Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Meaningful Life

Benson Medina '76

     In the fall of 1972, I met Eric Witt '76.  He was actually from my hometown of Kailua, but we went to different schools.  Eric was a hippie/surfer type, who had a very peaceful look on his face and a gentle nature.  He had a great smile and was always friendly to me. We both arrived at Pacific in the fall of 1972 and were neighbors on the first floor of Clark Hall.
       Eric played the guitar and I could hear him playing occasionally.  But he got everyone’s attention when he started to sing.  But not in a good way.   His voice was a cross between an animal caught in a leg snare and a mile long locomotive slamming it’s brakes on.  Condensing it down into one word: painful.
       But it didn’t seem to bother Eric, who kept right on singing despite the expletives being spewed in his direction from every corner of the dorm.  I ran into him in the hall one day and asked him the present day equivalent of,  “Dude, what’s up with the singing?
       He broke into a wide smile and said, “I love music and I love to sing.  It doesn’t matter if you can sing or not, what matters is that you do it for the love of it.”
       That encounter changed my life because it gave me the confidence (“If Eric can do it, I can do it”) to start playing the guitar and singing myself.  Almost 40 years later, I occasionally think of him whenever I pick up the guitar.   But beyond music, Eric knew the meaning of “living your passion” way back in the ‘70s, long before it became the buzzword for a meaningful life.
       In my four years in Forest Grove, I had many similar experiences that were life altering, though I didn’t know it at the time.
       At Pacific, I got around black people for the first time and saw how closely they stuck together and how they had such a strong sense of culture.  Though many people were put off by the arrogance of the “Black Power” movement, it made me understand the attitude it took to make social change a reality.  Several years later, when we were going through the “Hawaiian Renaissance” I was thankful for the important lessons I learned from my BSU (Black Student Union) buddies.
       I learned that I loved to write while I was at Pacific but I needed Mike Steele to help me hone my passion into a skill.  He taught me to get to the point quicker and to pay closer attention to the mechanics of writing.  He recognized my raw talent but wasn’t going to allow me to coast my way through his Advanced Writing course.  In my professional life, I’ve always gravitated toward a person like Mike Steele, an expert with high expectations, but a willingness to be helpful.
       Working in the cafeteria during the breakfast shift, I learned how to frost maple bars, a pastry I never saw until I got to Pacific. Since there were only a handful of us that could get up at 6 a.m. to work, I met a simple, yet beautiful co-worker from a small farming community in Nebraska.   She taught me to love and appreciate Oregon, a place I initially hated, but ended up spending 36 years of my life there.  Rhea became my wife and the mother of our son and stands today as one of my greatest teachers, even though our marriage ended years ago.
       As an academic institution, Pacific was a wonderful small environment that launched me into the working world with a coveted bachelor’s degree.  But more importantly, it was the “social petri dish” I needed to expose myself to new ideas and experiences, meet people who would have a lasting impact my life and provide a reference point where I can see how much I’ve changed and grown over the years.
       And what about Eric Witt?  He lives happily with his family on the Big Island, plays a mean guitar and still sings at the top of his lungs.

Medina '76  lives in Honolulu and writes a blog called Any Moment, where he chronicles thoughts on the enormous changes and challenges of human life. People die, lose jobs, get their property destroyed, get cancer, lose limbs, go to war and come back to a completely different scenario than what they left.  This blog looks at people who have had massive changes and examines how they have adjusted.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Searching for the Best Light

Reese Moriyama '10

During my four years at Pacific University, in the midst of the classes, the socializing, and the adventures, I discovered I had an unwavering curiosity and fascination with photography. Pacific helped foster my love for the camera for which I am forever grateful.
Thanks to MarCom and the Photography Department, I attended more events, met more people and pushed myself more than I had ever imagined because of my photography. Many people spend their lives searching for something that really inspires them and I’m fortunate to have found a passion that has both guided and enriched my life.Today I will cover a topic that makes many photographers cringe: weddings. My exploration in this venture began about a year ago, and eight weddings later, I realize that I’ve found a dynamic and challenging world to immerse myself in.

Weddings are exhausting, but energizing, stressful, but rewarding. As a wedding photographer, I am being entrusted with the delicate task of capturing images that narrate the unique story which accompanies every wedding. To the bride and groom, the biggest day of their lives is often a massive blur, and images become central to reminding them of how special their wedding truly was. If my clients can laugh and cry and reminisce about the wedding when they view my photos, then I have done my job as a wedding photographer.
Shooting weddings is commonly held as one of the most stressful endeavors in the photography industry, and this is absolutely true. You have one chance to shoot the bride coming down the aisle, one chance for the first kiss, one chance for the first dance. A broken lens, an overheated flash, or a corrupted memory card is no excuse for missing those fleeting moments, so as a wedding photographer, I try to prepare for multiple scenarios. This is what I normally bring to weddings:

    2 camera bodies
    4 lenses
    2 flashes
    2 lightstands
    shoot through umbrella
    5 sets of AA batteries for flashes
    6 batteries for camera bodies
    cleaning supplies
    48 GB of memory cards
    rain covers
 However, wedding photography is also incredibly rewarding. When you think about it, everyone at a wedding is looking their absolute best, especially the bride and groom, and this provides some truly unique opportunities for photos. In addition to the dazzle of colors and dress, the entire gamut of emotions is present at a wedding, and when I am able to capture a sliver of this visual energy and convey it in a beautiful However, wedding photography is also incredibly rewarding. When you think about it, everyone at a wedding is looking their absolute best, especially the bride and groom, and this provides some truly unique opportunities for photos. In addition to the dazzle of colors and dress, the entire gamut of emotions is present at a wedding, and when I am able to capture a sliver of this visual energy and convey it in a beautiful light, I am as eager to pull it off my memory card as a kid opening presents on Christmas Day.
Moriyama '10 holds a degree in history and uses photography to become more observant and appreciative of the world. When he is not photographing weddings or simply daily life in Honolulu Reese is pursuing a graduate degree. More of Reese's work can be viewed on his blog Observe. Compose. Capture.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Exploring the Path Less Taken

Jessie Wachter '03

       I recently read "The greatest inspiration is the deadline." Somehow, just knowing that whatever it is that you are working on or towards must be done, provides the necessary inspiration. A line is drawn in the sand and the moment it is reached, you have either succeeded or failed.
       The statement may seem like a simple journalist’s mantra, but in fact, it made me think about various stages of my life. What happens when there is no deadline? Who determines these deadlines and for that matter, the word itself, line of death, seems incredibly un-inspirational does it not?
       Growing up in the United States, we generally have a very defined path to follow which is filled with deadlines. The proverbial primary education, secondary education, university, job, marriage, children... forget about the mysterious road less traveled. There is a reason it is less traveled. It is rife with confusion and struggle. Stick to the path and it will lead you to happiness.

       I followed that path to Pacific University, am very proud of the education that I received there and am equally proud that upon graduating, I tossed my cap into the air and ran straight off the path into the mysterious unknown. I left behind the deadlines of reports and projects and homework and applications. Deadlines set by parents and teachers and employers and ran - I was free! My run soon slowed to a jog and again slowed to a stroll, where was I going?
       I realized that I was suddenly faced with not only defining my own goals, but also creating the road itself and setting my own deadlines to reach those goals. 
       With every step forward and every small goal reached, the new goals seemed to have more nebulous deadlines. Rather than specific dates, my peripatetic lifestyle was beginning to lend itself to desires that had no inherent deadline. And yet, I found no lack of inspiration. The journey had become the inspiration. For example, my desire to one day travel to India, led me first to New Orleans to work for a company that would eventually send me to India and upon arriving, the goal itself became a journey for I explored India for nearly a year, inspired every day by a new language, culture, scent, flavor or smile.
       Whereas some may be inspired by the finality and instant recognition of failure or success, a deadline can be a fantastic motivation as well as an intimidating limitation. At this point in life, I am more inspired by the surprises encountered along the way and that upon reaching one destination, for I believe deadline is a misnomer, the line is not dead, but rather an intriguing change in direction elicited by each success.
       Wachter '03 is a passionate, curious, active, empathetic and easily amused perpetual traveler. She has been to 42 countries so far and 38 of the United States and has not stopped traveling since graduation. She is currently based stateside, but will soon begin a position that will take her to back to Africa.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Young Alumnus Finds Ways to Stay Involved

I've been a Pacific alumnus for a little over two years, and whenever I go back to visit my friends and professors, something is different.

Sometimes it's subtle, like the new signs on the light posts around campus. Other times it's blatant, like our "new" football team. With all the change, I'm always trying to figure out what's going on and what I can do to help. The conclusion I have come to seems fairly simple: combine what I've done, and what's happening now, to help drive the future of Pacific. But how?

What happened at Pacific in the years before I attended shaped my experience. While I was a student -- I began in 2004 and graduated in 2008 with a degree in journalism -- I didn't realize that. In fact, I was too busy scrambling my brain trying to nail down the importance of a thought-provoking Mike Steele quip, or perhaps wondering if I would ever pass Dave Cassady's print-media writing quizzes. Well, probably neither of those scenarios actually, but something more important, like why can't the Grand Lodge's soaking pool be within walking distance from campus? I digress.

As alumni, we are all deeply entrenched in the past of the university and what it has become, but at the same time, we are involved in shaping the future and what it can become.

Does it mean we need to donate our life savings to the cause? Of course not, but a little here and there helps out.

Does it mean to come back to campus every now and then and catch a sporting event? If that's appealing, then sure.

Does it mean to take a young adult aside, perhaps one who hasn't quite found its way as an example, and share with them the times and experiences you had as a Boxer (or Badger)? Absolutely. That's how we can be "agents of change." I hesitate to use that term in fear of making it cliche, but it couldn't be more appropriate.

In order to do this, however, alumni need to be in touch. Whether it's making an address available through Alumni Relations, or keeping tabs on what's happening through Pacific magazine, our past experiences and current situations can change a life. If we keep up on the present, combined with all the days, nights, late-nights and early-mornings we spent at Pacific, we can set the footings for a very rewarding future for not only Pacific, but ourselves.

BillyGates '08 holds a Pacific University bachelor of arts in journalism. He is currently working in Hermiston, Ore., as the sports section editor for the Hermiston Herald newspaper. Feel free to contact him at

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to School: Looking Back and Looking Forward

By Stephanie Haugen '12
       It’s hard to believe, but I have made it halfway through my undergraduate college education. As I stand here in the middle of my college years, I am reflecting on the past and curious about the future.
       If you asked me two years ago what I thought my college experience would be like, I would have described something very different from what actually happened.
       I walked onto Pacific’s campus in the fall of 2008 for my freshman orientation nervous and clueless. I had never visited Pacific before deciding to attend and knew very little about the university and even less about how to interact with the campus and its occupants.
       I knew Pacific was in Forest Grove, I knew they had an Optometry school, I knew it was where my brother went to school, I knew it was where my parents wanted me to go, and I was fairly sure how to get there. 
       I thought I knew a lot of other things too, but it turned out I had a lot to learn. I learned that it was possible to make friends and meet new people even if you were forced to live at home to save money.
       After I learned that Pacific had a Greek system, I learned two other things about the sororities. The first thing is that they are about as far away from “Legally Blonde” as you could get. The second is that when I joined Phi Lambda Omicron sisterhood, I actually joined a family and the Pacific community.
       I learned how it felt to really struggle in a seemingly impossible class. Fortunately, I also discovered what it felt like to be successful in difficult courses.
       I learned that writing for the Pacific Index is a great way to learn about the university and to meet faculty outside of my major.
       I found out I was good at things I never knew about before I came to Pacific. My professors made it clear they would always open a door for me when they could and that their doors were always open. I learned how to take advantage of opportunities, but also how to create opportunities for myself.
       After two years I really feel like I have a place at Pacific and I look forward to two more years, I know they will pass quickly. The mental image I have of the next two years will most likely end up to be very different from the reality, but hopefully they will be like the last two—more rewarding than I ever could have imagined.