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Setting a course for the future 81 years ago

I was a rather shy 9-year-old farm boy from the country. Rarely, did we ever have the opportunity to visit the “big city”. On a bright sunny Saturday in early July, just before the busy farm harvest season began got underway, my family and I went to visit my aunt and uncle who had just moved to the north side of Buffalo.

On that sunny afternoon, my uncle took me for a brief walk around their neighborhood. He pointed to a set of large stone gray buildings over in the far distance. One of the large buildings had a clock tower stately erected at the top. Uncle Fred said, pointing to the sky line of impressive buildings. “See that hill-side over there with all those buildings, that is the University of Buffalo and the building with the clock tower is called Hayes Hall.” I looked with utter awe, and gazed at the impressive sight.

My only remark was, “Really… a university?!!” I knew that a university was something very special. Further, I knew that probably I would never, ever see that sight again. Instinctively, it went through my mind, a university is for really smart kids and rich folks. I just knew that I did not fit into either one of those two categories. I knew too, that to see that University again, it would probably need to be only in my hope-filled dreams.

Time moved on … .and much transpired during the ensuring years. And dreams began to become reality. I got married to Elaine and we both became educators and the parents of a son and a daughter.

Exactly, 31 years from the time I first saw that University from a far distance … again on a bright sunny Saturday afternoon in May… and with the memorable Hayes Hall with the clock tower in the nearby background, I received the Ed.D. degree in Administrative Leadership. A dream became a reality! And twenty-eight years after that event… again on a Saturday afternoon in May… our daughter Lisa was awarded the MD degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine. To be sure … dreams, hopes, reality, are the story of real-life possibility.

You know, in life, so many things are possible as long as you think they are possible to achieve. Hopes and dreams are the steps on the ladder of emerging possibility. Accomplishment can happen by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of aspired possibility into flames of reality achievement.

I have found through life, that it is best not to think “I can’t do something”, or “something seems impossible'” No matter how discouraging or harrowing it may seem, we are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by in our own minds. I believe that the slow fuse of possibility is lit by hope, Imagination, determination, and inner striving to achieve.

You know, to get something you never had, one may need to do something you have never done. I have found that one needs to engage in possibility thinking. Ah yes, possibilities, that is the word.

The truth of the matter is… possibilities are always within reach. You may not be able to develop new skills by osmosis; but every day contains within that 24-hour period countless opportunities, all dictated by the choices we make, obstacles not withstanding.

You know, obstacles and problems are opportunities in work clothes. There is possibility to every challenge. One cannot let oneself think that it is impossible just because it has never happened. One needs to have a passion for the possibility and be aware of great moments in life. I have found that when a great moment knocks, it is often no louder than a whisper.

So I have found, keep your eyes focused on your passion and follow the whispers of your heart, there are many folks in ones’ life who contribute generously to those whispers.

To be sure, there are scores of individuals who contribute, perhaps even unknowingly, to the accomplishments of others. This is so true in my life. We are so reminded “The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.” Thanks to so many generous individuals, including my Uncle who, many years ago, took me for a walk one sunny Saturday afternoon in July; and a dream-filled candle was lit that day. Thanks to many, that candle is still shinning brightly for this 90-year-old old “country farm boy.”

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at SUNY Fredonia

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