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Snapshots of Students with Servant-Hearts

By Michael Sardinia, '87, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Michael Sardinia hugs Mack, a nine-week-old registered Clydesdale stallion.
Michael Sardinia hugs Mack, a nine-week-old registered Clydesdale stallion.

My biology student struggled to perform a blood draw on the massive Clydesdale mare. What had become a routine procedure for the student was now made much more difficult in a snowstorm with temperatures in the low teens. An unexpected near-blizzard had moved in at a north Idaho farm. I steadied the horse as the student tried again with numb hands and finally found success as blood filled the tube. A team of Whitworth students was working above and beyond expectations for their research project in my Animal Physiology class. Months later they would present their work and receive an award at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in California. 

This is just one of many memories I have of my students. When someone asks why I teach at Whitworth, my answer is consistently, "I love my students." Here are a few more snapshots I have of them:

  • I see a student reminding me, "It's Wednesday," five minutes before class. This starts a migration out to the hallway for our weekly group prayer time. A few moments later, my students will be back in class, wrestling with a quiz and learning about transmembrane protein conformational changes.
  • I remember sitting among a vanload of students singing Good-Hearted Woman as we return from the anatomy museum at Washington State University.
  • It's a Thursday morning at 6:45 a.m., as students arrive for a weekly lecture and conversation on immunology or pathophysiology. Most do not receive any credit for this discussion; they come because they want to learn.
  • In my mind, I see students saving me a seat for chapel because I am late getting out of lab – as usual.
  • Walking into the lab on a Saturday night, I find it full of students studying for their Comparative Anatomy midterm. They're all helping each other.
  • I remember the joyful announcement by a student that one of his classmates has just been accepted to medical school.
  • In Neurophysiology, a student asks a truly difficult question about synaptic transmission that shows depth of understanding.
  • Students, former students and parents help my wife, Teri, and me load hay onto a wagon pulled by our draft horses because the coming rain will ruin the harvest.
  • Some memories speak volumes about the how responsible our students can be, such as when I said goodnight to a student finishing her electronic quiz at 11 p.m. She is in the back of our horse trailer because she traveled to a show to help Teri and me with our Clydesdales. The student is a freshman. It is a Friday night.
  • I recall the last moments of daylight on a mountain in January as my students prepare to check vole traps all night. They are in the dark, in the snow, sleeping in tents – and there is no whining.
  • I think about celebrating with a former student who is finally being allowed to buy me dinner (steak, no less) because I now call him "Doctor."
  • And, of course, I think of the horde of former Whitworth students who are all highly successful in medical, dental and veterinary school. What is more important than their success is that they have servant-hearts to help others.

I have the privilege of teaching many very bright undergraduates who also genuinely care about other people and God's creation. They are special, and most of them don't even know it. This was true of the Whitworth classmates I knew when I was a student. This is true of the former and current students I teach as a professor.

The unique Whitworth community that draws these special individuals here and that helps them grow is a precious thing. Students, staff and faculty all travel together during these important years. In the end we have learned together, laughed together, cried together and praised our God.

Michael Sardinia is an associate professor of biology at Whitworth and a pre-professional advisor for Whitworth students planning to attend medical, dental or veterinary school. As the owner of Morning View Farm Mobile Veterinary Clinic, he is a practicing veterinarian with expertise in equine physiology.