A Letter to Dr. Neatrour

Note: Dr. Elizabeth Neatrour was Professor of Russian at James Madison University. She opened my eyes to a world that this first generation kid from Southside Virginia didn’t know existed, including two study abroad experiences to Russia that she led in 1972 and 1975. Dr. Neatrour passed away last year.

Dear Dr. Neatrour:

This letter is long overdue. I have been thinking about you lately and reflecting on the profound effects you have had on my life and career. Little did you know that the naïve college student who took all of those Russian classes and joined you on the tours to Russia would someday head a University and be encouraging his students to take similar journeys.

Dr. Neatrour, I want you to know how much I appreciated the way you pushed me to consider opportunities far beyond my limited imagination. I have been truly fortunate to have had a number of amazing experiences, including the Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in Comparative and International Education, the Fulbright at the University of Edinburgh and visiting university fellowships at Oxford, Auckland and Melbourne. What’s more, I have shared the world with my five children who have also traveled and studied abroad. Perhaps this has been one of the greatest gifts that I presented to my children; in a way, I was simply passing along the same gift you bestowed upon me. In fact, I had the opportunity to take my family to Russia in 2000, 25 years after my last trip with you. My Russian was a little rusty, but the memory of standing next to you on Red Square was vivid.

I share all of these personal accomplishments with you not because I want you to be proud of me, but because I want you to know that you have had such an influence on my philosophy of education and some of the guiding principles I use in leading the University. I have made a promise to deliver the very best education to every student, and I believe this includes an understanding of our world and its many cultures that is only realized through engaging in international experiences.

I am so excited about what is happening here at Methodist University. You need to know that your influence lives on, as the promise that you made to me is one that I am passing along to these amazing students. We have created the Methodist University Journey, and one of the “pathways” that we offer students is found in the Center for Global Education. Here we focus on the appreciation of other cultures and preparing graduates to be successful in a global society by increasing the number of international students studying at Methodist (we presently have 128 students from 55 different countries) and offering every MU student the opportunity to study abroad.

College students often don’t appreciate what they have until way after the fact. This is certainly the case with this former college student, as it has taken me forty years to write you this letter. I want you to know how much your support and encouragement meant to me then and means to me today as I work with Methodist University students to help them realize their potential as they map out their own “journey.”

Finally, I wish that I had written this letter even a few months earlier so that you could have read it personally. Still, I needed to write it so that others could read about you and understand the amazing impact one faculty member can have on a single student. Thank you so much for being there when I needed you and for helping me take the first steps in my journey—a journey that continues to this day.

With great admiration and appreciation,

Ben Hancock
President
Methodist University

Update on Partnerships

During an on-campus luncheon yesterday, the Office of Career Services launched the MU Exclusive Internship Program. This program, led by Antoinette Bellamy, Director of Career Services, underscores our commitment to provide every student with an internship opportunity.

Here are just a few of the partners who will be participating in this program, offering exclusive internship opportunities to our students during the 2013 May Term. These represent just the latest examples of the “100 Partnerships” to be created during this academic year.

Partnership #7: City of Fayetteville, represented by Adewunmi Lewis, HRD Assistant Director.

Partnership #8: Fayetteville Observer, represented by Diane Cain, HR manager.

Partnership #9: US Army Special Operations Command, represented by Michelle Barnes, EEO Specialist.

Partnership #10: PWC (Public Works Commission), represented by Magie Fishburne, Compensation Analyst and Bobby Russell, HR Director.

Partnership #11: The Arts Council, represented by Anne Rawson.

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