“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

As I step down as dean, I am reminded of that little boy who was fascinated by nature, animals, and the chaotic world around him. No one can explain how early experiences mold our directions in life, but the environment we grow up in, our parents, and circumstances that befall us all play a role in determining our fate. As a young boy, my relatives often told me, “I took care of you when you almost died.” They were reminding me of something I did not remember, almost dying of encephalitis at the age of 3, before finally recovering from an extreme fever and coma after weeks in the hospital. They did not know that they instilled in me a sense that I was given a second chance at life, which has motivated me ever since. Later, as a first-generation college student and son of alcoholic parents, with the help of kind teachers and supportive mentors, I worked my way from kennel boy to college and eventually through veterinary school at the University of Missouri. Along the way, I realized how grateful I was to be given a second chance at life, and for the support of those around me. Circumstances since that time have shown me the power of gratitude as a central core value in how I view the world, during dark times and in moments of joy.