By CHARLES ANZALONE
Published February 7, 2023
Every so often, UB senior Jack Hamer has to pinch himself to make sure this is all really happening.
He spent his first UB semester in the fall 2019 at what he calls his “breaking point mentally.” He took on too much: too many courses, all of them difficult. The stress of getting bounced from the prestige and benefits of his 3 + 3 BA/JD program if he slipped under 3.5 for any course took his stress to another level.
Hamer was one of those bright, talented but aware students looking for a reasonable school/work balance, and this was not it. He considered transferring to a community college. Forget the 3.5 GPA at UB. Hamer didn’t think he could get a 3.0.
But just look at him now. Hamer enters UB’s spring semester fresh from traveling the Southern Hemisphere after spending the fall studying in Australia. Ask him about bungy jumping off a bridge, 141 feet up, headfirst, attached by his ankles. Or when he traversed the cliff-like glacier.
Professionally, he has an impressive experience that gives him a leg up for law school, and a cadre of admirers invested in his future. He has direction and a reachable passion, and now, after all this, he’s having fun.
“I started like a newborn learning how to swim,” says Hamer. “At first, I learned how to float, then blow bubbles, and now I’m freestyling to the finish.”
Hamer seems to have found himself — his academic groove, confidence, appetite for adventure, entry to an occupation he seems a natural for — after a discouraging and unsettled start at UB. So maybe that’s one message: Don’t give up if you have a rough or unfocused start. Hard work and determination can pay off. Look around for like-minded adults who recognize your potential and are happy to encourage. Take advantage of the wide array of UB’s services and academic opportunities. Hamer singles out Student Support Services and International Education as being “tremendously helpful.”
Somewhere along the way, he earned respect from people happy to help.
“I recall reading his papers with my mouth open,” Bruce Andriatch, who taught Hamer’s Ethics of Journalism course and is assistant managing editor for local news at The Buffalo News, wrote in an email. “They were always SO GOOD!”
Andriatch frames his class by telling students that working out an ethical dilemma is not about being right or wrong: It’s about basing your decision on the best available information and then being able to defend it when you are questioned. Andriatch has come to love when his students make him rethink decades of experience and see ethical quandaries differently.
“Jack managed to do both things well,” Andriatch says. “He had reasonable, defensible decisions, and his arguments made me rethink my own opinions. On top of that, his writing was excellent.
“I told him more than once that when I inevitably would need a lawyer, he would be my first call.”
Hamer is quiet and understated about the progress he's made at UB.
“I would say my profile would be to never give up and work harder than everyone else,” he says. “I’m not naturally gifted with a big brain, but my work ethic and this drive for success sets me apart.”
Hamer’s CV is a sum of its parts rather than a one-headline act.
Despite his initial 3.159, Hamer says his latest GPA is 3.797. He’s already taken the LSATs and did “pretty well” for his desired schools. He’ll take it again during his gap year while hopefully working as a paralegal.
Why not end this introduction with a good story about Southern Hemisphere bungy jumping and skydiving, not “to showcase my newfound love for extreme adrenaline activities,” he says, “but to show how I finally broke my unhealthy cycle.”
“I learned to enjoy the life I was given to the fullest. That there are other things in life that are just as important as school grades, like mental health. I make these high expectations for myself to prove my past teachers wrong — the ones that said I would never amount to anything.
“For me, the gym acts as a temporary solution to cope with the stresses of life. But bungy jumping and skydiving, I believe, has reset my cycle to where I don’t feel burnt out and I am able to finish my degree strong.
“The month and a half traveling the Southern Hemisphere … was definitely fulfilling, and maybe even healing.”