Candle in the Wilderness

Jacqui Ebeling
Class of: 

I will never forget the first time I visited St. Lawrence. It was early fall, when the tall oak and pine trees rustle with the light breeze and the purple flowers billow beneath the chapel. Everyone fit in so well that the students became part of the landscape. The pastel colors camouflaged students in with the hydrangeas behind them. The fall browns and maroons of vests and corduroys highlighted the few trees that were beginning to change color. I was starting to be sure that I was looking through an Instagram filter.

My tour guide, Max, had a massive smile and booming laugh, but this did not set him apart from the rest of the students around; these characteristics made him fit in even more. Rather, his pointing – and probably my extremely self-aware sixteen-year-old self, clutching onto the brown admissions folder while gawking at everything and trailing behind – gave away the fact that I was a prospective student.

As Max was busy pointing and gesturing at the stucco building to my left, I realized his mannerisms were not a front that Admissions paid him to put on. It was a natural response to talking about something he loved so much. His eyes got soft and his mouth turned into a half smile when telling me about his Matriculation and candle light experience. He spoke fast and loud when telling me about last year when the hockey team defeated Clarkson (again) and how he lost his voice from screaming “When the Saints Go Marching In” too loudly and too frequently. He spoke softly when telling me about the upcoming Commencement he was going to be a part of. His eyes sparkled when explaining that the main stained glass in the Chapel shows the journey of a student on campus from matriculation to commencement, explaining that he was closer to the commencement side and was jealous of me, since I was closer to matriculation. More for himself than for me, he assured us that even after you graduate and are not featured on the glass, you are always a Laurentian.

Now that I work for Admissions, I find myself becoming more and more like Max with each tour. No longer am I clutching the admissions folder; I am gearing up to clutch my degree while wearing a black gown in a few months. Every time I go out with a family, I explain to them how lucky they are to be at the bottom left of the stained glass, near Matriculation. No matter how many tours I give, I still get goose bumps when I read the words “We have lit a candle in the wilderness that will never be extinguished.”

With every tour I give, every interaction I have with a friend, teammate, or alumni I try to embody the ideals of a Laurentian. Max was the first person to show me what it meant, but there have been countless more. It was Margie Strait, our former Athletic Director, who encouraged me to connect with my coach at St. Lawrence at an Admitted Students’ Day. Without her I would not have become part of the team, what I consider to be my second family. It was my FYP professors who had an open door policy and who I felt comfortable asking anything to. It was upperclassmen who told me all the Dana hacks so I could transition in easily. It was classmates who helped me brainstorm for my study abroad applications and helped me prepare for the semester. It has been the prospective students that turned into first years stopping me in the student center and saying thank you. In a way, we were all keeping the candle lit without even realizing it.

Although unofficial, the phrase “we have lit a candle in the wilderness that will never be extinguished” resonates with me every day. Like the trees that are deeply rooted in the Adirondacks, we are deeply rooted in St. Lawrence University. We have grown, been challenged, overcome, and learned more than we ever thought possible about ourselves and the world. And no matter how far we stray from our roots ‘nestled underneath the purple shadows,’ our candle that is our enlightenment will never be extinguished. Our lives will always be a little brighter, thanks to our alma mater.