One of the great aspects of working at a university is that you never know what you may be called to do, what opportunities you might have or what lessons you will learn. All of us have stories about the unexpected nature of our work and the surprises we have faced. This is one of those stories from my time as associate dean of students at McMurry University.
The campus in Abilene, Texas has a wonderful old building that looks like a large church but was really built to be the center for student life. Radford Auditorium has housed offices and been the site of graduations, convocations, concerts and speakers.
One day, I was unexpectedly invited to go to the top of Radford’s tower. Admissions needed photos from the top of it, and a friend of mine was taking a photographer up to the platform. He asked if I wanted to go. I said yes — with no idea of what I was agreeing to do.
I thought I’d be climbing several stories of stairs, but access to the very top was a metal ladder about two to three stories tall attached to the wall. I was about a third of the way up when I realized climbing a vertical ladder was very different than climbing an inclined ladder because it required upper body strength. As I clung to the ladder and looked at the brick wall a couple of inches from my face, I found myself wondering if I had the strength to do this. But once on the roof, I forgot all about that — the view was amazing.
Nowadays, no one would let me or anyone else climb up to the tower since the risk of getting hurt is pretty high. But I’m glad I did it. It was something I never expected to do and much more difficult than I anticipated, yet I didn’t quit when I realized what I was facing. There were all sorts of reasons to say no to the invitation, but saying yes (though scary at the time) left me with a wonderful memory. Not just of the view, as wonderful as it was, but the memory of accomplishing something unexpected while pushing my boundaries.
Like the many students who have entered the doors of Radford, my experiences there as a staff member taught me skills, frustrated me at times and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Most of all, I learned something that has stuck with me my entire career. When offered a chance to do something special, even if it’s tougher than expected, or you really don’t know all that it will entail, take the chance. You never know what you will learn or where you will learn it, so go ahead and climb that tower.