I have come face to face with giants—perched on their shoulders, that is.
Instead of the ogres of Harry Potter, these giants were the type described by Isaac Newton when he said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” As a first-year student in 2011, I sat quietly one spring afternoon while a group of seniors were honored with Distinguished Leadership Awards, one of the top honors for students who have positively impacted Denison.
The speaker described each giant, er, student in depth: how one senior increased the quality of the athletics department; how another developed a hugely meaningful program at the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life; how a third increased the community service opportunities available to students. They were two-minute stories of leadership triumph.
“One of the most special things about my life at Denison is the chance to have giants as stepstools.”
I benefited—and still do—from their work. I watch my athlete friends excel on the field; my spiritual side is well-cared for; I volunteer every week—the list goes on and on. However, as a friend of several of those winners, I saw firsthand that they were also giants of compassion, competence and integrity. I continue to stand on their shoulders not simply because of their completed good work. Instead, I'm lifted up by their positive example. They helped me see what it means to be a Denisonian.
One of the most special things about my life at Denison is the chance to have giants as stepstools. I continue to stand on their shoulders, and I try to offer others a boost up as best I can. I often remember that quiet spring day when I first discovered that I was face to face with giants, and that I counted them as the closest of friends.