Sometimes graduates who have repaid their loans in full are asked to speak to our board. Often, we hear “I wanted to make you proud.” Sometimes it goes beyond that, “This was the first time I felt like someone believed in me and I wasn’t going to let you down.”
This kind of pride is vested in relationship.
In our students, I see it less as ego and more as proof. Right here, in the Show-Me State, students who are used to fighting for every scrap and being overlooked in their brilliance, never forget the first time someone said, “Oh, yes you can.”
Months away from my own graduation from college, I got a fancy announcement that I had been nominated to Phi Beta Kappa and all I needed to do was call the number provided to learn more about this incredible honor. I threw the letter away. I certainly didn’t plan to join a sorority. Obviously, this was just a ploy to sell me something I didn’t want to buy.
A few days later, a literature professor (whose negative evaluation of me I’d challenged successfully the year prior) stopped me to ask if I’d heard from the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He’d heard I’d not replied. Something about the look on my face caused him to slow down and kindly explain that this truly was an honor and not a sales pitch.
Before graduation, a group of my professors pooled their funds and purchased the most expensive 18-karat Phi Beta Kappa key (in the form of a fashionable lapel pin) that money could buy. I cried when I opened it, both from the guilty knowledge that I’d never wear such a thing and even more so from the realization that they were really, truly proud of me. I remember thinking that I could not ever let them down.
I wear that pride every single day. Here’s a picture of it, melted into wedding rings made in 1983 by my husband. Every day, in my work, I am reminded of the potential of each human being and the power of those acts of faith that communicate “I believe in you.”
– Faith Sandler