Hosted at Carr’s Hill, President Jim Ryan’s residence on Grounds, the special event was dubbed “Story Collider on the Hill.”
“I absolutely love stories,” Ryan said. “I love to listen to them. I love telling them. But I know it takes a certain amount of courage to share your stories. So I’m incredibly grateful that you’re sharing yours.”
Each tale described a fork in the road for these five UVA professors, two of whom serve as deans.
Sarah Kucenas, a professor of biology who specializes in neuroscience research, told the story of how a high school swim coach’s verbal tirade shook her confidence and, for many years, doused her love of swimming.
“He took his stopwatch and threw it at the pool deck, and it shattered into what appeared like a million pieces,” Kucenas said. “And we all stopped dead in the water. ‘Why aren’t you trying harder?’ he screamed.”
He then singled out Kucenas, whose maiden name was Stahlhut. “‘Look at Stahlly. She works so hard, and she doesn’t even have talent.’”
The pool suddenly went from a place of calm and joy for her to a place of self-doubt.