Your soaring moment
There's a park bench not far from campus reserved for the Thomas family.
Even when Ben Thomas, a junior civil engineering major, is not sitting there, the meaning of that bench remains strong, and he shared the story during our recent conversation.
It starts with a recreation path that runs beside Stuart Hall. "That’s where I lived freshman year," he says to me.
He sets the scene: It’s fall, his favorite time of year. The leaves are turning, and Halloween decorations sit on every porch. He goes out for a run — past the student neighborhood, up a hill, under a bridge, through more neighborhoods to a park.
"There’s a park bench that overlooks the park," he explains. “I just sit there. I see older folks walking their dogs. I see a couple getting wedding pictures. There’s a mom with her kid in the stroller. And I’m just like, 'I can’t believe I’m in college. I can’t believe I’m here.'"
In past years, he would run to that bench with brother Matthew, who graduated in 2022.
"He’s no longer next to me," Ben says, "but now my sister is." Kathryn is a first-year Flyer studying engineering.
"It’s almost just like people come and go — but the park, the path, the school stays."
I love hearing such stories from those I interview. They are unexpected revelations, glimpses into their UD experience. As we prepared this issue of UD Magazine, the staff gave special attention to stories that illustrate the We Soar theme of the comprehensive campaign announced April 19. So often, the stories are rooted in UD’s distinctive community and how it prepares us to take flight and soar together.
For Tad Devlin ’67, it’s the professor who inspired him; he attributes his career in Hollywood to the teachings of Eleanore Stockum. For others, like Lisa Rich-Milan ’85, it’s the mentorship she received from upperclassmen; she’s become a CEO with a passion for opening opportunities for today’s students. Laila Behbehani ’19 felt the love of the campus community embrace her, a student far from her home country of Kuwait, and knew she needed to open the path to such opportunities for her siblings.
Ben hasn’t even graduated, but he’s already nostalgic for those moments he’s currently cherishing. Among them was his opportunity to join with other students for the University’s most recent commercial (you can see his arm in a scene shot at The Hub).
And he knows where these moments will take him. He’ll serve his country in the Army, and then look for more ways to serve his community professionally.
"I can’t wait until I’m older and I get to run this path again," he says, "and just think back to when I was in college — filled with my engineering degree, filled with ROTC and all my aspirations, and just thinking about how awesome of a time Dayton was."
What's your soaring moment? Share your UD moment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photograph by Kennedy Kish '24