Stories of Leadership in University Life
Story of Luke Karner
Success can often be a complicated and confusing word. Many people opt to measure personal success with the traditional benchmarks society has today deemed “norms.” For a businessman, this may be the car he drives. For a student, this probably refers to a five-letter grading scale that can be a friend or foe come semester’s end. But what about the people who choose to measure success on a far less tangible scale? What if success was measured by the number of times a person laughs in a day or the amount of determination put into a task. For some, it is. For Luke Karner, Knox ’09, success was a product of realizing patience, compassion and optimism, through a rare opportunity. Karner spent his summer volunteering at a New Hampshire summer program called “Wediko.” Wediko, by appearances, is like any other summer camp; however, it has an extensive staff of social workers, psychiatrists and other professionals with expertise in behavior disorders. Wediko is a therapeutic program. The children participating have been diagnosed with serious emotional and behavioral disorders ranging from aspergers and bipolar, to such environmental issues as post traumatic stress and serious aggression. The program groups children by development and academic ability, which allowed Karner to teach and experience a wide range of personalities and ages.
He averaged 16 hours per day, seven days a week for two months. “Every activity and part of the day is planned out and very predictable as many of the children lack that kind of stability in their lives at home,” Karner said. Although draining at times, Karner reinforced the idea that being “successful” was not necessarily about achieving a tangible set of ideals each day.Many of the children Karner interacted with were violent and abusive with both their words and bodies. “The whole idea is that these children are not really angry at you, but really do not have the social skills to deal with their emotions effectively,” Karner said. Once having a better understanding of this, Karner approached each day with a new sense of enthusiasm and a different idea of what “success” would entail.
Every day, he began to see improvements in the children and noticed that victories were happening everywhere he turned. Students who would leave class in a “fi t of rage” were eventually completing assignments and participating in activities. Determination and desire had become a key factor in how these children were approaching each day, much like Karner himself. Karner possesses a blind faith in not only these children, but himself as well. He has an unyielding trust in the value of persistent patience and the ability to see the “big picture.” He believes in these children and knows he can have a positive effect on each of their lives. He adopted a sense of humor for his sanity and a veil of optimism for his motivation. It is these inspiring qualities that Karner developed that have made him a successful man.
Story of Brian Gettinger
It’s easy to fall into a trap of wanting to succeed or of meaning to do your best. The difference between those who make it and those who fall short often comes down to knowing how to act and then doing something about it. Thomas Edison famously asserted that “success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” Gettinger, the recipient of Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s True Gentleman of the Year award for 2008, has found himself with not only the wisdom to know he needs a system for success but also with the courage to do something about it. The name of his award, the True Gentleman of the Year, signifies that Gettinger is Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s top undergraduate. Its name is a direct descendant of our creed, “The True Gentleman,” and he understands the connection between what we say we stand for and what it takes to get to that ideal of being a “gentleman.” To him, that concept that John Walter Wayland wrote about isn’t something you wake up one day and find yourself to have achieved.“I think it’s something you should try to achieve,” he says. “It describes the perfect person, and no one is the perfect person. It’s more about looking at what you do every day. It’s a process.” “Process” is a great way to describe what Gettinger does. From a young age, he’s worked to schedule his time, a skill that has served him well. How else could someone be the Eminent Archon of his chapter, a varsity basketball player and still maintain a 3.74 GPA? “Process” refers to a habit of success, one that’s reinforced with every passing day. If you do a quick Google search for Gettinger, you won’t find his accomplishments with the Fraternity; those are far down on the list. Instead, you’ll find his ESPN.com profile and a list of national scholar-athletes. And that last part wasn’t by accident.“I always wanted to be a student-athlete,” he says. “A lot of people want to be athletes, but I wanted to graduate with honors. And I’ve been on the scholar-athlete team every year that I’ve been [at Missouri-Kansas City].” So how does he work to achieve that goal? That same word comes up again: process.
“Being a student-athlete taught me to schedule my time,” he says. “I have to do homework, go to class, study. I have to go to basketball practice. I have to make sure I’m eating right, not partying too much. It’s helped me become a better person, a more responsible person.” But the process he goes through isn’t limited to only the Missouri Kappa-Chi chapter. As a recent colony that just received its full charter into Sigma Alpha Epsilon, it’s faced growing pains that any fledgling organization on a campus is going to face — how to find a place in the social fabric of the university, how to interact and work with the administration, how to leave a legacy for the brothers and recruits who will join the chapter later. Gettinger, as Eminent Archon, had to be one of its key architects, and he directly applied the concept of process to his role. “One of the things I’m proud of is how I helped us get a house,” he says. “It’s one of the first houses through Greek Life. We need a bigger house now, and that’s going to be a longer process.” But now that he’s graduated Gettinger is currently pursuing a master’s in business administration at Missouri-Kansas City, so he’s still a presence around the chapter he’s going to need to figure out how to apply that process to the next phase of his life. He’ll still have “The True Gentleman” to guide him, though. And, since the creed of our organization is so close to him, as reflected in the name of his award, he’s bound to have a favorite part. “Whose deed follows his word,” he replies when asked about that favorite part. “Actions are more powerful than words. Don’t lie. Be a true person. It’s important for who I am to be that true person.” If the process he’s followed to this point is any indication, Gettinger won’t be having any problems keeping his word. As long as he keeps up his inspiration, Edison’s mention of perspiration will be the easy part.