The arrival of COVID-19 derailed college students’ plans and expectations around the world, and UIW Cardinals were, unfortunately, no exception. Still, members of the UIW Spring Class of 2020 have made a lasting impact on our community – an impact that could never be forgotten, despite missed end-of-year celebrations and ceremonies.
We reached out to UIW faculty and staff to ask them to nominate graduating Cardinals who have exemplified the Mission of the University throughout their collegiate careers. Their nominees will make up this new, limited-time series – Cardinal Chronicles: Class of 2020. Our first nominee was recommended not once, not twice, but three times by three different UIW employees, for his “giant heart” and “compassion, camaraderie and kindness.” Without further ado, meet Nicholas LeBlanc.
When you ask Nicholas to describe himself in three sentences or less (and we did), his answer is truly indicative of just the kind of person he is – one who always thinks of others first. It wasn’t in the content of the answer itself, but in the subtle fact that his answer didn’t’ say so much about him as much as it did those he holds near and dear to his heart. After brief mention of his major (rehabilitative sciences), minor (psychology) and love of running and video games, Nicholas went on to say, “I hold friendships and family dearly…I still spend time with the same friends I’ve had since kindergarten, and I’m constantly making new friends to add to the list!”
In fact, all of his answers involved others. His answer to the question of what advice he would offer his freshmen self or another incoming UIW student, didn’t focus on tips for personal growth or getting ahead. Instead, he advised that young students engage in group study.
“I have some of my favorite memories group studying with friends on late nights. While an A is rewarding, having a friend be able to explain something you don’t understand, put little jokes into studying or ease your mind about the future is incomprehensibly valuable – I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world,” he explained.
Of course, there was one thing Nicholas couldn’t help but be proud of – his acceptance into the UIW School of Physical Therapy on his first attempt. After witnessing others be denied admittance until their second or third tries, Nicholas made a plan that involved attending campus tours and information seminars, and communicating with individuals who could help him. All this led to what he calls “the right resume for [his] dream school.” After graduating in the spring, Nicholas will continue his “UIW legacy professionally at the University of the Incarnate Word School of Physical Therapy” this fall.
That’s not to say that his path getting here was easy. After struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Nicholas says he is grateful most of all for the accommodating class sizes offered at UIW and the care taken by faculty and staff to help him along the way.
“As someone with [ADD],” he explained, “being at ease about asking a professor to repeat something or being able to ask a question was monumental in being able to graduate and pursue my dream. The faculty and staff at UIW – rehabilitative science professors especially – have always been willing to present the material in different learning styles for students, make assignments fun and interactive and make checkpoints to assure nobody is left behind. Students worked to build and push each other rather than compete.”
It turns out that Nicholas is actually grateful for many lessons learned at UIW, none more important to him than learning the power of a “thank you.”
“Taking the time to thank someone for extending a helping hand seems obvious, but not enough people do it,” he said. “Thanking someone for an interview, thanking a professor after office hours and thanking your custodial staff is important. You never know where a ‘thank you’ might take you.”
While Nicholas feels he owes sincere thanks to many people who helped him throughout his journey, there is perhaps none more deserving than his father, Scott LeBlanc, director of UIW Sports and Wellness.
“From the day I was born, [my dad] inspired me to not only run competitively, but also to run after my dreams. He has been with me every step of the way – from being able to stop by his office to talk about life, to opening my physical therapy school acceptance letter with tears in both our eyes, my dad being at UIW has been a unique memory I will always cherish.”
Looking ahead, Nicholas is excited to continue his education, but he’s also looking forward to one day marrying his high school sweetheart, a current student of the Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and the daughter of another UIW employee.
Despite the upheaval of Nicholas’ senior year, one thing remains certain – no matter where life should take him, UIW is part of him and he will always remain part of UIW.