Thanksgiving is a couple of weeks away, and if you ask Heidi Field her favorite Thanksgiving took place on the Goucher College campus on November 26, 2015.
Heidi, the mother of five children, came to Baltimore to have Thanksgiving with her children Leigh, Erin, and Todd, who were students at Goucher at the time.
"We took one family trip to Goucher during Leigh's senior year," said Heidi. "It was too costly to fly three kids home from Goucher for Thanksgiving weekend, so we drove to Goucher for the weekend. We stayed in her apartment and made Thanksgiving dinner in her little kitchenette. To this day, it was my favorite Thanksgiving."
Leigh graduated from Goucher in 2016, Erin graduated in 2018, and Todd walked across the stage in 2019. The family is #GoucherProud that they have three members that have diplomas from Goucher.
"I enjoy telling people that my two of my sisters and I all went to the same school and the fact that its Goucher is even more rewarding," said Todd.
"It's cool because the school is so small, and we know all the same people," said Erin. "If we are together, we can talk about school and everyone. It's like a separate world that the rest of the family does not understand. It feels like we have something special that we have that no one else gets."
"The majority of my friend group was also a part of Goucher athletics so I attended many games, equestrian shows, and other events while at Goucher," said Leigh. "It was nice that we all were able to have similar friends because the school is so small, but we all had our niche. I look back on my college experience fondly knowing that they were a part of it for my last two years. We always reminisce about different stories or memories we had during those times."
Growing Up In Maine
The Field family is from Sidney, Maine. Leigh is the oldest and two years older than Erin and three years older than Todd.
"Growing up with three sisters had its challenges, but I wouldn't have had it any other way," said Todd. "My sisters and I were always close, but we were also all very independent. We may not have always done everything together, but we are always there for each other."
"Growing up we were always close," said Leigh. "We lived in a small house, so we often had to do many activities together. We always played outside, went to the same small schools, and played on the same sports teams. My mom was good about making sure we were all included in activities. I think this allowed us to foster our independence and individuality. It also made our relationships stronger because we did a lot of the same activities growing up."
"Leigh has all the personality traits of the oldest child. She was always the leader. From making up games to being the boss," said Heidi. "Erin was very manipulative and loved getting anyone else in trouble. She is the total opposite of Leigh. Todd just wanted to be included and would go along with anything. They were all very outgoing, willing to try anything. Our family always stood out in a crowd. High school friends blended from each kid. They had their share of arguments but mostly supported each other. They always had each other for fun times and hard times. That has never changed."
Leigh's Goucher Story
The family Thanksgiving at Goucher could have been a Norman Rockwell painting, but it might not have been possible without a magazine advertisement.
"I came across Goucher while sitting in a waiting area on another college tour in a magazine that had a page about the Top 10 Colleges that will change your life," said Leigh. "A huge part of part of my dreams about college at that point was about travel, and I wanted to study abroad so when I read the article and it said Goucher was the only school to require all of its students to study abroad to graduate I knew I had to go."
"I remember Leigh seeing the name of Goucher College on a list of colleges that change your life," said Heidi. "After visiting a few colleges and completing applications, she decided to add Goucher College. It was a small college that was good for price comparison, and it was in a warmer climate. We toured it at the end of April, leaving us very little time to make the final decision. It truly was a perfect fit for Leigh. It had everything she wanted, and the campus set up was inviting."
"I chose Goucher because, at the time, I focused on studying abroad and seeing the world," said Leigh. "I grew up in a very small homogenous town, and I wanted to go to new places - which is also why I went to school 10 hours away from home. I told myself that even if I got homesick, I wouldn't be able to just drive back."
There are a lot of things that make Goucher a special place, and for Leigh, it helped shape her into the person that she is today.
"What makes Goucher special for me is the experiences, memories, relationships, and outlooks it has given me through interaction, education, and the time that I spent there," said Leigh. "There are so many things I look back on and can pinpoint as a turning point in my life or how I experience life, and I know that without Goucher there is no way I would be the person I am today. I am proud that Goucher is committed to changing for the better when people voice their opinions, but I am proud that there are individuals at Goucher who are committed to making it a place that will hopefully someday be for everyone and accessible to everyone."
Leigh moved to Florida after graduating with a degree in sociology with a concentration in health and medicine as well as women, gender, and sexuality studies. She planned on becoming a nurse and worked as a CNA on the mother and baby unit. She wasn't sure if she wanted to become a nurse, and after getting married and having a baby boy, she made a career change. She now owns a clothing line called Booty Scrunch Miami and has almost 14,000 followers on Instagram.
"I know that my undergrad has nothing to do with what I'm doing now, but I do not think I would have been this successful if it weren't for Goucher," said Leigh. "I learned so much about professionalism, writing, being creative and sticking to what you believe is important and incorporating social justice, but I know that it is extremely important for us now and for our future. I don't want our world today to look the same for my son or other kids."
Erin's Goucher Story
When it came time for Erin to choose a school, she had her heart set on a small school in New Hampshire, but the family with five children could not afford her top choice. With some urging from Leigh, Erin leaped and applied to Goucher late in the process.
"Leigh was home during that summer and encouraged Erin to apply at Goucher," said Heidi. "Goucher immediately welcomed Erin with an acceptance letter and financial aid! She could attend Goucher for less than she could attend an in-state university. She loved the small and personal campus, and small class sizes were a perfect fit for her learning style."
"I only knew of Goucher through Leigh, but I had never been on campus because it was too expensive to fly there," said Erin. "Leigh said I should apply to Goucher, but I was worried because I thought it was too late. I emailed the field hockey coach first, and she was like, 'yeah we will definitely take you.' I was excited and applied, and they got back to be me literally in July."
After being accepted in July, she was on the Baltimore campus a month later for the first time, and it took some time to get used to the campus.
"I remember getting there, and it was the first time I saw the campus," said Erin. "I didn't know anyone, and my sister wasn't there yet. I didn't even know how to get from Stimson to the athletic fields for practice."
Leigh and Erin had shared a room growing up until Leigh went into high school, and they lost some of their connection with Leigh came to Goucher. The time at Goucher helped them reconnect, and even shared a room in Erin's freshman year.
"Because she left for two years, we kind of grew apart, and that was sad. When I got to Goucher, we were close my freshman year," said Erin. "I was busy with field hockey, but she lived two floors below me, and then we moved into together. We grew closer because I saw her all the time since we were living together."
Erin played on the field hockey team for two years, appearing in 26 games with two goals and three assists for seven points on 15 shots.
"My most memorable experience was when my best friend Rachel Crain and I were able to play on the field together," said Erin. "She was a year ahead of me, and I would always sub in for her because we played the same position. One time, we got to play together, and she was the center forward, and I was the left forward, and we brought the ball down the field together, and we almost scored a goal."
Erin decided to give up playing field hockey after her sophomore campaign because she wanted to work on campus. She stayed close to athletics with a job working at the front desk of the Decker Sports and Recreation Center.
Todd's Goucher Story
"I was a sophomore in high school when Leigh first went to Goucher," said Todd. "I remember when she would come home on breaks and tell us all the stories from her time in college. Being a first-generation college student, I barely knew what college was, so hearing these stories got me excited to start my college search."
Todd's first visit to Goucher was a memorable one and one that changed his life.
"The first time I ever visited Goucher was April 2015 in my senior year in high school. This was also my first time flying, so it was a memorable experience," said Todd. "My sisters gave me a tour of the campus, and I knew it was where I wanted to spend the next four years. I initially was only looking at Goucher because my sisters both attended the school. It was also the reason that Goucher was not my first choice. I originally did not think that I wanted to attend college with my siblings, but I couldn't be happier that I did."
There were three Field family members at Goucher for the first time, and it was also the year of the Field Goucher Thanksgiving.
"I don't think Todd saw himself going to college with his sisters," said Heidi. "On the first day of school, he already knew many students and fit in like he had been there for years. He enjoyed seeing his sisters. It was such a great environment for them all to hang out without parents around. They had a lot of fun together at Goucher. It's nice to know you always have that support. More than friends, you never feel alone."
"I lived in Stimson on the third floor, and Leigh lived in the same building on the first floor. This was unexpected, but it was nice to have family so close since I was 10 hours from home," said Todd. "Leigh, Erin, and I would get lunch or dinner three or four times a week and watch Goucher's lacrosse or soccer games together whenever we could."
"We had the same friends and went to the same parties," said Erin. "We would go to lunch together, but we would end up running into each other and talking too.
Along with his sisters attending Goucher, Todd dreamt of playing collegiate soccer, and he was able to fulfill that dream. Todd played the 2016 season for the Blue and Gold men's soccer team and saw his only collegiate action against Gwynedd Mercy.
"Being on the men's soccer team was the best experience I had in my four years at Goucher," said Todd. "Coach (Bryan) Laut took a chance on me my freshman year and let me join the team as a walk-on. Not only was it rewarding being part of a team and being able to play a sport that I love, but I was able to make lifelong friends that live across the country and world."
After graduating from Goucher with a biochemistry and molecular biology pre-med major, Todd decided to pursue a different path. He is currently in the process of applying to graduate school to complete his Masters in Architecture.
"Goucher is special to me because of the connections I made during my time there," said Todd. "I made lifelong friends at Goucher, and I don't know where I would be today without them. My professors at Goucher allowed me to realize my full potential, academics always pushed me out of my comfort zone, and this prepared me for life after college."
Jack's Goucher Story
Jack Benziger came from Goucher from Yardley, Pennsylvania, with an eye at playing on the men's lacrosse team for the Blue and Gold.
"I didn't quite know what I wanted to go to school for and had been planning to play lacrosse in college because I liked the environment of a team sport and the relationships it helps build," said Benziger. "I had been identified by the Goucher men's lacrosse coach (Brian Kelly) during a summer tournament, and I thought the idea of playing Division III college lacrosse in Maryland would be a great experience."
Benziger appeared in 39 matches, including 20 starts with 40 ground balls and 22 caused turnovers in the defense in his four-year career. The Gophers went 31-29 in his career, including advancing to the Landmark Conference semifinals in his senior campaign.
"It is tough for me to name my favorite athletic moment at Goucher because I have so many great memories," said Benziger. "Being a defenseman coming onto a strong defense lead team, I learned that you have to overcome upsets and put in the time and effort to prove yourself and get your time to shine, which I have found has given me great success in my current job."
Benziger graduated from Goucher with a degree in business management in 2018. He turned an internship during his senior year at Kforce into a full-time position with the company in Boston, Massachusetts. He works with high-level information technology staffing in his current position.
Erin and Jack's Relationship
Erin started dating Benziger during their junior year. It wasn't love at first sight since Jack had a girlfriend from home, and Erin was dating another men's lacrosse player during their first two years at Goucher. When they both were single at the same time, the sparks started.
"I snap chatted him something, and from there, we started doing homework together and just hanging out," said Erin. "Before we were juniors, I never thought about Jack that way because he always had a girlfriend, and I always had a boyfriend. I remember thinking that he was cute and wanted to talk with him."
"My initial impression of Erin was that she was she was really funny and that we actually had a lot in common both from our childhood and just how our brains work," said Benziger.
The two have been together since 2017, including currently dealing with the "new normal."
"The key to the relationship lasting has to be understanding and forgiveness," said Benziger. "Due to our being together 24/7, especially now with COVID, we definitely can get a bit annoyed at each other. The key is to be understanding and put yourself in the other person's shoes, and see from your partner's perspective. I don't think we go more than 15 minutes after an argument without apologizing to each other or openly communicating what happened."
Even though Benziger's last name is not Field, the family considers him a part of the family.
"The first time I met Jack, I felt like I had known him for years," said Heidi. "He just fit in with our family so well."
"I think Jack is an amazing partner to Erin. I am so happy that he is a part of our family," said Leigh. "Unfortunately, I am not around as much as I would like, but he is always kind and feels like a natural fit with our family."
"Jack is a great guy," said Todd. "He's always been kind to my family and me. He has been a huge part of my family, and I am grateful he is the person he is."
Erin and Benziger's love has endured a lot, including a tragic accident during the first summer they were together when Erin had a chimney fall on her body while laying on a hammock that left her a C5 quadriplegic. She is paralyzed from the chest down and has limited arm function. She doesn't have functions in her fingers or triceps but can move both biceps. She is not completely independent, but she has gotten strong enough to be in a manual chair.
Erin missed the fall semester of her senior year recovering but was able to return to Goucher in the spring to graduate with her class in 2018.
"After the accident, Jack never left her side, and I never expected that," said Heidi. "He also never looked at her differently or treated her differently. He never felt bad for her, but he just encouraged her to keep getting better and to work harder. Jack is a blessing in our lives. I don't know how I would manage this life change without him.
In the fall after the accident, Erin's former team dedicated a game in her honor. She could not attend because she was still recovering, but Benziger also made it a special day for Erin with his men's lacrosse teammates at the field hockey match.
"All the lacrosse guys went and painted my name on their chest," said Erin. "Jack got them to do that. I wasn't there, but that's a really cool picture."
"The men's lacrosse team community during and after Erin's accident was very supportive," said Benziger. "They were constantly reaching out for updates and even put together a few events in her name to help motivate and show support for her recovery. The rest of the community was also quite supportive. Other sports teams had done similar events, and I felt supported by my professors and other students by them asking how she is doing and that they were there for us."
One of the things about the Goucher community is that it works to help those who are in need, and it stepped it up to assist Erin, Jack and Todd, who was a junior.
"The first semester my junior year was the hardest four months of my life," said Todd. "After Erin's accident in July, I did not intend to return to Goucher in August. Erin eventually convinced me that I had to go and that she was going to be ok without me. Luckily most of the people at Goucher were very understanding and wanted to help however they could. If it wasn't for a couple of good friends and some Goucher faculty, then I don't think I would have finished that semester. Bryan Coker (former Goucher Vice President and Dean of Students) worked tirelessly to ensure that I had all the support I needed and that Erin's return to Goucher the next semester would be as smooth as possible. Arnelle Hanley (Goucher's Director of Accessibility Services) was also very helpful in preparing for Erin's return."
"The college was super welcoming, and they got me an awesome room," said Erin. "They were fine with my mom staying with me. My teachers were great. I made sure to only take classes with teachers that I had before my accident, so they already knew me, and I already had a good relationship with them. They knew I was a good student, and they helped me with a lot of stuff."
"Looking back on my senior year, I am very proud of what I accomplished and quite surprised at how much I was able to put on my plate," said Benziger. "I was able to successfully hold a paid internship, complete my bachelor's degree, and not only play but be a starter for a full season of college lacrosse all while still being able to make time for Erin and my friends and also not feel like I was missing out on anything. I'm not sure if it either didn't feel that difficult during the time or if I just didn't have any time to stop and smell the roses and realize how much difficult it was. Whichever it was, looking back, I am very proud of myself and feel it helped me set a bar for myself and realize my potential of what I could do. I feel this has followed up until now where I am working a full-time job as well essentially being Erin's caregiver. Of course, none of this would have been possible if it were not for the help and support of Heidi."
"I just have to say the Goucher community exceeded my expectations after Erin's accident," said Heidi. "Bryan Coker reached out to me several times during Erin's recovery. When Erin decided she was returning for her last semester in January they worked with us to get the perfect dorm room. It had to be one that I could also stay in and large enough for all her equipment. They walked through the entire campus to make sure everything was accessible and in working order. She was promised to march with her class for the graduation and Goucher kept that promise."
Erin's graduation was a gratifying experience for the whole family despite some worries about the day. Erin and her family had concerns and worried that her wheelchair might have or cause issues while she was on stage. Luckily, everything went smoothly.
"Erin's graduation held many tears," said Heidi. "They allowed Todd to sit with her in case she needed help with anything. Tears poured down my face as she received her diploma. It was the same feeling I got with each of my kids when they graduated. However, for Erin, it was the impossible that she made possible. It took our whole family and a lot of tears and a lot of work to make it all happen, but in the end, it was Erin that decided her destiny and became a Goucher graduate."
"To see what she went through, all of the trauma from the accident, surgeries, and rehab, and to come out on the other side, and commit herself to go back to college and graduate," said Leigh. "Everyone in the world would have understood if she stepped back. I am so proud and so amazed by her dedication to achieving her degree and her commitment to herself. I think she can do anything in the world."
Erin and Todd's relationship grew in that final semester at Goucher. He would come to her room to help her with her with anything she needed. He assisted her in attending her first party since the accident, including carrying her into the party. In addition to Todd, Heidi stayed in the dorm with Erin to assist with her needs.
"Todd was in pre-med, and his classes were very demanding but took time out every day to help Erin," said Heidi. "I could not have done it without Todd."
"Todd was huge because he was supportive," said Erin. "He helped me get in my chair, conducted transfers, and did other things that I couldn't do yet. Todd would come over every day, and we would have lunch together and do stuff my mom couldn't do. He took me to my first party. He carried me in, didn't even bring my wheelchair, just put me in a recliner so I just sat there all night. I remember at the end of the night, my brother carried me out, and all the freshmen and sophomores didn't know me, and they had no idea what was going on."
"My relationship with Erin's family before the accident was pretty limited due to them being in Maine and us at college in Maryland," said Benziger. "We did go out to dinner when I met them up in Maine and, we seemed to get along quite well. My relationship with Erin's family now is obviously a lot stronger from the hardship and time we have spent together. I honestly feel like part of their big family at this point!"
Since graduating from Goucher, Erin has been working doing physical therapy to gain strength and looks to attend law school soon.
The Rest Of The Field Siblings
The Field family also has two more siblings. Goucher was not in the cards for Riley, who earned an athletic scholarship to NCAA Division I the University of Maine. She was a four-year starter for the Bears field hockey team and will be graduating in December with a degree in exercise science. Tobin is currently a sophomore in high school.
Leigh, Erin, and Todd never felt pressure to attend the same school, and while Tobin is too young to start thinking about the next step, Todd is hopeful for him to join the family fraternity of the Blue and Gold.
"I never felt pressure to attend Goucher," said Todd. "Both Erin and Leigh always hinted at the idea, but none of us expected it to become a reality. I would love it if Tobin attended Goucher in the future. It would be great to have that connection with him and have a reason to come back to campus. However, Tobin is a few years away from college, and I'm confident he will choose the college that is the best fit for him."
Unlike Leigh, Erin, and Todd, both Riley and Tobin had spent a lot of time on the Goucher campus when they were younger. Along with the family Thanksgiving, both of them would visit the campus during Erin's final semester and have a good sense of what makes Goucher a special place.
"When you have close friends in college, those are relationships that can and do last a lifetime, but when you have your family around you, it just gives you a greater sense of home and comfort," said Leigh. "The ability to share college experiences and stories with my family was cool as well!"
College is about finding yourself while entering adulthood. For some, that means leaving home behind in search of new friends and a new sense of community. The entire Field family was able to accomplish that while also keeping a piece of home with each of them. In this time of year, that is something to be thankful for and to enjoy with your Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.