Ivividly remember my first faculty meeting at Woodberry: Dean of Academics SteveCulbertson holding court in the front of EdwardsLecture Hall, with Tom Parker and John Reimers,two of our school’s most celebrated and legendaryteachers, on my left and right. I sat there thinkingto myself, “What am I doing here? I don’t belong.”Although I went to Woodberry and had an amazingexperience, I felt entirely unqualified sitting amongteaching royalty. Fast forward seven years, havinghad the good fortune of leading the Amici Fund andtraveling the country on behalf of the school, it’sdifficult for me to imagine what my life would belike without Woodberry.
Joe Coleman is the reason I came to the school. Ivisited, interviewed, and decided to attend all in thesame hot summer day, when my parents and I werevirtually the only people on campus. I swear if it hadbeen anyone else in the admission office that day,I’m not sure that I would’ve found the courage toleave home. I was a late admit, but Dennis Campbelland Joe decided to make an extra spot in the class, ifI was willing to commit.
Months later, after my first season on the varsitysoccer team, Steve Culbertson didn’t letter me — hehad a fair and calibrated system where you had toplay a certain number of minutes to earn a letter.I was crushed. But it motivated me to go to workin the off season. That summer I worked as a campcounselor, and I distinctly remember waking upevery morning to run before reveille. Over thecourse of those summer months, because of Steve,I forged a resilience and appreciation for disciplinethat hadn’t existed in me before. I showed up toWoodberry for early ball in the best shape of my lifeand not only was it the best soccer season I’d had,but the best year. For me, that ordeal was a litmustest for what a job well done feels like — I carry thatwith me to this day.
I thought of that experience as Ben Hale delivereda sermon on courage in St. Andrew’s Chapel inFebruary 2014. He quoted Brené Brown saying,“I think we lose sight of the beauty of struggle. . . the most beautiful things I look back on in mylife are coming out from underneath the thing Ididn’t know I could get out from underneath. I lookback on those moments and think, those were themoments that made me — the moments of struggle.”To me, that captures what Woodberry is about — aplace where we learn to summon our courage, facefear head on, and turn our demons into angels.
One Tiger’s Tale:
Doug Gabbert ’08
Director of the Amici Fund • Major Gifts Officer
SPRING 2020 65