Gavin Withaeger ’22 honored as Student Lincoln Laureate

January 11, 2022

Gavin Withaeger

Aurora University nursing student Gavin Withaeger ’22 of Plainfield, Illinois, has been recognized with the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award, representing Aurora University as Student Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois.

In the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, Student Laureates are honored for their “leadership and service in pursuit of the betterment of humanity and for overall excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities,” according to the Springfield, Illinois-based nonprofit organization.

Withaeger has been involved with several campus organizations, including the Student Nurses’ Association, the American Association for Men in Nursing (AU chapter), and the community service organization Mu Sigma Pi, in which he served as president. He also has served as a peer advisor, a resident assistant, and a Spartan Ambassador. In addition, he was a student-athlete his freshman and sophomore years.

Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Withaeger plans to work in a critical care setting. Eventually he would like to pursue a doctoral degree in nurse anesthesia.

“Growing up, the value of community service was ingrained in me,” said Withaeger. “I spent much of my childhood and adolescent years volunteering in local schools. It started as something I did with my family, but transitioned into a passion of mine. As soon as I turned 18, I was able to carve my own path of service to the community by visiting geriatric hospice patients in nursing homes.

“Aurora University helped me cultivate that passion even further,” Withaeger said. “I remember my first visit here. What stood out was seeing the way the students, staff, and professors all interacted with one another. I could tell this was a school built on genuine relationships and community inclusivity.”

Each fall, The Lincoln Academy awards the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award to one outstanding senior from each of the participating colleges and universities in Illinois. The Student Laureates receive a letter and certificate of merit signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Lincoln medallion, a challenge coin, and a $500 check. The awards ceremony is typically held at the Old State Capital Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois, each fall, but was held virtually this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

You can read Withaeger’s statement to the Academy here:

Abraham Lincoln is revered as one of the most respected presidents to have held office. Lincoln was well-known for his commitment to unite a nation ravaged by conflicting ideologies.

Some would even describe his leadership as an act of heroism, but I believe Lincoln would never describe himself this way. Lincoln, a man of humble beginnings, had committed himself to a life of honesty and justice. In accordance with Lincoln’s philosophies, I do not believe exceptional abilities are what make someone a hero; more so it is the actions we choose daily. It is the unwavering desire to do what is right, despite the potential for what unfavorable outcomes may follow.

As a future nurse and active member of my community, I have committed myself to the healing and protection of all people. I plan to advocate for social justice and defend the basic rights for the people of the world. There will be no reluctance in opening my heart to those in turmoil, no matter the race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.

I hope to serve as a bridge uniting people and empowering them to voice their beliefs, by facilitating an open forum for discussions from both sides. Now more than ever we must listen more than we talk, love more than we hate, and come together more than we divide.

In the words of Lincoln himself “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds.”