PROFILE: The “Go Bearcats!” Grad Wins Title Of “Mr. Bearcat”
UC graduate Justin Shafer’s ties to UC run very deep. After all, he proposed to his future bride on the steps of Tangeman University Center.
Date: 6/6/2005 8:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
Grads and guests attending the All-University Commencement will be hearing from Justin Shafer. The 23-year-old graduate and Honors Scholar will deliver the student farewell address, and there’s no doubt that his signature sendoff, “Go Bearcats!” will be in there somewhere. It’s also likely that the Commencement crowd will hear him introduced as “Mr. Bearcat” – an honor he received at the May 15 University of Cincinnati Recognition Ceremony.
Until that awards ceremony, the person named “Mr. Bearcat” remains a secret. The annual award, a decades-long tradition, honors an outstanding male graduate who has “achieved academic success, demonstrated leadership in diverse settings and contributed to the University of Cincinnati with ‘Bearcat Spirit.’”
It’s the most recent in a list of prestigious awards for the 2004-2005 Student Body President; a Princeton High School graduate from Sycamore Township who will be graduating with a business degree with a focus on accounting/finance. He was also one of only three graduating seniors to be honored this spring with the Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence, which recognizes UC graduates who exemplify leadership and service on campus and in the community. Furthermore, the Carl H. Lindner Honors-PLUS Scholar is one of the recipients of the university-wide Just Community Awards for honoring and promoting the university’s values of justice, civility, learning and scholarship.
“As faculty advisor for Student Government, I saw Justin take his campaign pledges and turn them into accomplishments,” says Associate Senior Librarian Les Vuylsteke of University Libraries, referring to Justin’s service as Student Body President. “Even more than his accomplishments, such as special rates for student Internet access, Justin’s upgrading of the tone of discourse among students, administration and faculty has impressed me. In whatever setting he sought out, he has been an articulate spokesman for students.”
“Justin came to the university on a mission to make a difference, and what a difference he has made,” says Lucy Shaffer Croft, director of UC Student Activities and Leadership Development. “His positive energy and enthusiasm was witnessed in all sectors of his UC tenure, from fraternity and sorority life to the College of Business and Student Government. Justin Shafer is a leader of integrity and has truly left the University of Cincinnati better than when he arrived.”
Justin says he was building campus connections on his first day as a freshman at UC, when he joined Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. He was familiar with the fraternity because Sigma Phi Epsilon had awarded him scholarship support to the university. “I was going to wait to join the fraternity until the spring of my freshman year, but the members told me they wanted to be more of a support than a hindrance to my studies. I got a 4.0 my entire freshman year and got accepted into my academic program.” He was also co-founder and president of the Honors-PLUS Student Association.
Justin was previously vice president of recruitment for Sigma Phi Epsilon and has also served as president of UC’s Interfraternity Council, the governing body of fraternal organizations. Last year, he was named national Interfraternity Council Greek Man of the Year and was honored with Sigma Phi Epsilon’s largest award, the Balanced Man Quest to Greece Award, which provided a two-week scholarship to Greece to study Greek heritage.
“Growing up in your chapter, you get a sense of how to deal with a wide array of people. You gain an understanding of working with a diverse array of people, managing conflict and planning large events. Belonging to a Greek organization helped me get to my goal of becoming Student Body President,” Justin says.
“Justin Shafer is the hardest working Bearcat I know and his contributions to the university have not gone unnoticed,” says 2004-2005 Student Body Vice President Ben Hines. “It’s no secret on campus that everything Justin is a part of turns out to be better than it was beforehand, and this year has been the pinnacle of his successes.”
“When I think about the last five years at UC, I can’t believe all that has happened,” Justin says. “Half of the campus I knew as a freshman has been replaced by incredible structures dedicated to student use. It’s so hard to believe all the transformations – both on campus and in myself.
“I remember my very first day of class at UC, glad to be on my own, excited to start a new life at UC and eager to leave my mark on campus,” he says. “When I look back, I can’t believe all that I have accomplished and the person that I have become. If it weren’t for all the great staff, professors, mentors, friends and family, I don’t think it would have ever happened. But that’s what UC is all about – building community and living out your dreams.”
More celebrations for Justin are just ahead. He’s starting a job at Ernst & Young, where his co-op experience brought him the “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty” Award. He’s working on his July wedding plans with fiancé and UC chemical engineering grad Lisa Vinciguerra, who will also march at June Commencement. The couple met in 2002 while working together on the Student Alumni Council. They got engaged on the steps of Tangeman University Center last October. After graduation, Lisa will join the Edison Engineering Leadership Program at General Electric.
“The road only begins here,” Justin says of graduation. “Now, I start this complex and simple process all over again, striving for success at Ernst & Young, giving back to my community and devoting myself to my beautiful new bride.”