As we think about some of the huge tragic events of the past few years, events that will have lasting traumatic effects on this generation of college students, Haiti’s earthquake is one that I know will come to mind immediately. From Pat Robertson’s stupid comments about how Haitians deserved God’s wrath, to the large numbers of student relief workers who participated in an alternative spring break or another project, to the Haitian students I’ve met who lost friends, family members and watched a country, their country disappear before their eyes.

One person at UB, who I’d like to meet, is Pierre Fouché. The University website tells us his story:

A Fulbright scholar, he had come to UB in 2006 to study earthquake engineering. He had hoped to bring his expertise in seismic design back to Haiti in time to help prevent the kind of disaster that occurred on Jan. 12, 2010.

When the earthquake hit, he was about a year away from completing his PhD.

In a way, he had run out of time. His family survived, but government estimates of the death toll were terrifying: more than 300,000 lives lost.

Fouché forced himself to set dread aside and think about the future.

Eventually, new cities would rise from the rubble: new homes and churches, new shops—new places where new generations of Haitians would make new friends, fall in love and share new memories.

Fouché vowed to do what he could to make those new cities safe. His contributions would be humble—a small part in a massive reconstruction effort.

But he was determined to help.

As one of few Haitians with earthquake engineering training, he fielded media calls from across the U.S. to raise awareness about how substandard, unregulated construction had contributed to the scale of destruction. He talked to National Public Radio and ABC’s “20/20.” He penned a column for CNN describing how proper building codes could have saved lives.

The academy often drives us into action, calling us to make our contribution, taking us beyond the classroom while still holding on to that search for knowledge.

See for yourself:

What ways have people taken their education to that next level, beyond the walls of the classroom to express that search for truth in contributing to the greater good for others? That’s inspiring. That’s wonderful to see. That’s an incredible contribution. But most importantly….

That’s education at it’s finest.

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