Ascending to altitude, Senior Zack Gardner wrestled with an emotional paradox. Despite the sudden chill down his spine and the resounding, “why am I doing this” in his mind, his demeanor on the outside seemed to be calm. As the instructor opened the right hand door, the earth loomed. The ominous countdown was all Zack could hear over the roaring of the plane’s engine. On two, he thought to himself, “I can’t do this.” A second later, he was free falling through the clouds, his mind consumed by unadulterated joy.
“Skydiving was one of the coolest experiences of my life,” Zack said. “While I was in the air, it was evident what a small person I am in the world. But I also realized that even as a small person, I can play a big role if I impact others.”
His continual impact on others both in and out of the classroom is one of the reasons that friends and professors alike find Zack to be a great candidate for gustie of the week.
“Zack deserves to be Gustie of the Week because he cares so very much,” Health and Exercise Science Instructor Josh Harbitz said. “He cares about his family, he cares about his fellow students and he cares about Gustavus.”
As a captain of the Swimming and Diving team, Gustie Greeter, and a member of Proclaim Leadership, Epsilon Pi Alpha, and Swing Club, Zack strives to use his last year at Gustavus to meet and impact as many people as he can on campus.
“Zack will volunteer his time when the cause strikes a chord with him, which is quite often,” Assistant Men’s and Women’s Swimming Coach Alex Lindstrom said. “He always wants to give back.”
Zack has come to view the organizations he’s involved in as his family.
“The way I see it, I’m not involved in groups I just have a lot of families on campus,” Zack said.
As a Biology major, Zack intends on applying for chiropractic school after Gustavus, but is also thinking about joining the Peace Corps, becoming a rescue swimmer for the coast guard or even a professor.
“Zack will be working with people, helping people, leading people, no matter what organization he is with,” Lindstrom said.
When he finds a minute to spare, Zack loves to seek adventure. He believes in pursuing adventure, which ranges from meeting someone new each year to rock climbing in Colorado during his sophomore spring break.
“I think a lot of the crazy things I have done come down to my faith,” Zack said. “I’m not really frightened of death at all because I have faith, so I seek more adventure in life.”
While he isn’t frightened by death, Zack’s biggest fear in life is that he won’t leave an impact on anyone. This year, he was named Homecoming King, which he said, was so encouraging to him that he’s kept the poem he wrote in his pocket ever since.
“We had to pick our favorite memory which was too hard for me, so I wrote a poem,” Zack said. “Winning king was a way of being told, without actually being told, that I have had an impact on people and for me, the poem is a constant reminder of that so I’ve kept it with me in my pocket.”
Although he fears he won’t leave an impact, those who’ve come to know Zack believe that his caring nature and focus on people have already touched the community.
“He is caring, curious, interested in learning and people-oriented,” Associate Professor and Chair Department of Biology Margaret Bloch Qazi said.
Through his actions, Zack already stands out to those who know him as a leader in the Gustavus community, an attribute that friends and professors are confident he will always carry with him.
“Zack is a great example of what Gusties can be when they apply themselves. He works hard and looks to uplift others on a daily basis,” Lindstrom said. “He is, by actions, a leader among his peers.”