For Scott Eyre – residence director of Cedarwood Hall at Eastern Mennonite University, sports photographer for the Royals, and soon-to-be-graduate – the journey to the present day has included “a lot of Red Sea parting stuff.” Despite a circuitous route through one hardship after another, the waters have repeatedly parted, and Eyre has not walked through them alone.
“It’s really our story,” he says of his wife, Sarah, and son Nolan. “Sarah’s the curator of my gallery, but in a lot of ways she’s really the curator of my life.” [To view Eyre’s photography, visit his website.]
A tumultuous start
Even attending college was not a simple choice for Eyre. In his home province of Ontario, Canada, completion of a 13th grade is required to qualify for university admission. When his father passed away as Eyre entered grade 12, he did not see a clear path after high school.
Instead, he joined the Mennonite Voluntary Service Adventure program, and spent a year in Albany, Oregon. In 2001, he came to Harrisonburg to drive a friend home from EMU for Christmas break. The people he met convinced him that EMU was the right next step.
College life wasn’t easy, though. He switched his major three times, from physical education to camping recreation and outdoor ministries, and later to youth ministries. He and Sarah, who is from his hometown, began a long-distance relationship during his sophomore year.
Coming back for the spring semester, he hit a patch of black ice and careened into a telephone pole, possibly causing a concussion. His experience working as a CA “was overall a good one, as was the hall I lived and worked on, but a couple situations made second semester difficult.”
Then, Eyre broke up with Sarah. He considered leaving school.
After avoiding Sarah every time he was back home, “she finally cornered me to get this closure,” says Eyre. “Being ‘cornered’ was a good thing really, because it helped me realize where I wanted to be.”
Eyre dropped out of college, returning to Ontario. He worked a number of jobs – managing a bookstore, cleaning carpets, transporting hospital patients, photographing weddings. A year after Eyre dropped out of EMU, he and Sarah were married. He eventually became a youth pastor for his home church.
After two years of stability, Eyre faced another Red Sea. He was told without explanation to post his resignation. Their rental home became unavailable. Their bank account was hacked into and emptied. Eyre was passed over for a promising camp director position. He decided to return to college.
“I’d fought a calling to come back to EMU,” says Eyre, and in the face of so many problems, “doors kept swinging really wide open to come back.”
An hour after calling Professor Sandy Brownscombe to discuss returning, she had emailed him a 3.5-year curriculum plan.
Eyre sold all his photography gear to fund the move, and and left Sarah and his son Nolan in Canada.
Slowly, the pieces of family, youth ministry, photography, and sports coalesced on one small campus.
Sarah filed extensive paperwork to gain nursing certification in the United States, and Rockingham Memorial Hospital held a job until she was able to move to Harrisonburg. Eyre landed a Northlawn residence director position, beginning his career with Residence Life.
“You want to talk about dream jobs, I think I have it now!” says Eyre. “Our call to minister to young adults is still the same as it ever has been, we just don’t do it within a church; we do it in a residence hall, which offers different opportunities.”
His collegiate trajectory, however, veered from physical education after taking a digital photography course with Professor Jerry Holsopple.
“This whole love of photography came back,” says Eyre. He switched his major, again. Sarah was okay with the change as long as he could prove that there would be jobs in the field.
“I don’t know if I ever proved that there were jobs, but I proved that I wouldn’t last long in the school system,” says Eyre, who indicated concerns about underfunded public schools. Unlike Ontario, many states also lack unions to protect teachers’ rights. “If I feel like there’s some form of injustice, I tend to take up the cause.”
His social justice slant, however, found a home in photography. The Visual and Communication Arts Department at EMU, he says, teaches not only technical skill, but also “the why. Can you make a photo that tells a story? That conveys a message, and a meaningful one at that?”
Eyre recently hosted his senior show at the Margaret Gehman Art Gallery: “5×7: An Exploration in Isolation in New York City” shows “people living together in a space, finding spots to be alone, whether by choice, or because that’s the cards they’ve been dealt, in a way.” The show was then exhibited at Blue Ridge Architects for the February “First Friday” event.
This summer, he travels to Turkey to retrace Paul’s missionary journey; this will fulfill Eyre’s cross cultural credits, the last remaining piece for him to graduate.
“Most people would try to do that before they’re 34,” he jokes.
But the Red Sea parts in its own time. His current circumstances “are really a God kind of thing, to take different passions and find a way to put them all together in the same space.”