I first met Brian Bushway in 2001 during his freshman year at Seaver College. In the first-year seminar course I taught on servant leadership, we explored using one's gifts and talents to meet a need in the world and bring about change. From the start Brian's perspective was unique, for at only 14 years old he experienced what many would consider a tragedy: he lost his sight due to optic nerve atrophy. But Brian remained positive and embraced the training, support, and encouragement he received. He learned to use a cane and navigate by echo location.
During his freshman year Brian and I had many conversations about how he adapted to his new surroundings and both the rigor and opportunities of a Pepperdine education. I already knew Brian was a special person. Just as he had been transformed through losing his sight, he could transform others.
That summer my husband and I invited a group of students to join us for study in the French language program. Brian took us up on the offer—and accepted the challenges. He knew very little French, but traveled with us to Lyon, stayed with a local family, and freely traveled the city on his own. During frequent museum trips, the students described paintings to Brian as he toured site after site with patience and humor.
One day in Paris we visited the Rodin Museum. After countless hours spent hearing others describe the art, Brian was given an opportunity that sighted visitors were denied. I'll never forget holding his cane while he placed both hands on a massive sculpture and explored the art with his touch. He was so serious and thoughtful at first, then this look of amazement came over his face. The art changed from a concept to an experience for him. At that moment I knew that the beauty of art and the creative mind had come alive in Brian. I was overcome with emotion.
Later we went to Louis Braille's home outside of Paris. To our surprise, the guide opened several glass cases and allowed Brian to touch Braille's personal items. As he touched the tools Braille used to read, Brian was visibly moved by the connection between these pieces of history and his own experiences. I took photographs for his parents, sensing the moment was too special to miss.
That was not the only summer Brian and I spent together. The following year I taught a nonprofit course in Pepperdine's European Business program in London and Brian was once again eager to participate.
I already knew Brian was a special person. Just as he had been transformed through losing his sight, he could transform others.
During Brian's third summer at Pepperdine we conducted an analysis of nonprofit sector turnover for the Summer Undergraduate Research Project. From that project we decided to reorganize the AH Scholars program from a student club to a professional organization modeled after the organizational structure of a typical nonprofit. We also invited nonprofit professionals to take courses with our students, lending their expertise and experience to the classroom while gaining resources and professional development they may not receive otherwise. This eventually became the Nonprofit Professional Education Project that is a major highlight of our program today.
Through the years Brian and I developed a shared interest in what it truly means to be a servant leader. We discussed faith, career, family, and how we are to walk on life's journey. Brian's own journey at Pepperdine was a critical time in both of our lives; we've learned so much together and from each other. This fall I invited him back to campus to speak at the induction ceremony of the AH Scholars. Brian shared stories of his work with World Access for the Blind and his faith community known as Mosaic. He now helps other blind people gain mobility through echo location with doses of loving encouragement. At his core, Brian is in the business of transforming lives. I am so grateful that I have been able to walk alongside Brian on his life journey.