Illustration by Maria Fabrizio

When I moved to Cleveland in 1990 to start a new job at the Cleveland Institute of Music, I never imagined that I would find enlightenment at a local gym. I had always viewed fitness centers as nothing more than places to see and be seen, and I had avoided setting foot in them at all costs. Then one afternoon a good friend of mine from the Case Western Reserve University law school invited me to work out together at CWRU’s One-to-One Fitness Center on campus. I felt obliged to accept, and the decision forever changed my life.

The fitness center offered free assessments to new members. Intrigued, I signed up and underwent an evaluation. The results showed I had the cardiovascular capacity of a 60-year-old man, even though I was 43. I was alarmed, to say the least, and immediately engaged a trainer. After six months of circuit training, I had the heart strength of a man in his late 20s. I have been addicted to wellness ever since.

For many years, I have nourished my mind, body, and soul with a consistent wellness routine. Almost every day, I awake at 5 a.m. and meditate for 10 minutes, focusing on breathing deeply and repeating one phrase until my mind is clear of all other thoughts. I then practice the cello for 15 to 30 minutes, playing a scale sequence slowly at first, then faster and faster to keep my fingers strong and sharpen my intonation with each new note. Finally, my wife, Betty, and I go to the Weinstein Center, where I train on the elliptical for 20 to 30 minutes, followed by either an upper or lower body workout. When I arrive at work, I feel equipped to address the challenges of the day, confident that I can tap into an inner well of strength to maintain my equilibrium.

Last semester, I was reminded how important it is that we empower our students to find their own inner equilibrium when life knocks them off balance. In a presentation to college presidents, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner shared research findings showing that achieving mental wellness and developing a sense of belonging are the greatest challenges facing college students today.

I am proud that our university is leading the way in preparing students to live happy, purposeful, and resilient lives. Thanks to the remarkable generosity of lead donors and other alumni, parents, and friends of the university, we are less than one year away from completing our new Well-Being Center. It will bring together all our wellness resources under one roof and strive to cultivate habits of sound mind and body in our students. To that end, the center will provide not only health care and counseling services, but also a health-food café and demonstration kitchen, a meditation garden and mind-body studio, and a self-care resource center.

The Latin writer Publilius Syrus once wrote, “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” The challenge is to hold your grip firm when the storm comes. A liberal arts education provides students with a remarkable set of tools to navigate the vicissitudes of life, from critical reasoning to creative thinking to empathic communication. The new Well-Being Center will help ensure that when our students find themselves on a tempest-tossed ship, they will have the inner strength to draw on those tools and steer through the battering waves with confidence, resilience, and skill.