Many of you will already have images of the SDC in your head if I mention Career Fair to you. The semi-annual festival of resumes just about packs the buildings, with 371 employers attending last week. I think the number is something like 70% of the recruiters are you, our alumni.
I’m teaching two first-year classes this semester, and I encouraged my students to go. Even if they aren’t thinking of getting an internship next summer. Even if they aren’t sure what they want to do in the future. It’s always good to go and see what you’re up against, to know what the space looks like. Whenever you can limit the unknowns in something like this that matters, that’s important.
Our placement rate continues to be in the 90%+ range, and the average starting salary has crept over the sixty-thousand dollar mark. When my students explain to me the things they’re studying, there’s a lot of it I don’t understand, but those numbers show that the marketplace is demanding those skills, that knowledge and experience.
But I also ask my students what matters to them. And what they want to do that will matter. We are so often remembered by the best things we did and how we treated the people around us while doing those things.
And that, unsurprisingly, brings me back to Justin Fitch.
Justin walked the same sidewalks as us, was in the same buildings, had the same classes. He chose his career path, too, serving in the armed forces. Most will remember his story—the cover story for the last magazine—on working to help prevent veteran suicides. And he did all of this work with stage 4 cancer chasing him. If we’re remembered by the things we do that matter, I know I would be lucky in however many years I have in my life to make a fraction of the difference he has.
Justin died on Sunday. He was 33.
I remember most our phone interview as he was going from Boston to Wisconsin, his phone and the mobile networks of central Pennsylvania not getting along. And it was the work that mattered, the fundraising, the healing. He was very upfront that people tend to listen to someone like him, someone who is staring down long odds and has limited time. He was happy to use that soap box to further his cause.
Justin was given the Humanitarian Award at this year’s ceremony during Alumni Reunion. No, not given. He more than earned it. He packed more into his time than many of us will be able to pack into ours.
I’m not really a religious person, but I do believe in a very abstract form of reincarnation: the best parts of ourselves, the ways we best treated each other, and the good that we’ve done, that lives on in the other lives we have the good fortune to touch. It’s that positivity that, one act of kindness and compassion at a time, makes the world a better place. And I know a lot of Justin and his work will live on in us.
The main fundraising vehicle for Active Heroes, the non-profit Justin worked with to raise funds for a retreat center for veterans and their families, was a series of ruck marches under the umbrella of Carry the Fallen, a kind of long walk with a massively heavy pack on your back. It’s symbolic of the burden veterans with depression and suicide issues face, and it’s a powerful reminder that we need to not just remember but help these people with their pain. Because their stories, their acts of kindness, they should not be lost.
Thanks, Justin, for the work you did all the way to the end. I hope you always knew how much of a difference your one voice made, how many of us stood up and took notice. We’ll carry the load from here. Thank you, my friend.
Thanks for reading.