For the eight years that my father, Tim Neviska, has worked at Kenyon — including those years when my brother Tristan ’13 attended Kenyon, and those years since I have begun my college career — the idea of Kenyon as a community has always been prevalent and heavily emphasized. It never felt real to me, though.
At times, it seemed like an initiative pushed by the College, or just something people say in the same way they describe any small town. I have grown up in those small towns, the kinds where everyone knows your name, and, despite their size, Kenyon and Gambier never felt that way to me. In my mind, Kenyon as a space was too artificially constructed to possibly hold the kind of community that the College is always proclaiming to have.
On Jan. 8, my father, a member of the Library and Information Services staff, suffered a massive heart attack while driving on campus, causing his truck to crash into Bailey House. Directly after the accident, I received a phone call from a College employee, whom I knew from our participation in the symphonic wind ensemble, telling me what had happened. Despite this connection, when my dad was at the ER, or in surgery, I didn’t think about Kenyon. I didn’t expect anything from the Kenyon community. As much as I’d never imagined my father having a heart attack, I could never have imagined the response that Kenyon would have.
Later, though, it would hit me. It could have been that first day, shaking and panicked in the waiting room, surrounded by my family, when two of my father’s bosses, Paul Mollard, director of user services, and Ron Griggs, vice president for library and information services, walked in, or moments later, when my band director, Dane Heuchemer, came to sit beside us. Maybe it was when the food started arriving as early as the next day, in the form of gift cards, bags of snacks and hot meals delivered to us. Maybe it was the overwhelming flood of emails, visitors and texts that arrived in the days that would follow. Maybe it didn’t really hit me until the moment when President Sean Decatur took a moment to stop by, or when I arrived back on campus to find that my fellow Archons had written me a card.
Dean of Students Hank Toutain emailed me, “The Kenyon community not only celebrates accomplishments and successes together, but also shares difficulties and challenges too.” As carefully worded as the sentiment may seem to be, the outpouring of support and love my family and I have received since my father’s heart attack has been nothing short of incredible and, to that same effect, sincere and genuine. Since the beginning of the semester, not a day has gone by without my being stopped by professors, students and staff members of the College inquiring about my father’s health and offering support. To be quite frank, I’m not sure how I personally would have dealt with the event without the love I received from Kenyon.
Kenyon might not be perfect, or feel welcoming to everyone. I can’t speak to anyone else’s experiences. My own experience, however, allowed me to see the nature of the people who call this campus their workplace and home. From the Campus Safety officers who worked tirelessly to save my father’s life, to my boss, who offered rides to the hospital, a close-knit network is cast over this campus, and I am humbled to be part of it, though, despite my gratitude, I hope no one has to experience it the way I did.
Reagan Neviska ’17 is an anthropology major from Fredericktown, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.