As my wife and I were walking around our neighborhood one morning this week, we heard birds chirping in the distance and my wife pondered aloud, “I wonder if those are bluebirds?”
This question brought me back to my high school days. Jeff was one of my good friends, whose dad was recognized as the No. 1 birder in the United States. I was enthralled with Jeff’s knowledge of birds. At dusk, when all you could make out was the silhouette of the bird, he could name it. Before daybreak he could tell you the name of the bird just by its song. I was hooked; Jeff had something that I didn’t have, and I wanted it.
With the purchase of a “Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America” and my dad’s binoculars, I set out to learn more about these wonderful creatures. It did not take long to have over 100 names on my bird list.
Jeff and I even took on the daunting task of learning the scientific names for the birds. To this day, I can recall the roadrunner is named Geococcyx californianus as its tail feathers touch the earth, the mockingbird is named Mimus polyglottos as it mimics many voices, and the bald eagle is named Haliaeetus leucocephalus as it has a white head. Learning was fun.
With this new desire to learn, I decided to take a couple of elective courses, one was advanced biology where we dissected sharks and observed two surgeries. The other was botany where I spent hours in the Great Smoky Mountains learning about hundreds of plants, and yes, learning the scientific names of those as well.
It was inspiration that motivated me to learn about birds, about how the body works, and about plant life. I was inspired by Jeff to study and learn about birds. I was inspired by physician Dr. McNeilus, my part-time biology and botany teacher, who had this insatiable love of learning.
Seeing the beauty of the birds through Jeff’s eyes and experiencing the excitement of a botany teacher as he found a new plant species was very personal for me. It was these types of moments that ultimately inspired me to be an educator.
At Southwestern Adventist University our mission is to inspire knowledge, faith, and service through Christ-centered education.
We have English and communication professors who inspire students to take words and thoughts and make them meaningful, turning them into creative stories or videos. We have history teachers who bring context and stories together introducing inspiring moments in history such as the “I have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We have biology professors who inspire students by leading expeditions in alligator research in Oklahoma, dinosaur research in Wyoming, or seagrass research along the Texas coast.
Inspiration is what we do, it is what we think about every day.
I am reminded of this quote by Oprah Winfrey, “You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.” At Southwestern Adventist University, our goal is to inspire our students to find their passion so they will enjoy learning and ultimately will be an inspiration to others.