Scholarships are great to receive. This year I was fortunate to be a recipient of the Bastyr Student Scholarship Award.
Even more fortunate, was to hear Dr Littleton's speech to the award recipients. It was outstanding. I have it here for you to enjoy as well.
Kent Littleton, MS, ND, is a Bastyr University alumnus and an associate professor in the basic sciences department, where he teaches biochemistry. Due to his creativity and generosity in raising funds to support scholarships at Bastyr, Dr. Littleton was invited to be the keynote speaker at this fall's Scholarship Dinner, an annual event that celebrates both scholarship donors and the student scholars who proved themselves worthy of support. Kent's very funny and insightful speech brought everyone to their feet.
Keynote Address by Dr. Kent Littleton
Bastyr University Scholarship Dinner
October 25, 2006
"When I'm meeting a new class at the beginning of an academic year, I always feel some butterflies in my stomach. I expect them, and they usually go away once I actually begin to speak to the class. This moment is a lot like that — I hope.
What usually works at the outset of a new year of biochemistry is for me to get the class thinking about where the energy comes from for the jobs our bodies must do to keep on keeping on. This leads to a discussion about dietary fuels — how there’s energy in the fuel molecules, and how this energy can transform into other forms of energy — such as the energy for lifting our forks, the energy for then absorbing the nutrients from this delicious meal into our bodies, and the energy then for using those nutrients to build the molecules of our bodies. I sometimes tell the class that if I trace this energy back as far as I know how, it came from the sun. It still boggles my mind that this energy can manifest itself so many different ways.
Well, I think a gift is a lot like energy. A gift can manifest itself so many different ways. The gift that led to my being invited to speak tonight may presently be manifesting itself as money for student scholarships. But my original gift wasn’t money — nor will it remain in that form.
Let me back up a little. Sometime last spring, I was trying to think of a way to give more to the Bastyr community. I decided that I didn’t want to just write a check. Instead, I wanted to give using my natural born talents — I thought there would be more joy in the giving that way. Well, things really fell right into place after that decision. I think that I have a talent for teaching — and so I reasoned that it would be ideal if I could give by teaching somehow. Then it came to me — I could waive the fee that I had charged in previous years for teaching a review of biochemistry, and suggest that the students make a donation to the scholarship fund instead. In this way, over $2100 was raised for student scholarships last July.
But there would be a different keynote speaker tonight if the honor had required me to take $2000 out of my pocket. I honestly couldn’t have done that. But, you see, all I had to do was teach. I talked about a subject I love for about 14 hours over a weekend — without umms — as best I could in order to get through everything. In short, it was exhilarating — it was a kick — it was joyous giving!!
Next I'd like to tell you why I chose student scholarships, and so I'll back up to when I was a needy graduate student. While it is true that I was a recipient of a Bastyr University scholarship when I attended here in the 1990s, I want to back up to even leaner years — the late 1970s.
I had left home in Virginia to come to graduate school in chemistry at the University of Washington. I took a studio apartment on Eastlake Avenue and was, for the first time, truly on my own. I had never really had to manage my own budget before. I didn't really know how much to allot for food etc. and, in the beginning, would fairly regularly come up a little short at the end of a month. My friend George sometimes had an extra $10 to lend me at no interest until we got paid at the end of the month. George was also a new graduate student, and we had much in common. For example we enjoyed walking from my apartment to a tavern near it called the Eastlake Zoo, where a game of pool cost a quarter, the beer was reasonably cheap, and you could chow down on free popcorn.
One memory from those days remains with me very strongly because it was, for me, sinking to some all time lows. I had run out of money at the end of the month, again — and I was down to the last quarter of the $10 that George had lent me. Payday was going to be very soon, and I was going to spend the quarter. My dilemma was, I very much wanted to walk to the Eastlake Zoo and play a game of pool with the quarter, but I had also gotten down to my last squares of toilet paper — which was available for, you guessed it, 25 cents a roll.
Now, I had made myself a solemn vow, when I became responsible for myself, that I would NEVER run out of toilet paper. So you see my dilemma, don't you? Well, I remember it seemed like a dilemma at the time, and it was clear to me what I had to do — I walked to the Eastlake Zoo, I played the game of pool, and I stole a roll of toilet paper from their bathroom.
Now, to tonight's scholarship recipients, I know that you would never stoop so low. But I think back on those desperate times, and they are the reason that student scholarships are my favorite charity around here.
One thing nice about scholarships — you don't have to pay them back. Raise your hand if you like that idea! [enthusiastic response from audience] But you will pay it forward, automatically, just by being the types of professionals that I see you becoming. And you will pay it forward with interest — automatically compounded every time you help someone help themselves and you model for these people the ethic of helping others.
Are any of you planning on becoming teachers? You’ll pay it forward — big time! It will be automatic. You don't have to do anything differently than you already would have. Your destiny is to be a giver. And when you begin to realize your destiny as a giver, I hope that you will remember the students in this community. As you yourselves demonstrate, they have so much potential, but are in a very difficult period of training.
I wish you clarity regarding your natural born talents and how best to use them so that your giving might be as joyful as mine has been.
Thank you and God bless."
Alumnus Kent Littleton earned his ND degree from Bastyr in 2003, but that wasn't the beginning of his connection with the University. Kent started teaching here in 1991 continuing until 1997, when he left the faculty to become an ND student. He came back in 2003 as an associate professor in the basic sciences department of the school of natural health sciences, where he teaches biochemistry. In addition to his ND degree, Kent holds an MS in organic chemistry from the University of Washington.