As graduation approaches each year, I’m always reminded of a senior or two I am really going to miss – kids (I call ‘em kids) who give more to me than I can give to them. Heading my list this year is Miles Trump.
Miles, a UST senior, didn’t win the Tommie of the Year Award for which he was nominated. But this Communications and Journalism major won my attention and admiration over the last two years.
It’s not because of his 3.74 grade point average or his blogs for The Scroll or his role as sports editor of TommieMedia.com or his Dennis Dease Scholarship. No, my admiration for Miles comes from watching him as a workshop assistant for ThreeSixty Journalism and a video production assistant for Web and Media Services.
What he’s shown me in these roles is that despite a full course load, an outside job and a couple of volunteer projects, he’s learned the most important and elementary of all lessons: He shows up. He gets there. On time. Sometimes, 10 minutes early.
On the weekend that St. Thomas won the NCAA Division III basketball crown in Salem, Va., Miles covered the game for TommieMedia.com, writing stories and shooting video and still photos. And he got everything posted on the TommieMedia website an hour after the final whistle.
“Miles was the first one in the arena,” said Ron Riley, assistant director of Web and Media Services, “and the last one to leave at night. Basically, he was another professional working the game, like the reporters from the Associated Press. He really earned my respect.”
I’ve known Miles to get up at 5 a.m. to meet Brad Jacobsen and me for a trip to Owatonna to do a video profile of a doctor who received an award for his alumni service. Miles was the sound tech, but he did more than wear a set of headphones: He talked to people. He listened. He made eye contact. He’s at ease with, and has empathy for, the human condition. I didn’t develop his kind of “people skills” until I had knocked around as a cop and city hall reporter for almost a decade.
“Everyone he meets cares about Miles because they know he cares about them,” said senior Jordan Osterman, in his letter nominating Miles for the Tommie Award. “Miles cares about his fellow students and wants them to succeed. No one who has had the chance to work, study or socialize with Miles would ever tell you otherwise.”
Last summer Miles worked as an assistant in ThreeSixty’s summer workshop, teaching 13 teenagers how to shoot and edit short video stories. Then he chaperoned the overnight camp, keeping them entertained, challenged and safe – a task not for the faint of heart.
“In these roles,” said Lynda McDonnell, ThreeSixty executive director, “Miles showed immense patience, creativity and responsibility.”
He has one more remarkable attribute: He seems fearless in the face of criticism. Brad is a good teacher on the finer points of video editing, and he’s particular, pointed and passionate about what he expects compared with what he sees. As I eavesdrop, Miles takes it all in, soaks it up and mulls it over. The next time around, he doesn’t make the same mistake. Learning how to handle and benefit from constructive criticism is another trait that took me years to develop.
On Saturday, Miles will walk across the stage to get his bachelor’s degree – one of an estimated 1,200 seniors. If he’s any indication of what the rest are like, in spite of nuclear accidents, spring floods and legislative gridlock, there might be some hope for us.
Compared to the hand I held to deal with life when I graduated from college in the ’60s, Miles clearly has me “trumped.”