On Wednesday, April 3, 2019 we gathered to celebrate the BIC graduating students of 2019. As part of the banquet, Noah Ward was voted by his peers as the male BIC student to represent his graduating class and was invited to offer a few words to his fellow graduating seniors. We hope you enjoy reading his remarks from that evening’s festivities.
Imagine if you will a group of students – about 200 hundred of them. Coming in from across, Texas, the country, heck even the world. They enter a program they know absolutely nothing about and on the first few days of class alone they are told a beach ball is an idea and that they were trapped in a cave of shadows and idols which they must escape.
To add on to this chaotic scene imagine they are introduced to some of the strangest and most intimidating minds they have ever met. Mentors who would go from talking about the idea of I-Thou and the social structure of Aztec civilization one minute, to discussing Game of Thrones and dancing with belly dancers the next. No one would have blamed these kids if they had run for the hills. If they had packed up and said this is not what I signed up for, I want a “normal” college experience.
But for some reason, the kids did not leave. Perhaps they were fascinated by the classes, these strange mix of English, history, and philosophy in which they were asked questions they never even thought to consider. Perhaps they loved the real-world nature of the program as it took them into everyday life and introduced them to their religious and national neighbors through field trips and study abroad. Perhaps they found themselves connected to this group of people who were as wildly intelligent and hungry for knowledge as them, and then they realized they all also shared a love of “The Office,” “Bo-Jack Horseman” and hey don’t get them started on John Mulaney.
Whatever their reason, and it was likely a mix, these students stuck together. Through long term papers, hand cramping test, and incredibly dense readings they would skim over right before class. They sat in small group together, engaged in respectful conversations and in some cases intellectual cage matches (Landon, glad you could make it back for this banquet). Yet, the group held fast to one another, still not entirely sure what journey they were on, but strangely liking it all the same. They found themselves sitting around outside of class discussing the previous days lecture. Phrases like “This is water,” “The True the Good and the Beautiful” and “The unexamined Life is not worth living” began to make sense. Some of them became friends, others best friends, and some of them more than friends, yet they all gained a respect and appreciation for other members of this rag tag gang of students.
They stuck together through tragedies – personal and familial. Through the losing friends who had experienced this grand adventure with them. Rest in Piece David Grotberg and Noah Antony, we know you sit with us at this banquet today in our hearts and in our minds. They learned how to cry together, they learned how to be angry together, they learned how to live together and be there for one another. And suddenly this group of students was not just growing intellectually but socially, and spiritually. Suddenly this group of students was looking back on itself and realized in just a few years they had completely transformed. Some of them had changed their world views and others had maintained the same beliefs but gained a new, stronger perspective on them.
Eventually, however, the program began to fade into the background. The students were not all in the same classes, but still the connection remained. Each one would still meet up with other members and chat about what was new. They would also often find themselves recounting discussions of old which they had had when they first met. They would completely derail conversations with, “Do you remember that time in BIC when…” which drove non-members of that program insane.
And finally, they came to a night when they celebrated this grand adventure. When they celebrated all they learned, felt, and experienced together. A night when one of the more nerdy and obnoxious members of the group stood at a podium and examined the last four years of their life together and had one determination to make, that we have created something beautiful my friends. That we have created something integral to human existence and flourishing. Something which can only be formed over time, through shared experience, joy and suffering. We have created a community. A place determined not by location but by connection. A community of seekers, striving for more than a life but a meaning filled life.
College can be an isolating place. Especially for the academic inclined such as ourselves who will sacrifice health, and social life for a grade. Yet, we found ourselves in a community of people whom we could and had to lean upon. So we discovered our greatest asset in learning was not our own minds alone, but the support of these beautiful minds that surround us, to assist us in understanding the complex issues like visual rhetoric or dual consciousness, yes, but also the much more difficult issues of how do I be present with someone else, how do I care for someone else, how do I be in community with someone.
We have been given the gift of not just an academic education but a life education. Although our student loans may disagree, this is fascinating gift we cannot pay back. It is merely something which we may now be grateful for. Grateful to the professors and the program of course, but also toward one another. And with this gratefulness in mind we in true BIC fashion must take the lessons of life and community which we learned here and work to find place for that in the world beyond college. We will find times in work, in church, in our families to foster this same idea of community. It is only right we share the gift of community with others just as it has been shared with us. With that said I can only say one thing. Thank you for being in community with me. Nothing but love for you all.