What I Learned Since College

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Nov 07, 2009

"Life is the only real counselor; wisdom unfiltered through personal experience does not become a part of the moral tissue."
Edith Wharton

There is nothing quite like Homecoming on a college or university campus. Whether they are standing during the singing of the alma mater song or sitting together at a luncheon or posing for one more picture or playing in an athletic contest, I love to see alumni/ae come together one more time. 

It doesn't matter if graduation took place 50 years ago or just last spring, there is an inseparable bond between them. The ground on which they walk for them will always be hallowed. Their faculty will always be cherished. Their friendships will always be forever. 

One of the highlights of our Homecoming here at VFCC is when bright-eyed current students and gray-haired former students all gather for our morning Chapel services. For several years we have invited a few alumni/ae to share with our current students on the topic "What I Learned Since College." 

Philip Bongiorno graduated in 1955. This veteran church leader walked us through his leadership journey and how at each place he served he learned something new. "In Milesburg I learned to trust God. In Harrisburg I learned to back off. As the District Superintendent, I learned that a soft answer turns away wrath." Each place he lived taught him something. 

But then he spoke of Janette, his dear wife of 57 years. He described how he sits with her for nine or ten or eleven hours each day as the best hours of his day. And though she often does not recognize him because of her Alzheimer condition, his voice broke as he said, "No matter how close you are to God, you still get discouraged. But I learned then that God is good and God is sovereign."

Frank Zgrabilich graduated in 1977. Today he serves as the Executive Vice-President of Global Human Resources for CARDONE Industries, a Philadelphia company with 5500 worldwide employees. He spoke of his journey toward servant-leadership. He spoke about self-control, humility, confidence, and total commitment. It was obvious that this influential businessman has kept learning and growing since he sat in our classrooms. 

He also spoke of the son he had with spina bifida. The doctors told them he would only live three years but he lived to be 18. And as he spoke we could feel his passion. 

Michelle Russell graduated in 2005. Over four years ago she started at her church in Lincoln, ME a program called KidCare America, an after-school mentoring program. The lessons she learned as a student leader in college are now helping her to keep on learning. "I learned that when you get home, no one makes you dinner. I learned the importance of staying physically fit. I learned how to take down tables and chairs and put them up and take them down. I learned that it is OK to say that I don't know. I learned the importance of friendship." 

What struck me about her presentation was the wisdom with which she spoke. She only graduated in 2005 yet she spoke with a wisdom way beyond her years. It is obvious that whatever she does or wherever she goes in the years to come, her future is bright indeed. 

Of course, those three messages don't begin to capture the other formal and informal reflections as alumni/ae reminisced together. I wish you could have heard the members of the class of '59 talk about their 50 year journey since they sat together as classmates. And though their gate may have slowed, their passion to make a difference in the world is still white hot. 

When alumni/ae get together their eyes sparkle and the atmosphere is filled with laughter and spirited conversation. I agree with Gary Smalley who said, "Life is relationships; the rest is just details." 

Homecoming. There is nothing like it in the world. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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