The legacy of the WIU School of Agriculture is deeply rooted in the lifestyle of all students, facility, and alumni that have ever been part of this university. From the outstanding agronomy, animal science, business and education departments, to the number of champion livestock judging teams, along with a variety of the nation’s industry leaders teaching students in the classroom, it can be said that Western Illinois University is a place of excellence; and personally I have never been more proud to say, “It is a great day to be a Leatherneck” (Bruce Egnell).
Everyone should be familiar with the old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” This expression had never quite pertained to me until I arrived here at Western Illinois University. I, along with many peers of mine, was introduced to a whole new meaning of the word “tough.” Standard definition for “tough” reads, “strong enough to withstand any adverse conditions.” To me, tough was always being able to withstand physical pain, while showing no sign of weakness. Up to this point in my life I had never quite experienced anything that would prepare me for the importance of being emotionally tough.
I will tell you that since my arrival on campus in August of 2012, Western Illinois’ agriculture department has suffered 3 tragic incidents involving the loss of fellow friends and students, a recent May of 2015 graduate, and recently one of the most influential agriculture enthusiasts known nationwide, Bruce Egnell. Each being extremely impactful in their own respect.
The incredible story that lies within these tragedies are what remains. The individual’s lives that will be forever impacted by some of the most earth shattering consequences of life they may ever experience. The incredible part to me is the courage that I watched walk the halls on days following these events. Leathernecks seemed to be immune to what was going on around them, almost as if every single person was numb. You could tell everyone wanted to stay strong in a time of sadness. They did it for each other. I think Western Illinois University’s previous assistant judging coach and alumnus Miles Toenyes said it best.
“These students have the carry on ability to realize at the end of the day they believe those who have passed are in a better place. They also know that no matter how questioning it may be, God has a plan for everything. Believing it is necessary to move forward in the most positive manner, because that is exactly what those who have passed would want them to do. The students are what make WIU great, and the teachers leave you with nothing short of the help to attain your goals. With great support in the school of agriculture during these hard times, also came even more support from many other individuals’ nationwide including schools that we compete against. That tells me we are respected and they need to know we also respect them. Being a Leatherneck has never been said to be easy, but it has been said to be worth it.”
So many questions come to my mind and I know I speak for all when I begin to ask them to myself or out loud. Why? Why does life have to prove to be so cruel? What is it that God is trying to teach us? How does one continue on with life feeling as if there are pieces left behind? These questions are well out of my knowledge and power to answer. What I can tell you is that I believe life works in mysterious ways. If there is anything that I have learned from these experiences, it is that you should never take a single day in your remaining life for granted. As a young boy I always wanted to be in a “club” similar to scouts, sports, or 4-H; the kind of club that you feel like you’re a part of something. I am extremely proud to say that I belong to a club that is not your standard University extracurricular. This club does not take invitations, nor does it have an attendance list. This club is for the ones whose character has been ever so tested in life’s toughest of situations. This club is for the strong and the weak. This club is for Leathernecks and friends of the program. This club is for ones that truly believe that “it’s a great LIFE to be a Leatherneck”.
Thank you for reading my post! My name is Ethan Boyer and I am a Senior here at WIU. I am an Ag Business Major and graduate following this semester. I have been very passionate about the showing of livestock and have been actively involved with 4-H and FFA my whole life.