“One giant leap for mankind:” Courageous Education Amongst the Stars.

Dear Faculty and Staff:

It was just fifty years and a few days ago when Neil Armstrong took his first step off the landing pad of the Lunar Module Eagle and became the first human being ever to set foot on another celestial body. The effort of more than ten years, the work of more than 400,000 people, the experience gained in twenty previous manned flights into space, and the courage of three men named Neil, Buzz, and Mike came together at that moment in time – July 20, 1969 – to fulfill the promise made in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy to achieve the goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” And all of this was borne of a vision by the president that most in the emergent field of space exploration thought impossible to fulfill within Kennedy’s timeframe.

In this fiftieth anniversary year of the Apollo 11 moon landing, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between our times and 1969. Our planet and the cultures and the people who inhabit it have changed in countless ways since the Eagle stood at Tranquility Base and its astronauts watched the Earth rise over the lunar horizon, but we can see in still more countless ways how the qualities that carried us to the moon are in ample supply today. As we prepare for a launch of our own, starting the 2019-20 academic year shortly, we will rely on much the same things – experience, hard work, innovation, and courage – to bring success in our own endeavors. On our campuses, experience, hard work, and innovation are on perpetual display. Our staff and faculty bring a wealth of knowledge to bear on the immense task of educating tomorrow’s leaders. Likewise, our students’ diverse and unique experiences ensure that we don’t remain insular and provincial. The dedication and industriousness of both our employees and our students is evident in a thousand ways, perhaps most importantly in the number of graduates who cross the stage at every commencement ceremony. And as educators we are, by necessity, innovators – constantly seeking and finding new ways to both explore and explain the universe around us.

It’s that last quality – courage – that oftentimes gets short shrift when speaking of education. Fortunately, hurling ourselves into the vacuum of space with nothing between life and death but a few thin layers of Mylar isn’t our typical workday at MGA! Nonetheless, courage is a quality we should celebrate in our midst – as it did just a few weeks ago. During a vacation tour in the Bahamas, a bus carrying cruise passengers crashed. Among those on board were MGA nursing student Chase Hollingsworth and his friend, former MGA nursing student Nick Dale. The two immediately put aside their own safety and began working to triage passengers and get them clear of the bus. A total of 28 people were treated at local hospitals, many having been given emergency treatment by the two Knights – a remarkable feat that shows unequivocally that courage is still part of our makeup.

Today, as we continue our preparations for the new academic year, we can take lessons from both the heroes who came long before and the heroes working and learning right here among us. We should remember that courage can take any form – as explorers soaring through the cosmos, healers helping the wounded, or even a young scholar making their first tentative steps towards a college degree. And, we must remember that no matter where the coming year takes us – even if it’s no higher than the top floor of the campus libraries – that each student who leaves our University to change the world in their own unique way is, indeed, a giant leap for mankind. Our emblem, the Knights, were by legend the stuff of courage. Sometimes in quiet and invisible ways, as well as in adventures of higher profile. Let us each celebrate and embrace courage as we prepare for the new academic year.

My very best,