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Service important to ND valedictorian

Claire Reising | Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Although Joshua Hammack, the class of 2008 valedictorian, earned a GPA of 3.99, Zahm rector Corry Colonna said he filled his college career with more than just academics.

“He’s obviously well-rounded,” Colonna said. “Everyone assumes [being a valedictorian] comes from your GPA, but in Joshua’s sake, it reflects the person he is.”

While maintaining his grades, Hammack participated in a variety of activities, including Bengal Bouts, interhall basketball and soccer and the University admissions office’s high school ambassador program.

Hammack said he made time for all of the activities that he enjoyed during his years at Notre Dame.

“You just end up making time for the things that you want to do,” he said. “You just have to find the balance for yourself and force yourself to do the things that are really important to you,” he said.

Senior Chris Izaguirre, who knows Hammack from Zahm and Bengal Bouts, said his dedication extends to his athletics, and that Hammack seems to have an unending source of energy.

“He seems to find energy somewhere and is never too tired,” he said.

In addition to athletics, Hammack places service as a high priority and has worked on projects such as Relay for Life, mentoring and tutoring math at local high schools. At his home in Huntington, West Virginia, he volunteers at Nazareth House, where people can buy food and clothing that they cannot regularly afford.

Even with these time commitments, Hammack earned straight A’s at Notre Dame, except for one A-, and worked as a teaching assistant for business professor William Sexton for two years. Hammack also expanded his academic interest beyond his accountancy major and said two of his most influential classes were Fiction Writing and Poetry Writing.

“They gave me a great opportunity to reflect on things that I believe and values that I hold and write about them,” he said.

Hammack said he strove to achieve balance in college, incorporating faith, academics, service and athletics into his life. He added that his perception of this balance in Notre Dame students is what attracted him to the University.

During Hammack’s sophomore year, he experienced the strength of the Notre Dame community when his brother Sean, a current freshman in Zahm, battled cancer. Hammack said it was difficult to be far from his family during this time and that he had to go home for a week.

Senior Doug Vranderic, Hammack’s roommate from freshman through junior year, said he still maintained his work ethic, despite the family crisis he faced.

“I was very impressed with how he handled his school work,” Vranderic said.

According to Hammack, Sean’s battle with cancer was one of the experiences he drew from to write his graduation speech, and he was inspired by “unrelenting faith and hope beyond hope that things were going to get better, in spite of what doctors were telling us.”

After graduation, Hammack will serve for one year, possibly in a teaching position with AmeriCorps. He said he plans to eventually attend law school and become a corporate lawyer, but that he feels this is the best time in his life to work for a service organization.

“If I do end up going to law school, that’s going to pile on more loans and more responsibilities,” he said. “Service is very important to me, so I think I’m seizing the opportunity at its best.”

In addition to law, Hammack said he also wishes to become a published author, and he is beginning a novel based off his experience of having a sibling with cancer. He said he hopes his story will encourage readers who are struggling through situations similar to his.

“If someone can see that someone has a relatable experience … that’s another source of hope,” he said. “When you’re fighting cancer, that’s all you can ask for.”