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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

Embodying the Mount

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(10/2014) On a Friday morning I woke up and made my way across campus to Upper McGowan. I walked up the stairs and through the double glass doors to meet with the Executive Vice President. I entered the lobby and sat for a brief moment before going into his office. He turned the corner and shook my hand with a smile before we sat down and began our discussion.

Dan Soller, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, has been working for Mount St. Mary's for about fifteen years. However, these years have not all occurred in consecutive order. Soller originally began working for the Mount in 1981. At this time he had a job in student affairs, which was an area that he had committed himself to and was seeking to pursue. He worked in this position until 1986. It wasnít until 2004 that Soller found himself coming back to the Mount for a second time for another position. He has been working at the Mount ever since.

Soller describes his responsibilities in his current job as "keeping the trains running." He works closely with the university president, Thomas Powell, and with other Mount faculty to ensure that everything is running smoothly within the Mount and the community. Soller oversees many aspects of the Mount campus, including student affairs, the Grotto, and major institutional offices. Within each of these aspects, Soller tries to focus on the Mountís mission.

The mission, Soller explains, can be thought of as the four pillars of the Mount. The pillars act as a way to remember the mission without having to memorize the whole mission statement itself. The pillars consist of leadership, faith, discovery, and community and they can be found across campus both in writing and within the students and faculty members.

When I asked Soller what he thought it meant to say that someone embodies Mount St. Mary's, his response was that the individual must be "a reflection of our four pillars." He explained that "sometimes a pillar or two may be stronger than another and some may be weaker," but anyone who embodies the Mount will really try to strengthen their weaker pillars and become a "complete package."

I questioned Soller to see if he could recall a past employee of the Mount who most accurately embodied the Mount and he immediately had an answer. Soller mentioned that there are many he could think of, but one person instantly came to mind and that is Tom Kiniry.

Tom Kiniry was the previous Director of Public Safety for Mount St. Maryís. He worked for the Mount for multiple decades. After he retired, the Mount actually asked him to come back and work for a little while during the transition period and he did. Soller reflects on this by saying that Kiniry was "always putting himself on the backburner for others and especially for the Mount community."

According to Soller, Kiniry embodies the Mount because he is an excellent display of the Mountís four pillars. Kiniry "loves community, has great faith, and is terrific in leadership," but Soller continued to explain that "discovery is really what Kiniry is all about."

Kiniry and Soller share multiple values in life but a main one is travel. Both love to go to new places, explore, and discover. Soller personally believes that traveling is the quickest way to learn and he makes an effort to travel whenever possible. Soller mentioned that Kiniry is also this way and stated that Kiniry "has no grass under his feet." Rather, he is always on the move and always going and experiencing various things.

Kiniry taught Soller a lot throughout his career at the Mount. However, the most important thing that Soller has learned from Kiniry is to see different perspectives in every situation. It is easy to see and experience things from our own point of view, but it is when we take the viewpoint of another or expand on our own viewpoint that we are truly able to learn and discover. Kiniry always encouraged others to see the different sides of situations during his time at the Mount and he influenced a lot of people to take on a different view of the world around them.

When I inquired as to if there was a particular memory of Kiniry that stood out to Soller, he replied that his memories of Kiniry were more of a "living thought." Soller elaborated by saying that Kiniry was "always a terrific person to have around. He always wants to help and loves to be helpful." Soller continued by saying that Kiniry is truly a "great individual" who "enriches lives with his presence."

Soller made it evident that the Mount is better for having had Kiniry as part of our staff and that the Mount continues to be better for having Kiniry as part of our larger community. As the Mount continues to grow and adjust to an ever-changing world, it is important that we remember those who have worked hard to pave the path to our success in the future. Soller mentioned that the Mount needs to be "proactive in meeting the challenges of a new century," and to do just that, the Mount must rely on the dedication of the individuals who are employed by the Mount as well as the members of our greater community.

Across campus, across Maryland, across the nation and across the globe, there are individuals who embody the Mount in their thoughts, their words, and their actions. These are people who have been shaped like coins, molded and pressed by the university, by the students, and by the staff. They are people who are appreciative of the Mount for where they have gone in life and are living examples of the Mountís mission statement. They are people who, like Dan Soller, are excited to go to work everyday and are passionate about impacting othersí lives; they are people who, like Tom Kiniry, are always willing to learn, discover, and put others first; they are people who, like us students, are soaking up the experiences like a sponge and being propelled into the future with the gifts the Mount has given them.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen