Blessings, purpose and aspirations

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I love the holiday season because it creates special moments for us to gather with loved ones and think a bit about our blessings, purpose, and aspirations. For me, the season includes Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve and Day.For me, starting the holiday season with Thanksgiving signals a time to really think deeply about our blessings. This Thanksgiving was particularly meaningful to me as Bill and I prepared to leave a community we care so deeply about. We wish to thank everyone for welcoming us with open arms and filling our lives with great joy. Like the horn of plenty, our memories are bountiful.My favorite memories include VCSU student Brianna Johnson single-handedly gathering hundreds of students, faculty and staff to create the official VCSU lip dub. I marveled at her enthusiasm, skill set, and ability to raise campus morale by asking us to lip sync and simply have fun doing it! I know she continues to bring joy to many every day as a teacher in Wahpeton.The lip dub also reminds me how much joy we shared with our community through music. Whether attending a concert, listening to the church choir, or observing our University Singers Christmas caroling through the campus buildings, each event etched a memory of pure happiness in my heart. And of course, I had a blast celebrating our record fall enrollment and 20 years as a U.S. News “Best College” by leading our fabulous pep band and freshman class through the campus in our very own pop-up parade.Celebrations in general have been plentiful in our community—from fabulous community events such as Backing the Badge to the fun-filled Winter Show Community Olympics. And then there are the various fundraising “feeds”—from sweet corn to ham to fish and even pancakes—we were well fed! On campus we celebrated our students, faculty, staff, and many milestones, all creating so many moments of joy and pride. I will cherish these memories and so many more. Thank you for the many blessings you shared with Bill and me.Christmas instills in me a time to reflect on purpose. Do I live my life as I have been called to do? I learned early that in Valley City, should I need inspiration to live a life of purpose, all I had to do was pay attention to our faculty, staff, students, community leaders, and neighbors. There are examples of generosity, boldness, and ingenuity all around me. This special place indeed is a community of Difference Makers.I do hope, in attempting to live my purpose, that I helped bring people together to strengthen our innovative, forward-thinking university and remind people of the importance of kindness and gratitude. I have tried to be a campus and community leader mirroring the university mission to serve as an engaged citizen leader and to lift up others as they, too, strive to live their purpose.New Year’s Eve and Day—the final segment of the holiday season. With a new year and a new beginning, aspirations abound. This year Bill and I will begin the new year in a new home with new aspirations. Those aspirations are grounded by the blessings and the purpose we found in Valley City.These three Valley City years will remain for me a strong reminder of the wonderful things in life and why each of those days began and ended with one simple thought: It is a great day to be a Viking!