Erskine’s Renaissance man

[note: this and a previous post are articles written a couple of months ago for the Erskine Communications Office.]

When I was asked  to write about my professors and the impact they have made on me, many names flashed through my mind but the first and strongest was Dr. Elsner, one of my psychology professors.  I have had the honor of knowing him for almost 5 years now since I met him as a junior in high school when visiting my sister at Erskine.  Ijust completed my fourth class with him and I loved every minute (almost–his quizzes are never much fun, but they challenge us!).  I also work with him as the psychology lab manager and through the psychology society.  His classes and the work and research I have done as a result have prepared me for graduate school more than anything else.

Dr. Elsner is the truest living example of a Renaissance man that I have ever had the privilege to meet.  He has over a dozen advanced degrees, is a Cordon Bleu chef and a Scout Master, and is an artist of various mediums.  The walls of the psychology lobby in the Erskine building are dotted with about twenty of his paintings and drawings.  I have had stimulating conversations and discussions with Dr. Elsner about all sorts of topics—theology, literature, dance, cars, neuroscience, and beyond—which always leave me feeling impressed with his wealth of knowledge and woeful of mine.  Rather than making me feel ignorant and lacking, though, he encourages me in my capabilities and potential and truly encourages me to make the most of my talents and abilities.

Everyone associated with Erskine is familiar with our mission statement, and we frequently hear about engaging students and developing as whole persons in our Christ-centered environment.  One of the things that has always struck me most about Dr. Elsner, in addition to his intelligence and talent, is how he earnestly seeks to know his students, colleagues, and friends as whole persons.  Even meeting him as a junior in high school, his words to me showed an honest desire to know who I am past my academic and extracurricular achievements and how he could best help me fulfill God’s calling for my life.  I study and work in the psychology lab or lobby nearly every day, and I see this same quality in every conversation I have heard between him and his students and colleagues.  He will graciously take the time to talk to, and counsel, any soul that knocks on his door–and always with a smile.  He has attended more student sporting events and performances than probably any other student or faculty member at Erskine.  I think that if I succeeded in investing as much time as he does into people, I would never have time to sleep.  He is truly one of the most honest examples of how to live by true Christian standards that I know.

Dr. Elsner is my professor, my advisor, my boss, and my friend.  He has been a literal shoulder to cry on through some of the hardest struggles of my life and one of my biggest cheerleaders at performances.  I know that compliments from him are sincere and that critiques are encouragement to perform to my full potential.  He has helped me find and develop strengths that I didn’t know I have, encouraged me in making difficult moral decisions, and offered a safe haven when I was struggling with depression and anxiety.  Aside from my family, no one has had a greater or more positive impact on my life.  Words are truly insufficient to express my gratitude to him.