Water in Many Places
Some desert cultures consider the key to a good life the fact that one can find water in many places. It's vital (for survival and for wisdom) to experience and remember many places.
In other words, the best way is less a straight line between two points and more a spiral wander across many different landscapes. Kind of like the way Devin Norman '93 nowadays sees the liberal arts, and why he and his wife, Dawn, made a generous estate gift intention, which will support a student scholarship named for Devin's mother.
Devin didn't always consider the liberal arts a viable option for a wise life path. "I'd applied to only one school, Notre Dame, with no back-up," he says. He saw his path as a straight line from undergraduate courses predominantly (if not exclusively) in economics and business, then on to a master's in business administration, and eventually a successful business career.
"But I was waitlisted," he remembers, "and come May of that year, with still no word from Notre Dame, my mom told me I'd better find a second choice.
"I blame fate and my older sister, Megan [Kalamazoo College Class of 1990], for my coming to K," Devin adds with a smile. "She had been accepted to Notre Dame and had turned them down for K."
Today Devin knows the jest, "blame," is inaccurate. "Thank" is the right word because, he says, the liberal arts make such a positive difference to a fulfilling life journey—water in many places.
"At K you try things you might never have envisioned trying," he explains, "and you live experiences that 'straight-line' thinking might rule out.
"K awakened my curiosity," he adds, "let me see things from different perspectives, and helped me learn how much I don't know." The result? "You look at life with new insight and imagination."
And yet, this realization sometimes is a long time coming. "When I got out of dental school [1997, University of Michigan] I wondered whether I could and should have reached my D.D.S. more quickly and inexpensively.
"But as the years have passed, I've come to appreciate the value of the different places, so to speak, K allowed me to go. So much so that, even though our three kids [Hunter, 16; Savannah, 15; and Ellery, 13] will be free to choose their own undergraduate journeys, I enthusiastically cheer for the liberal arts and K. In fact, I'm not above some occasional bribery," he laughs.
Dawn concurs. "We'd be thrilled if our kids studied at K. Currently, our oldest thinks he might like to be an architect, our middle child is interested in medicine and our youngest is leaning toward dentistry, like her father. But such inclinations change, as perhaps they should in kids so young."
In its explorations of many places, the liberal arts allow any sojourner to find the water source that's most sustaining.
That was true for Devin, who started his K journey an economics major. By sophomore year, "my advisor suggested that if I had any yearning for science, I should begin taking courses. I did and enjoyed the classes, especially once it clicked for me with Carolyn Newton's biochemistry course." Devin graduated with a double major (economics and health sciences).
The liberal arts metaphor of water in many places might, at a place with K's history, suggest the primacy of study abroad. Indeed, Devin describes as "awesome" his sophomore-spring quarter in Madrid, Spain. And, he adds, the value of "other places" in the liberal arts journey can be equally profound, such as an academic class you never saw yourself taking, a.k.a. a class outside one's major, or, in Devin's case, majors. "One such class for me," he says, "was Professor [Waldemar] Schmeichel's Introduction to Religion course. It opened up new worlds."
Devin's Senior Individualized Project was a key "place" in his liberal arts landscape. Titled "The Impact of Models, Drug Formulations and Chemical Structure on the Intestinal Bioavailability of Protease Inhibitors," the research was done in The Upjohn Company laboratory of Devin's SIP supervisor Mary Ruwart, Ph.D. "I performed surgical procedures on mice," says Devin, "and discovered a passion for surgery, for fixing things." That became a factor in his decision to become a dentist. Devin is one of three doctors who practice at Norman Family Dentistry in Ada, Mich. One of his colleagues there is Dr. Stephanie Rashewsky Jesin '05, whom he met when returning to K for a discussion on careers in medicine. They stayed in touch and when Stephanie was considering places to practice, the K connection was too good to pass up.
The scholarship created from the Normans' gift will honor his mother. "My parents were both teachers before all of the kids came along," says Devin. "They raised eight children." During much of that rearing Devin's mom stayed at home. "Eventually she got the urge to return to school," he adds, "and earned her master's degree in library science from Western Michigan University." She served as the librarian at St. Monica's School in Kalamazoo from 1980 to her death in 1992.
"I think librarian might be the most liberal arts of all professions," says Devin, "and so a scholarship in her name at K seems particularly fitting."
"The kids and I never got the chance to meet Devin's mom," says Dawn. "We all are deeply grateful to honor her this way."
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