Home Lifestyle Bobcat Bond program forms lifelong friendships

Bobcat Bond program forms lifelong friendships

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Keith Needham, professor at Texas State, proudly displays his 2017 Faculty Member of the Year Award Sept. 21. Needham is a mentor in the Texas State Bobcat Bond Program.
Photo by Kirby Crumpler | Staff Photographer

Bobcat Bond mentorship match between a faculty member and a student has withstood family tragedy, graduation and more.

Joanne Smith, Texas State Vice President of Student Affairs, sent out a call to junior and seniors to take part in the Bobcat Bond mentorship program.

The program matches students with peers, faculty or staff members. In a particular case, a faculty member was able to leave a lasting impact on a Bobcat through the program and receive the same in return.

Keith Needham, English professor, mentored Karee’ Berry,  since Berry’s sophomore year, but their friendship began the summer before they joined the Bobcat Bond program.

Needham taught an American literature class during the summer of 2015, which Berry was attending. The summer started out rough for Needham when he found out his mother was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer of the bladder, and was told she had months left to live. Needham told his students how he would drive 300 miles each way as often as he could to visit his mother in between his summer literature class.

When Needham’s mother died, Berry and several other football players who were in Needham’s class showed up at the funeral to support their professor in his time of need.

“Karee’ walked in with some of the players of the football team that had all been in my class,” Needham said.” I just broke down and started crying my eyes out. I said, ‘What are you guys doing here?’ and Karee’ looked at me and said, ‘Where else would we be?’”

A week later Berry asked Needham to become his mentor officially. They would meet once a week to talk and occasionally meet for lunch. Needham mentored Berry from that moment on until Berry graduated in July 2017.

Tragedy struck again when Needham’s father had a massive heart attack over Christmas break in 2016. Needham stayed by his father’s side at a Houston hospital for so long that he forgot to eat or sleep. Eventually he collapsed at his father’s bedside and was ordered to bed rest by doctors. After making it back to San Marcos, Needham worried about his father being alone in a hospital in Houston where he knew no one.

Once Berry found out what was going on, he called Needham and said he would be there the next morning to drive him to Houston to visit Needham’s father.

Needham’s father was eventually moved to a regent care center in San Marcos. Not long after, Needham’s father was given six months to live. He died a week after the diagnosis with Needham and Berry at his bedside.

Although Berry has graduated and is no longer Needham’s mentee, they still get together, and talk on the phone multiple times a week. Both Berry and Needham said their friendship is not just a mentor-mentee bond anymore, but a father-son bond.

“He felt like a father figure to me because he has been through so much,” Berry said.” I am able to lean on him and depend on him in a lot of different ways.”

The Bobcat Bond program, which is responsible for creating relationships like Needham’s and Berry’s, is a resource for students who want help or someone to look up to. Not only does it provide professor mentors, but students can also become peer mentors who help other students.

Terence Parker, associate director of Bobcat Bond, said the program is geared toward transfer and second year students who want someone who they can go to for help with anything.

“We have a lot of students who just really want to give back to somebody else just like somebody did for them when they were a new student,” Parker said.

For those interested in joining the program, applications are available through Texas State’s Student Success website.

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