Autumn 2008: Prelude

Heroes Among Us

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By Paige P. Parvin 96G

Mike Turner and I were born in the same Tennessee town, nine days apart. We were friends as children, attending each other’s birthday parties and once, briefly, pledging our eternal love before becoming distracted by a dog on the playground. Even as a kid, Mike was always drawing.

We lost touch not long after middle school. Mike grew up to become one of the top names in comic book illustration, creating several popular series, founding his own company, and rendering such legends as Superman and Batman for industry giants DC and Marvel. He brought superheroes to vivid life, their capes, masks, and feats of courage spinning effortlessly out of his fingertips.

When Mike died of cancer this June, I thought about the different kinds of brave.

There’s the cape-and-mask brave, the kind that drives one to leap tall buildings, rescue beautiful women (or men) from certain death, and do pitched battle with evil while helpless citizens cower—winning, of course, against all odds.

But then there’s the kind of brave it takes to get up every day and keep drawing superheroes, even after eight years of fighting bone cancer, the archenemy you can never quite defeat.

Some people are brave—openly, indisputably brave—on a regular basis, like emergency room doctors, firefighters, those serving in the military. The cape-and-mask wearers of real life.

But most of us are more Clark Kent than Superman. Ordinary lives call for another sort of strength, one often overlooked. For some, courage might mean speaking in public, walking down the hallway of middle school, taking a job in another city, raising a child alone, or overcoming depression in order to simply get out of bed. The everyday, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of brave.

In this issue of Emory Magazine, we admire a few different kinds of courage. Take Elizabeth Sholtys 07C, who, while still a student at Emory, became the legal guardian of several street children in Pune, India, where she founded an orphanage that now houses some ten kids.

Or chemist Dennis Liotta, who is attempting to create a paradigm shift in the way medicines in Africa are developed by transferring expertise to African scientists. Or any of several families we profile in which an adult chose to donate a kidney to a child, with the lifesaving surgery taking place at Emory and performed by alumni.

Many, many more inspiring stories begin here, and it is just such courageous action, innovation, discovery, and care that will be sustained by Campaign Emory, publicly launched in September. In grave economic times, President Wagner has pointed out, it is more important than ever to remember that the campaign is not about dollars, but about what they can help us do.

For most of Emory’s heroes, there is no epic battle, but rather steady, patient progress—a daily striving toward a goal that will, in some way, make the world better. For every blinding flash of discovery, every dramatic breakthrough or triumph, there were hours, days, weeks, and often years of hard work. Sometimes courage is a leap, but more often it’s just moving forward because there is more, much more, to be done.

When Associate Editor Mary Loftus interviewed Atlanta dad Tod Ellison for her story on kidney transplants, she observed that it was very brave of him to give one of his kidneys to his son, Trevor.

Tod brushed off the compliment, saying, “Oh, it wasn’t brave. Anyone would do it for their child.”

To which Mary responded, “Yes, anyone would do it. And it was still brave.”

Maybe someday, Trevor will get his shot at being a hero, thanks to his dad. But I hope he always remembers that Clark Kent and Superman are really one and the same.

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