t tell me to rush. We talk, I ask for guidance, she mentors, we laugh and I walk away a better version of myself because of her. This is very normal for her, and thankfully it is normal for me too. I think that’s because it is a matter of integrity, of purpose and of utmost meaning to her as a teacher. Of course she spends time with students, that’s what she’s here for. That’s what so many teachers at Campbell are here for.

Student Activities, in all of my dealings with them over the years, has been a department that really cares a lot about students. I have seen the development of Student Activities under both Tracy Renfro and Trisha Walsh in my years here at Campbell and by and large I think my experience has been momentous. Freshman year I and another student chartered a club on campus named Circle K, the collegiate Kiwanis organization. Since then our club has gone on to become one of the largest in the school, boasting over 3000 volunteer hours in our first two years and well over 100 students involved in our activities each semester. While this success points to many things, I think in large part it has been due to the strength and leadership available to us through Student Activities. Together with SGA and energetic leaders responsive to change and fresh ideas, I have been met ten times with “we can do this together” for every one time I’ve heard “we can’t do that.” Knowing that everyone around us is willing to help, Campbell has challenged me and those around me to ask, “What can I do to change this?” and “How hard am I willing to work?” Success at Campbell rewards effort.

Campus Community means something special to me at Campbell. I am still amazed at it, and I have told my story dozens of times to crowds of two and crowds of two hundred. Freshman year, before starting Circle K, I drove around the community to ask community leaders how I could help around campus. Driving into Lillington I stopped to ask the mayor’s secretary. She told me to ask the mayor, who said I should ask the Chamber of Commerce. There Mrs. Linda Johnson told me to ask the County offices but I got lost and couldn’t find them and instead found the NC Cooperative Extensions office on Main Street. Randomly I asked the secretary there the same question, “Do you know who I might ask about volunteer opportunities available to me in the community?” She took me to Wanda Hardison, who told me to ask John Powell in Buies Creek, who told me to ask Jim Roberts in the Physical Plant, who told me to come to a Kiwanis meeting in Marshbanks the next morning. I brought a friend and that morning we left the meeting determined to start a club. We knew we wanted to help the community and luckily the community was able to help itself all the way up until then. Every time I tell this story I make the point that we all have to opportunity to serve others, even if it just means pointing in the right direction. At our NC/SC Convention for Circle K, I gave my speech about this experience to hundreds of students and I will likely give the speech to thousands at International Convention next year. I have told this story to many people and I especially appreciate the opportunity to tell it to you. Campbell has something special and somewhere in between those seven people I feel like I got to experience it myself.

Campbell wasn’t what I was expecting. I consider myself spiritual but not religious, I have gone to public school but never private, and I always thought of myself as tolerant before my experience here. After coming to Campbell, I have seen what value religion can bring to peoples’ lives while at the same time studying organic chemistry and examining the nature of science. I have seen what life is like in a private university compared to the lives my friends who are in public universities and maybe most of all, I have realized that I have a lot to learn. When I came to Campbell I arrived as a high school Student of the Year, Senior of the Year, Eagle Scout, President, Chairman and Captain. Now that I am leaving Campbell next year, I feel like the one thing I want to leave as is a human. I want to be understanding, appreciative and accepting of others. I want to understand my role in our world, my capacity to help others, and my journey to do it. I want to not take for granted all of the innocence that I enter into the world with and instead appreciate all of the effort that was necessary to make it possible. Maybe most of all, I want to accept others for who they are, whether they are like me or not. I have seen what’s it’s like to live with others and to develop through the stages of relationships. Knowing what comes after criticism, I want to move into appreciation and understanding. The world offers me a great array of opportunities and Campbell has allowed me a place, a people and a time through which to see that. Campbell is doing a lot of things right and I appreciate you allowing me the time to tell you that.