A typical student may show appreciation by writing a thank-you note to a teacher, but Chief Master Sergeant Homer (Stan) Keirsey is not your typical student. Stan awarded Hometown Hero medals – given by veterans to civilians who inspire them – to two of his Southern Adventist University business professors, Richard Erickson and Julie Hyde.
During his 27 years in the Air National Guard, Stan spent four tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. His last tour ended when he was injured and spent the summer in a hospital. He was released just in time to attend Southern for the fall semester. Stan said he wished he could have given the award to all of his professors, but two specifically stood out as mentors.
“Erickson and Hyde really want their students to succeed,” he said. “It’s almost a personal thing for them if you don’t do well in their class. They don’t have to care, but they obviously do.”
One of the things Stan appreciated most was being able to meet with these honorees outside of class in order to get help. Their open door policy allowed him to perform better academically, build a friendship with each of them, and transition from military life into student life with minimal difficulty.
For Erickson, receiving a medal from a man that made such a huge sacrifice for the country is a great honor – and perhaps even a little intimidating.
“Now I have to live so that I’m worthy of it, right?” Erickson joked. “But seriously, an award like that gives me extra motivation as a teacher.”
Hyde said she was humbled to receive a medal from someone who put his life on the line for others. It also reminded her that there is a higher purpose for her career than simply passing along information to students.
“It reaffirms God’s leading in my career,” Hyde said. “God lit the path for me to be at Southern, and this award demonstrates one of the ways He is using me.”