Being a professor, a teacher, is a vocation that I find inherently other-focused. Perhaps my view stems from my work at Queens University of Charlotte which, in both word and action, lives up to its motto: non ministrari sed ministrare (not to be served, but to serve). Or perhaps my view might be a result of my own values, my faith, or my sense of self. Or more likely, my outlook is a direct result of those teachers who have spent time building into my life.
Among these educators are talented professors, elementary school teachers, passionate friends, devoted parents, and a handful of mentors. These people have been, at times, counselors, friends, shepherds, guides, and directors that have driven me to twist and turn my way toward a vocation of giving. I have learned from them, and my subsequent honor is to pass that learning on to others.
I was overjoyed last weekend as I sat on the idyllic Queens University of Charlotte campus when the institution honored one of these mentors: Stuart Hunter. I watched and couldn’t help but to smile as this Queens alumna was awarded a doctorate of humane letters by her alma mater.
I am but one of the thousands of students whose life has been marked by Dr. Hunter. As Director of the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, Stuart forged a national focus on the student transition from high school to college. Her work has impacted higher education in ways that few can claim.
My first teaching experience, in the University of South Carolina’s University 101 program, was a noteworthy one because I was privileged to teach alongside Stuart. As the graduate instructor for her class, I watched and learned from a true talent in the classroom. As she said in her acceptance remarks at Queens, Stuart has dedicated her life to “meeting and teaching students where they are.” And she truly does. I speak from experience. Stuart built into my life for a short season with a lasting impact, and I am a better teacher because of the impact that she had on me.
So, congratulations, Stuart! Your career continues to demonstrate a life of service to the profession and art of teaching. Your impact has been one of leadership and education by example. And, although I know you find yourself humbled to be honored as a Doctor of Humane Letters, we who have learned from you find your gracious and honest humility to be yet another lesson – a lesson of what it means to be a servant, a mentor, a teacher. Thank you.