Led by the bagpipes and drums, the students, faculty and staff of Lyon College gathered in Sloan Auditorium of Brown Chapel to celebrate Founders’ Day, Friday, Oct. 19.
Joined by members of the board of trustees and other friends of the college, those present heard Lt. Col. Matt Cavanaugh tell them “To Be a Hero, Shine Your Shoes.” That was the title of his keynote address.
Cavanaugh is an active duty Army strategist, writer, and lecturer at West Point. He also earned a master’s degree in strategic studies and a Ph.D. in international relations.
“I believe in heroes and you should, too,” Cavanagh said. He said he admires people who say, “I can do this,” and he wishes more would have that attitude.
He told the story of Wesley Autry, who was waiting for a train in a New York City subway station with his two young daughters. He observed a 20-year-old college student, Cameron Hollopeter, having a seizure. He helped the young man recover from the seizure but when Hollopeter stood up, he was unsteady on his feet and he stumbled from the platform and fell onto the train tracks.
Seeing a train rushing toward Hollopeter, Autry jumped from the platform and attempted to move the young man from the tracks. Realizing he did not have time to get him to safety, he pushed Hollopeter into a drainage trench between the tracks and covered his body with his own.
The train passed by them, getting close enough to leave grease on Autry’s cap. Cavanaugh said that Autry told himself, “I can do this.”
He also quoted educator Horace Mann, who said, “Live for others,” and “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
Cavanaugh also complimented Lyon College on its motto: “Perseverance conquers all, God willing.” It’s the kind of motto heroes should have.
He said when he talks of heroes, he does not mean the superheroes that are depicted in movies. A real hero does not need superpowers to be a hero. He also said that while there are military heroes who are often recognized for their bravery and honor, he also believes in everyday heroes at home.
“Aim to be a hero,” he said. “Heroes serve others.”
Cavanaugh told the audience that at the end of his first day at West Point, he cried. He felt alone, far away from his home in Minnesota, and was so discouraged he almost called his parents to ask them to find another college he could go to. Instead, he shined his shoes – several times, putting layers of polish on them to make them harder to scuff and easier to shine the next time.
“There is value in shining your shoes,” he said. It teaches you discipline and the value of repetition.
He concluded by saying, “Promise me you will jump on the tracks, if need be.” He offered to do the same.
In other events at the convocation, the President’s Cup was presented to Phi Mu Sorority by Lyon President Dr. W. Joseph King.
Mr. and Ms. Lyon College were introduced by Dr. Patrick Mulick, vice president for student life and dean of students. They are Keifer Hartwig and Ali Tucker.
Dustyn Bork, associate professor of art and Spragins Resident Faculty Mentor, announced the winners of the annual raft race on Bryan Lake. The winner of the race was Jeannette Youngblood’s team, and the winner of the raft design award was Jennifer Green’s team.