What’s Your Everest?

Mountain climber Paul Deegan inspires future leaders at the first Student Leader's Retreat. Photo by Kaitlyn Meier

On Sept. 18 new and existing student leaders sacrificed their Saturday morning and afternoon to attend the first Student Leader’s Retreat. Initiated by Assistant Director of Student Involvement, Brian Gardner, and Director of Student Involvement, Zachary Lewis, this retreat was designed to further advance students’ leadership skills and start others off in the right direction.

The day consisted of a complimentary breakfast and lunch and a motivational speaker, Paul Deegan. Before Deegan ascended and reached the summit of Mount Everest, he was a regular guy trying to figure out what he was going to do for the rest of his life, much like a lot of college students. However, a nearly fatal car accident changed his perspective on life altogether. While recovering in the hospital from an accident he should have died from, according to the doctor who was caring for him, he made a vow that he would do something every day for the rest of his life that would make him say, “I had a good day today.” So began his journey to the top of the tallest mountains in the world.

Students sat fascinated as Deegan spoke of all three times he attempted to climb the mountain, but to no avail until the third try. It was a story of triumph, trials and losses as Deegan unfortunately lost a few of his friends as they also took on this endeavor as well. It was because of the losses he experienced that Deegan’s third and final ascension was delayed for years. When he did decide to make that trip once again, he was determined to make it to the top. As he spoke to the students, even years after his final climb was accomplished, a wave of emotion came over him and listeners could hear in his voice that that moment was one the most defining moments in his life.

Aside from sharing his story with the students, Deegan interacted with them as well through a couple of group activities and discussion.

“I was very impressed with Paul Deegan’s seminar during the first annual Leader’s Retreat,” said Joel Hermann, Graduate Assistant in the Student Involvement office and co-coordinator of the retreat. “I think it was an awesome opportunity for leaders on campus to sit back and really have that ‘big picture’ put into perspective. It’s not always so blatant to see how our decisions as leaders can impact the rest of our lives, but Deegan was able to illustrate that with his inspiring tales and I think that all students in attendance were able to benefit from his speech.”

Surely, the day was not wasted and students received valuable insight from a man who attempted and succeeded in tackling a task that most people would consider suicidal. Deegan left the students with one very important question: what’s your Everest?