Late on a Sunday afternoon last summer, my buddy Holston and I drove from the house we were subleasing in Columbus to Zanesville so he could pick up the TV he bought on Facebook Marketplace. By chance, we got off the highway to get gas in Granville, at the Certified next to Ross Granville Market.

We’re both Denison University graduates, so we have been there a million times. But it was our first time back in Granville since our junior year had ended a few months before.

When Holston got out of the car to grab the pump, I, sitting in the shotgun seat, started to feel those goosebumps that form on my body before I tear up.

I missed Granville. And, for the first time, I think I was starting to process that Granville was only going to be home for a little while longer.

Truth be told, I spent my early days as a Denison student thinking I would be itching to get out of Granville by now, the end of my senior year. When I decided to attend Denison four and a half years ago, I wasn’t pumped about going to college in a small town. I considered it a compromise I was making for a great education and the chance to keep playing football. I would have preferred a place with a city feel — thousands and thousands of students, college bars by the dozen and, more than anything, the anonymity that comes with being one fish in a giant pond.

So how did I go from “I don’t really want to be here” to “I’m a 21-year-old tough guy at a gas station trying to hold back tears so my friend can’t see them” in a span of just a few years?

I’ll tell you how. It was a gradual transition. Over the course of four years, I took walks in Granville, often late at night, and I appreciated the solitude. I sat in all of the restaurants, often with good company, and I always left feeling grateful. And, most important of all, I witnessed how everyone around town treated others, and how they all treated me.

That evening, after Holston and I got back to Columbus, I decided I needed to give back to Granville somehow. As a journalism major, I figured the best way to do so would be through writing. I emailed Jack Shuler, director of Journalism at Denison, and told him my idea.

I didn’t exactly have a plan mapped out; I basically just told him I wanted to write about Granville. Luckily, when we had our first meeting at the beginning of the semester, Jack steered me in the right direction.

The product of my gas station breakdown, that initial meeting with Jack and many more meetings since is a series of profiles called “The People of Granville.” There are six stories, all about individuals who have just one thing in common: a passion, past or present, for building community in Granville.

One of the stories was already published. It is about Charles P. Henry, who spearheaded the Black Studies program at Denison. In the coming days, you’ll get to meet the rest of the awesome people who let me tell their stories. You’ll meet Barbara Hamlet, a fellow academic who, in retirement, continues to build community in town on a daily basis by the way she interacts with neighbors. You’ll meet Matt Miller, who uses sport as a means for teaching life lessons to kids. You’ll meet Granville Kiwanis hero Brad Cook. You’ll meet Clyde the Coyote. And, you’ll meet Ashley Bancroft, long gone but much to credit for advancing the local and state abolitionist movements.

I’ll always be indebted to Granville, but “The People of Granville” is my honest attempt to pay the community back, just a little bit.

The People of Granville:

Newark native Charles P. Henry helped define Black history at Denison University

Matt Miller raises ‘professional human beings’ through sports

Brad Cook saves the (pancake) day

Clyde, the Granville Public Library’s coyote-in-residence

Namesake of Denison’s Bancroft House was a prominent Granville abolitionist

Barbara Hamlet never stops learning — or dreaming

Jack Nimesheim writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is supported by generous donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.