Meet Gideon Cain (’22), a track and field star who’s graduating with a clear vision for using his gifts to serve Christ in the Church and in the world.
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories highlighting a few of Concordia’s uncommon May 2022 graduates. Faculty and staff submit candidates for consideration. Stories are posted in the days leading up to commencement. View more uncommon graduates here.
Strength. We use that word in so many different ways today. You can be physically strong. Or have a strong will. You can show strength in perseverance, in fighting against an injustice, in standing firm for what you know is right. “Stay strong,” we sometimes tell each other.
As a 6’ 4” record-setting thrower on the CUW track and field team (shot put, hammer throw, weight throw, and discus), Gideon Cain (’22) is a model of physical strength. But one look at his wristband—or his grades—will tell you his muscles are not his most important attribute.
Strength of Mind
When Gideon walks across the commencement stage this Saturday he’ll be doing so Summa Cum Laude, “with highest honor.” That means he’s earned a grade point average of 3.90 or higher. It’s kind of a big deal.
Gideon has achieved this honor while earning a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science, which is not exactly known for being an easy path. He also has an interest in chemistry, and for a time pursued that field as a double major. As he’s continued to ace nearly all his classes, he also takes time to assist Dr. Scott Van Ornum with undergraduate research in organic chemistry.
“Gideon is a strong research student,” Van Ornum says. “We have investigated organometallic reactions in efforts to make five-membered carbon ring compounds. He has great skills in the lab and can work independently toward our goals while balancing academics and his highly successful sports career at CUW.”
In August, Gideon will be heading to the Indiana University School of Optometry. He hopes to one day open his own practice, and to use his skills to help people through mission work (more about that later).
“I feel like optometry is a great way for me to use my skills in a very applicable way, where I can see the fruit of what I’m doing,” Gideon explains. “That was something that kind of stopped me with the chemistry: it’s very behind the scenes, and you don’t necessarily connect with the people you’re helping. Whereas with optometry I’m right there. I’ll have the chance to serve as I’ve been called to.”
Strength of Body
At Living Word Lutheran High School in Jackson, Wisconsin, Gideon, whose family is from Cedarburg, set school records in the shot put and discus while earning All-Conference honors in track & field, basketball, and football (both offense and defense).
At CUW, he holds the school records in the shot put (indoor and outdoor) and hammer throw. He’s been named the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) field athlete of the week nine times in his career—four times this season alone. He has won six individual NACC conference titles and represented the Falcons at the NCAA Division III Men’s Indoor Track & Field Championships in March (the first Falcon to do so since Brock Solveson in 2010), placing eighth while earning All-America status.
In other words, he’s a star. And though it’s not the most important thing he does, he can’t imagine his life without sports.
“Some of my best friendships have formed through athletics,” Gideon explains. “And a lot of my work ethic has transitioned from athletics to academics, as well. Like the ability to hold myself to a high standard, and to do what’s required to meet or exceed it.”
He also appreciates the variety of opportunities being a student-athlete has presented, and the enhanced sense of community it provides.
“Just a few weeks ago I had two professors come to one of my meets to watch me,” he recalls. “Just having all these people support me, even if they’re not tied to athletics at all, and to know there’s a community here that’s cheering me on, has been really cool.”
As his coaches will tell you, he’s been a tremendous example in almost every way.
“Gideon is an exceptional young man who has been a great leader as an athlete, spiritually and as a student who prides himself on being his best in all that he does,” says Russell De Lap, head coach, CUW track and field.
Strength of Spirit
1 Timothy 4:8, the verse cited on the wristband Gideon wears, reads: “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (ESV)
It’s a fitting theme verse for an outstanding athlete who takes his faith seriously. Perhaps a bit ironically, Gideon wasn’t all that concerned about studying at a Christian school when he was weighing his options. He figured his faith would be just fine within a secular environment. But once he got to CUW, he started to realize how important making God the center of his life really is.
“I think that’s something that I always told myself I wanted to do; now it’s changed into something I truly want to do,” Gideon says. “In my years here, just in maturing and in some of the opportunities I’ve been put in, I’ve seen how important that is to put God first, and how it’s something I want to continue doing.”
It’s why he got involved with Campus Ministry and started leading Bible studies for CORE, a ministry focused on serving student-athletes. He’s also a Faith Associate for Chemnitz Hall. Under his leadership—with plenty of help from Emma Hartman (’21)—the CORE Bible study group has grown significantly, from just a handful of regular participants initially to as many as 60 or more this semester.
“Gideon has taken this group to a whole different level,” says Dr. Jim Juergensen, director of faith integration for athletics. “He’s been such a dedicated leader, and so impactful with that group. He’s always willing to jump in and serve in other ways as well. He’s been a great representative of what we hold to be important here at Concordia.”
His father, Jon, an assistant men’s basketball coach at CUW, has also been an important role model.
“He always makes faith the focus,” Gideon says. “I didn’t always see that when I was in high school, but now, being in school with some of his players, I definitely see that. They talk about the things that they learn from him, and the effect that he has, and I want to emulate that. I see more clearly how he lives his life, and how everything he does is in an eternal context, how the earthly things we do here are secondary to the heavenly things we do.”
That commitment to serving God and others is part of the reason behind his chosen career path.
“I would love to use my optometry skills for mission work,” Gideon explains, “whether it be going on missions to other countries to help with vision, or into urban locations to help people who can’t afford glasses, and for children who need the help learning.
“When Martin Luther talks about vocation, he talks about being a ‘mask of God,’ and how God is able to serve His people through us,” he adds. “I want to be an instrument for that through my practice.”
Strength of Character
This is what it all boils down to. The whole package. Exceptional mind, body, and spirit. It’s why Gideon was selected as the 2022 recipient of the E.R. Brann Citizenship Award, given each year to “a student who demonstrated exceptional qualities of leadership, citizenship, and sturdy Christian character.”
It was Coach De Lap who nominated him for the award. It’s not hard to understand why.
“I can say with absolute certainty Gideon is one of the finest young men you would ever want to know,” DeLap says. “He inspires everyone around him every day.”
“It was a blessing working with him, and I look forward to his continued success in optometry school,” says Van Ornum.
“He’s a big, strong, physical guy, who’s set tons of records here at Concordia,” adds Juergensen. “He’s been phenomenal in track, as a thrower, and yet he just does it in a humble, solid, dedicated, Christ-like way. And when I think about Gideon, that’s how I think.
“He’s going to leave a legacy on this place, both on the field and off. No doubt about it. We’re all very proud of him.”
Concordia offers a variety of degrees in education at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level.
Learn more about Gideon’s field of study:
— This story is written by Mike Zimmerman, corporate communications manager for Concordia University Wisconsin. He may be reached at email@example.com or 262-243-4380.
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