President’s letter: They deserve to finish

As I considered the stories for the Spring 2015 edition of the Mount Mercy Magazine, the themes of selfless service, compassion and mercy immediately came to mind. They always do when I think of what our students and alumni are accomplishing around the world!

But if a picture is worth a thousand words, I urge you to take a look at Jason Fuler’s article, He deserved to finish. You will see the embodiment of compassion and mercy. Tyler Keith ’15 is helping a faster —but now downed—competitor cross the finish line during the NAIA Men’s Cross Country National Championship race. When the fallen runner’s coach thanked Tyler for helping his athlete accomplish his goal, Tyler simply replied, “No problem. He deserved to finish.”

He deserved to finish.

Then I thought of Kellie Lala ’89 and the great work she is doing to support a school in Africa. She is helping children get an education, to reach a finish line some didn’t know existed.

They deserve to finish.

There is another group of young people that deserves to finish, and they are right here in the Cedar Rapids community. You may think that I mean Mount Mercy athletes and, of course, I do. Our outstanding student-athletes deserve a home field advantage. Watching our athletes compete with spirit and determination drives me to enthusiastically complete our new Robert W. Plaster Athletic Complex.

Group_PhotoHowever, Mount Mercy University is currently poised to help an even larger group of young people in Cedar Rapids realize their potential. When completed, The Plaster Athletic Complex will be home not only to Mount Mercy student-athletes, but also to the youth of this community —children who will learn the values of perseverance, sportsmanship and teamwork with Mustang student-athletes and coaches as their mentors.

The benefits of involving children in extracurricular activities, especially athletics, do not end with the skills and values acquired on the field. Research has found a direct correlation between a young student’s involvement in team sports and his or her academic outcomes. High school students involved in team sports have been shown to have higher than expected 12th grade GPAs and are more likely to be attending college full-time at age 21 than nonparticipants.

The Plaster Athletic Complex will make it possible for us to serve even more young people in this community—connecting them to positive activities and introducing them to role models like Tyler. Many children in our community do not have a home field advantage for themselves, shut out either by geography, costs or commitment. We can change that. They deserve to finish.

Right now, we have an empty lot where The Plaster Athletic Complex will stand, and our Home Field Advantage fundraising campaign is well underway. My hope is that you—faithful friends, donors and alumni—will support the University’s wonderful partnership with the community.