Show Up and Other Lessons

Show Up and Other Lessons

Nov 23
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Holly Spangler (’98 Ag Comm) shares a Thanksgiving reflection and asks other alumni to join her in “showing up.”

When I was but a sophomore at the University of Illinois, the week-long fall break was not yet a thing. The university held classes through Wednesday, letting out for Thanksgiving on Thursday and Friday.  (And for clarification: I say the university held classes because although they were held, they were not always attended. Ahem.)

As a sophomore, I had a car and the ability to head home whenever I pleased, but I also had an ag communications class that met at noon on Wednesday. It was my last class for the day. The only thing standing between me and home. I contemplated my options: it was a small class, it was taught by my advisor, Bob Hays, and my absence would be conspicuous. Also, I was a rule follower and in general, not a class skipper since I was paying for this whole thing and all.

I went to that class, along with less than a half dozen of my peers. Bob welcomed us and informed us that showing up is important in life. So much so that because we came to class, he was waiving our final paper for the semester.

I think I heard the Hallelujah Chorus in that moment.

That was 20 actual years ago but I have never forgotten that moment and its lesson: show up. Meet your commitments. Do the job. You just might get rewarded. And even if you don’t, show up anyway.

The lessons were many from my ag com days, and not just in assignments. They came in hours spent in computer labs, in darkrooms and on field trips. They came from conversations in the hallways of Mumford and from walks across the ag campus. They came in the consistent urging by every professor and student to do your very best. Every day.

And to show up.

So many years down the road, we’re still showing up. This time, it’s to raise money for the new students who want to show up and do their very best. We’re a bunch of alumni, hitting up other alumni, to raise money for ag com student scholarships in a campaign called the Next 500.

We want more students to come and learn what it is to show up. This fall, ag com welcomed 7 new students; our goal is to attract 20 new students a year. Scholarships will help. Surveys show that scholarship dollars significantly impact a student’s college choice, and they’re looking for amounts north of $10,000. It’s a lot but it’s in line with rising college costs, but my fellow ag com alumni and I believe it’s possible to put together endowed scholarships to carry a student through their four years at the University of Illinois.

So if you’re an ag com alumni, keep your eyes peeled. We’ll be reaching out soon, and you better believe we’re making a competition out of it. Decade against decade!

Who’s going to show up?