So far, only one tradition has developed at the College of Integrated
Science and Technology at James Madison University. Change. Like
a constantly mutating cell or a subatomic particle that is gone before
it can be seen, CISAT is in perpetual motion.
Now, ISAT is not an All Together One recipient here today, nor are
we here to talk biophysics. Rather, the excerpt I just read regarding
the tradition of change at ISAT unequivocally relates to our next recipient,
Mr. Kai Degner. In his past four years at JMU, this proud ISAT major
(with t-shirts to prove it!) has changed and moved forward not just
himself, but everyone and everything that he has come into contact
Kai’s favorite quote is, “a thought moves
nothing.” Kai has made it his personal mission not just to think
of ways to change, but to actually seek out and effect change wherever
he goes. Just as that mutating cell is gone before it can be seen,
Kai’s profound effects on people and on JMU often go unsung.
Some may argue this point because Kai does receive a fair amount of
recognition on this campus. He is the president of Integrated Science
and Technology Honors Society, works as a Technology Assistant in JMU’s
Community Service-Learning office, participates in Alternative Spring
Break trips, most recently to Dominica, and has won numerous awards
for his intellect and service throughout his years at JMU. Not to mention,
his hearty laugh and self-made t-shirts bearing his infamous slogan, “ISAT,
I Came, I Rule,” are perhaps hard to ignore. But, it is the way
in which he has handled himself in all of these different roles, with
his humble confidence and motivational spirit, that has profoundly
inspired and influenced so many people through all of his pursuits.
It is this intangible, yet perpetual motion that has left the real
legacy on the JMU campus. And it is that legacy that is being recognized
Co-worker and friend,
Jason Pittman, reflects on the first time he encountered Kai: “I
met Kai at the ASB leader retreat last year. We talked about goals
and dreams, what we hoped to achieve. I was not
only impressed by how high he was willing to set his sights, but that
he was so open in sharing his dreams with me, a complete stranger at
the time. Kai inspired me then, simply knowing that there were people
like him who are still willing not only to dream, but to see those
It would be easy for Mister ISAT to chalk up life to one proof or conclusion
after another, but anyone who knows Kai, knows that he is a fervent
dreamer. Unique to Kai, he has a subtle way of not simply making you
feel a part of his dream, but of making you feel as if your own dreams
are attainable as long as you remain persistent and zealous in your
Adding to that,
co-worker and friend, Isiah Carle Smith says that Kai works not for
the common good [alone], but for the best interest
each person he’s given the opportunity to interact with.
of all these traits came together this semester when Kai’s alias arrived on the scene: “That Orange Band Guy.” That
guy has been draping our halls, bulletin boards, our bodies and book
bags with that bright shade of orange, which was the symbol for the
Orange Band Initiative.
Kai’s unique role in the Initiative. “He
was so intent on making the organization a forum for all viewpoints
that Kai sacrificed his own interest in expressing his views regarding
the war. He did this out of sensitivity so that he would not contaminate
the open forum for discussion and [possibly] alienate those whose viewpoints
differed from his. I cannot think of another individual who would have
postured himself so maturely and humbly for the greater good than Kai
Aside from having
to keep his opinions at bay for the betterment of the group, Kai
was also put in a precarious position as he quickly
was pushed to the foreground as Orange Band’s spokesperson. Humble
and gracious Kai was wary to take on such a role fearing that such
personal publicity may put Orange Band’s inclusive nature in
jeopardy. Synonymous with the way he has always lead his life, Kai
wanted the focus to be on individual growth and change, not on himself.
However, he eventually took on the opportunity and responsibility with
faith that his public persona would be a brief and, inevitably, more
effective way to reach more students, thus positively affect the greatest
number of people.
Orange Band could
easily stand alone to personify Kai’s character
and clearly show how deserving he is of today’s recognition.
Simply the color orange is symbolic, in that it was chosen to symbolize
the neutrality of the Initiative and in many ways parallels Kai’s
welcoming nature that is evident to all people and ideas that present
themselves in his life. With Orange Band, and with many facets of Kai’s
life, he had a vision that he never lost sight of and transformed that
vision into motion utilizing every possible channel he could. However,
Kai is deserving of this recognition even without the Orange Band Initiative.
He seeks to engage people in discussion at all points of his life because
he wants to motivate others to enlighten themselves; Kai seeks to help
individuals sort through their thoughts and emotions, and inevitably
help them to create meaning in their lives and tap into their true
Kai truly has the
natural ability to pave bumpy and ambiguous roads smooth and clear.
Yet, such changes often go unnoticed by Kai because
he has already moved on wondering what more is to come and what more
there could be. Kai’s movement relentlessly changes himself and
others around him, constantly finding ways to create rich communities
by moving valleys, mountains, and people to the newly paved roads.
Kai’s tradition of change continues to inspire and build community
here at JMU every day.
The JMU community would to thank, Kai Degner.