I met my friend Laurie on the first day of her freshman year at The College of Saint Rose. I was volunteering as a new student orientation leader and Laurie was moving into the freshman dorm, Lima Hall. My friends Erin and Stacey were also moving in that day and I remember talking with Laurie as I waited for the elevator.
The start of a new school year is exciting for people like me who are “joiners.” We look forward to new faces, and learning more about them. We like the social activities and mixers designed to get everyone interacting. By far, one of the best experiences each year was the leadership weekend at Silver Bay on Lake George. The weekend, now called The Fall Classic, was a chance to relax at this beautiful conference and retreat center in the Adirondacks. There were workshops and teambuilding activities for the students, staff, administrators and alumni who participated.
Laurie and I bonded one weekend at Silver Bay. I remember sitting with her on the porch of The Inn, looking over a blue lake framed by fall foliage. We were talking about becoming involved at school and Laurie asked me why I was involved with the Student Events Board (SEB) but not the Student Association (the student government group). The answer was easy – I was more interested in the group which planned social events! I wanted to be involved with activities and fun, not student government. I don’t know if the talked influenced Laurie, but she joined SEB.
One of Laurie’s classmates was a budding comedian, working on material for his first gig. Since St. Rose is a small school, we all knew Jimmy. Many knew of his dream to make it to Saturday Night Live. Laurie and my friend David offered Jimmy the opportunity to perform on campus in the auditorium in St. Joseph’s Hall. That is how most of us watched Jimmy Fallon perform stand-up for the first time. Thank you Laurie and David for helping push Jimmy out into bigger and better things.
Laurie was always a friendly face I could count on whenever I needed assistance. I was still using a manual wheelchair then and sometimes ran into obstacles or difficulties around campus. Whenever this happened, I always tried to find someone who would help me without complaining. More than once, Laurie helped me grab a drink in the dining hall or held the door as I balanced books on my lap.
I have seen Laurie a few times since graduation at alumni events. When we are together, the conversation remains easy and natural, just as it always was when we were students. Our shared experiences and memories give us a common ground to come back to, even if it is years between visits.
These days, we maintain contact on social media. Through our connection, I’ve been able to watch Laurie’s athletic accomplishments. From a distance, I have cheered as she reached milestones. Laurie has completed 33 half marathons, 7 full marathons, and 2 50ks. I am inspired by her drive. People often talk about my accomplishments as remarkable, but really – these numbers astound me. Maybe it’s because my own body prevents me from completing physical tasks. Maybe it’s because I recognize the sacrifices and determination required to complete a multi-step goal. Maybe it is a bit of both. Either way, kudos to you Laurie!
When I announced I had been invited to return to Australia, Laurie was one of the first friends to offer assistance. Thank you Laurie for always being reliable and honest. We may not see each other every day as we did when we were students, but I know whenever we do get together we will share many smiles.