Dan Stone, recognizing his love for the sciences, entered Messiah as a biology major, but he was not sure that it was something he wanted to do for the rest of his life. “I wanted to do something I was passionate about,” he explains, so he channeled his lifelong love of sports along with a significant life experience to find the major that was right for him. He elaborates, “I was diagnosed at age thirteen with Type I diabetes, and since I was an athlete it had a huge impact. I experienced firsthand the connection between exercise and diabetes control, and I became passionate about how exercise affects our quality of life.” Dan realized that he wanted to make a career out of “helping people improve their quality of life through exercise,” so he declared a major in Sport and Exercise Science.
Dan was on Messiah’s wrestling team, so most of his free time was occupied with practices, matches, and other team activities. He relates the words of his wrestling coach that adequately sum up his college experience: “There are three things you can do in college: get good grades, practice, or have a social life. You can pick two.” Although balancing sports with the other elements of college life was challenging, Dan appreciates his experience with college athletics. “The team becomes your family,” he observes, “and the relationships you develop are strong.” He adds, “Wrestling helped me learn a lot about character, hard work, the importance of showing up on time, and being diligent at what you do.”
Dan values the fundamental skills he developed at Messiah. Instead of teaching him everything he might encounter in the sports and exercise field, Dan’s college education “was a lot more ‘putting tools in the toolbox’: I learned a lot of technique and theory along with learning new ways of thinking that help me work with the people I see on a daily basis.” He explains, “While I did learn a lot of the hands-on skills my field requires, it was more-so how
to apply the hands-on skills you will use in a job – that ended up being more important in my transition from college to career.”
Overall, what Dan values most is the opportunity for personal development that Messiah afforded him: “What was really helpful was keeping me well-rounded,” he begins. “The skills I learned - I probably could have learned them elsewhere, but Messiah is important spiritually and emotionally.” He especially appreciates “being sharpened as a person,” along with the other indicators of personal growth “that you can’t learn in a couple months.”
• "Sharpen your people skills."
• "Learn to connect with people – it is important in any vocation."
Figuring out what to do after graduation was fairly straightforward for Dan, a circumstance he recognizes as rare for many new college grads. Originally planning to attend graduate school with an assistantship at a school in North Carolina, Dan realized that he wanted to stay in the area; he had recently married and wanted to start a family, and he knew he did not want to do this concurrently with graduate school. He needed a job, and networks of contacts he had established as a student provided him with the link to his current employer, Central PA Rehabilitation Services. “I wasn’t even looking for a particular job,” he relates, “but Doug Miller [his advisor and professor in the SPEX department] approached me about a position he had heard about and then recommended me for it.” He adds, “I liked the job when I went for the interview because it felt like a good environment to continue learning in physical therapy while gaining experience in areas with which I was less familiar. The organization was very helpful, also, in providing educational assistance.”
In the early months after graduation, Dan experienced the common anxiety about finding a job - adding to his apprehension was the family he now had to provide for. “I still question things every day,” he admits, “but I make it through, and we’ve been blessed, provided for, and cared for. Do I question myself every now and then? Yes, but I love what I do. And being able to dig deep with people and provide this service for them outweighs any negative aspects.”
Although Dan received his current position after graduating, he has remained committed to advancing his knowledge of the field by taking graduate courses and attending seminars. He has also embarked on an entrepreneurial business venture, establishing a small at-home personal training business.
Dan researches, composes, and develops exercise plans for a wide variety of clients: from physical therapy patients, to athletes desiring sports-specific training regimes, to clients desiring to lose weight. He interacts personally with clients through one-on-one training sessions, and he maintains contact by “updating their exercise programs, keeping their treatment progressing.” He also manages the training facilities and contributes to marketing and management for the company.
“I was working with a man with a neurological condition, and he couldn’t walk at all. His goal for therapy was to walk on his own. And he had a terminal illness, so it was very easy to ask why I was training this man. I got him to stand and walk on his own – his wife was so ecstatic, and she turned to me and said, ‘You are gifted in what you do. You are where God wants you to be.’ That affirmation, along with watching his face light up because he didn’t think he would ever be able to do it – that is something I won’t forget.”
“My vocation has a lot to do with improving the quality of life for people. The more that they can do, the better they can serve God. Taking care of our bodies has a huge connection with our spiritual life. Healthy body enables healthy spirit. [My position] also provides a good opportunity to witness – I interact with people on a daily basis, and I have been able to open up a lot of spiritual conversations that open up doors I wouldn’t have access to in another vocation.”
Dan’s vocational goals are geared towards spiritual fulfillment: “I definitely would like to do more of digging deep with people, being able to intensify my ability to do that,” he explains. By taking seminary courses and engaging other faith-based sources, he hopes to improve his ability to connect the physical therapy he provides with the spiritual healing people need.
Profile by Tiffany DeRewal, October 2006