The People Who Inspire Me


In my past four years at Emory, I have met dozens of truly amazing people — people that have inspired me, awed me and truly impacted me for the better. I can think of no better way to reflect on my time at Emory than to remember the ways in which these remarkable individuals have impacted me.

Whenever anyone asks me to describe my Emory experience, I always start in the classroom. I have had an incredible academic experience, all thanks to our University’s remarkable professors.

Merle Black in the political science department is the single greatest teacher I have ever had. He taught me Southern Politics as a second semester sophomore, and he expected us to achieve total mastery of our subject. He told us to read twice every page that he assigned us, and out of a combination of fear and respect, I did. No professor has ever asked me to work harder, and in no class have I ever learned more.

Garth Tissol in the classics department taught me what it means to truly love knowledge for its own sake. I saw him reading a book in Latin while my freshman Latin class was taking a test, and asked him if he was reading it for work. “Well, it is for work,” he replied. “But mostly, it’s for fun.”

James Roark, my advisor, is a preeminent scholar in the field of Southern history. More importantly, he is the kindest man that I have ever met. He has been a mentor to me since I took his History of the Old South class my freshman year and a constant source of advice and support — even if he occasionally repeats his stories (let he who is without sin cast the first stone though — I am notorious for repeating my stories).

However, my professors are not the only people who have inspired me at Emory. Outside of the classroom, my peers (though I hesitate to put myself on the same level as many of these remarkable individuals) have time and time again amazed me.

I have never seen anyone do anything better than Christian Olsen does when he plays ultimate frisbee. I love watching someone do what he was so clearly born to do. He is better than everyone else on our team in every single aspect of our game (with the exception of his flick huck — do not worry, that is a technical ultimate term). He has been the best player on the field in almost every single game that we have played in our four years playing for Juice (the name of our ultimate team). When he decides to make a play, no one can stop him.

In the same way that Gotham City believes in Harvey Dent, I believe in Zak Hudak, managing editor of The Emory Wheel. Former Wheel Managing Editor Lane Billings put it best when she said to him, “Your hair is gorgeous, your cheekbones are impeccable and your writing is as beautiful as your physical appearance.” What I admire most about Zak, however, is not his good looks or his talent, but his utter rejection of mediocrity and his habit of dedicating every fiber of his being to the things about which he is passionate.

Finally, Lauren Foxman. Or as my roommates call her, The Fox. No one ever has challenged my beliefs, pushed me to be a better person or made me happier just by their presence than she has. When I think about my time in college 50 years from now, she will be the first person that I think about.

All this being said, I have also met a lot of horribly uninspiring people during my time at Emory. These people, hopefully, I will forget.

Also, I was your On Fire correspondent.

Bennett Ostdiek is from Houston, Texas. He is graduating with a B.A. in History.