President Rob Oliver: Reflections on gratitude

 

This issue of the Mirror is the last opportunity I will have as your president to offer a few words. My thanks to Mirror editor Jacob Belgum for offering this space to me. I will try to use it wisely and make it worthy of your reading time.

As we have made our way through this last academic year, my wife and I find our hearts are filled with competing emotions. We are excited about the future adventures we will share in retirement, yet we are also saddened to leave a community we are so grateful for and have come to love dearly.

If one is really lucky, one gets to invest time and energy in an endeavor that brings personal satisfaction and gifts to others through service. I am feeling that sense of gratitude for my good fortune in my nearly 28 years in financial services and for the last 13 years here at Augustana. These have been years where I have felt good about the missions of the organizations I had the privilege to lead and the people I have been fortunate enough to serve.

In my financial services career, I was invited into the details of individuals’ lives that are not typically shared with others, and it was my privilege to share their journeys. I was able to share in the excitement of their successes as they acquired or built business enterprises, purchased homes and created financial security as they raised their families.

I was fortunate to lead a team dedicated to helping others. We called ourselves “dream brokers” as we helped people navigate the challenges of creating financial security and success. For a time early in my career I even managed the student loan program to help young people get to college—who knew what was in my future?

In my career at Augustana, I have had opportunities to watch young women and men strive toward their goals as they worked to earn their degrees, many while also working hard at pursuits outside the classroom: in music, the visual or literary arts or in athletics. I admire the way Augustana students challenge themselves and strive to be their best. I believe it is true that we all learn and grow most in times of challenge. That growth is nurtured when surrounded by a caring, supportive community. I have worked alongside faculty and staff who are talented in ways that astound me, individuals who could succeed in many other pursuits, but who have chosen to spend their time here, in this mission to teach, challenge and serve students.

In both of my working careers the values of the organization played a huge role in guiding behaviors.

My hope is that each of you finds the opportunity to align yourself with enterprises whose values resonate with your own, so that you spend your energies and talents in ways that are pleasing to you.

You will also find that organizations which celebrate and live out their values will attract other dedicated individuals, which makes the work environment an enjoyable one.

When one finds that good fit, when work is fun—although some days will clearly be more fun than others—one can look back on a career and feel content, knowing that you used your unique gifts to fulfill an end. Sometimes things don’t turn out as you planned, but sometimes the awaiting surprise is even better!

As we leave Augustana, Angie and I feel a sense of fulfillment.

Here we have tried to live out our values of Christian faith, liberal arts, excellence, community and service. Because we are human, outcomes will most often be imperfect, but still members of this community consistently strive to do their best.

Being around young people has buoyed us up and given us great hope for the future—your energy and enthusiasm for life has made us feel younger and our spirits brighter—Thank you!

It has been our great privilege to be a part of the Augustana community, one we shall always cherish, support and encourage for as many days as we have left. After all, each and every day…is a GREAT day …when you are an Augustana Viking!