Summon the Heroes

By Joe Sweeney

The Olympic Games yield no shortage of inspirational stories. But you don’t have to go to Sochi to find heroic performances—they’re all around us. We just have to look for them.

True story: Earlier this month, as the U.S. men’s hockey team was skating against the Russians at the Winter Olympics, I was at the new Dierberg’s grocery store at the Lake of the Ozarks. There were eight other men who, like me, gravitated to a TV near its entrance showing the hockey game while their wives shopped.

The action was pretty furious leading up to the dramatic shootout victory for the Americans, and at one point, one of guys crowding around the television spontaneously broke into the USA! USA! chant. Hilariously, chants from many isles throughout the store soon followed. Kind of like a flash mob for America.

For a moment, it was almost like Lake Placid 1980 all over again—and trust me, if I’ve applauded coach Herb Brooks and the USA hockey team in the movie “Miracle” once, I’ve seen that movie 18 times, so I know how sporting events can gin up the patriotic pride. But after leaving the store that day, I thought about what I’d just witnessed. That’s when I realized the link between an Olympic event 34 years ago and one in 2014: We’re all searching for heroes.

And they rarely wear skis. Between Olympiads, we can find them all around us, as this month’s edition of Ingram’s effectively demonstrates with our Heroes in Healthcare and Icons of Education recognitions.

Just as with the athletes who train in anonymity for years before seizing their moment in competition, the career educators and health-care providers we recognize this month are ordinary but passionate people who continue to perform extraordinary feats.

Almost to a man or woman, the common denominator that underpinned their accomplishments was the passion they brought to their jobs. Let me give you one good example of that: Leo Morton, chancellor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Many people might question our choice to include in a field of career-long educators this long-time business executive. But in his sixth year at the helm of UMKC, Morton has demonstrated leadership that combines his passion for the institution with his love of Kansas City. He has given UMKC a cohesion that it simply lacked before he took office, and today it has a new relevance to a region desperately in need of research-university assets.

Like the other Icons recognized this year, Morton has done a phenomenal job. Or consider John Rich from Emporia State, on whose behalf administrators there made a powerful, and impressive nomination for his inclusion. And they were right: In more than four decades at ESU, he has connected with thousands of students and improved their lives as a teacher, mentor and administrator. When he talks about the depth of his relationships with those students, you can’t help but be moved.

Same goes for our Heroes in Health-care—people who, in nearly all cases—serve on the front lines of health-care delivery. Despite the policy differences that are roiling their industry sector, they have their vision fixed firmly on the needs of patients, and to help produce the best possible outcomes.

Julie Buttell, recognized in the Professional Services category, is a shining example. A physical therapist for Elite Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy, she relishes the depth of the relationship she develops in her line of work. She can spend far more time one-on-one with her patients than doctors can with theirs, and can tailor therapy regimens to get them moving and active again in their lives.

Her passion comes shining through when she tell us, “I wake up most days and know I get to put my hands on another person and help them to feel better and move better so they can be exactly where they want to be, doing what they want to be doing.”

Whether it’s in a therapy session or doctor’s office, in a classroom or university lab, or even on an Olympic ice rink, that level of passion is what differentiates the merely competent from the extraordinary—the heroic, even.

And when you consider the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people in this region who have dedicated their careers to health care or education anywhere on the pre-kindergarten to graduate-school spectrum, you start to realize that there really are extraordinary heroes among us.

What would this community be if we all shared the same passions for what we do? Accolades to Ingram’s Heroes.

About the author


Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher