The Colgate Scene
March 2003

A message from the president
An incredible sense of community

President Rebecca Chopp gives the newest member of her family, a mixed-breed named Lady, a proper petdown after a short walk about a snowy campus during January's deep freeze. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

Nearly 30 inches of snow fell on Hamilton, December 25. What pristine beauty! Thanks to the unfailing efforts of Colgate's buildings and grounds crew, by early the next morning the roads were already plowed and I was out for a walk. The campus, sadly empty of students, provided a fresh canvas for thinking about my first six months as the fifteenth president of Colgate. Like others before me, I am captured by the magic of the Chenango Valley and like those who dwell for even just a little while on the Colgate campus, the incredible sense of community.

As I walked the hills of our campus I reflected on how I am filled with delight, admiration and aspiration for the sense of community that alumni, students, faculty and staff feel toward Colgate. Time and time again I hear about the special nature of this residential community: students tell me how they loved the campus from the first time they saw it; faculty let me know how very much they care for their students, for their colleagues, for the opportunity to do their work of scholarship and teaching here; and staff express their pride in Colgate, their happiness at this as a place of work and belonging and their enthusiasm for our mission of education.

As many of you know, I am on the road now listening and learning what you, alumni, parents of students and friends, think of Colgate. Everywhere I go I hear about how this education has served you well in your professions, in your civic work, in your families and in your hobbies! You tell me that you care for this place, you still belong here, you want its traditions to fuel its aspirations, and you hope that others will be formed as you were by these great teachers, coaches, other students and staff.

You have had different experiences. Many of you came right out of high school: some from schools that prepared you well for the rigors of this education; others from places where you had to work hard with additional help to succeed. And you all did so equally well it appears. Some of you came after serving in the military, and you came with mature needs and found them met. Some of you were here in difficult times: in the late 1960s with the tensions of Vietnam and in the 1970s and 1980s as Colgate struggled to embrace coeducation. Some of you were here when only men were your classmates and you "hit the road" on the weekends. Most of you have enjoyed athletics -- be it on team sports, or in outdoor education, or simply on the ski slope or cross-country trail. Some of you experienced alienation because of your religion, race or national origin, and yet you persevered, often with the help of a few faculty and a few fellow students, to succeed personally and to help make Colgate an even better community. All of you express a profound appreciation for the excellence of the faculty and the rigors of the curriculum. I am proud of what each of you took from this place and how it continues to form your life. I admire how you continue to take seriously, as you did as students, the responsibility to give back to Colgate and to society. And I am impressed with your loyalty, involvement and support; it enhances the quality of all that we do and holds great promise for Colgate's future advancement.

Belonging to this community means that we are shaped by its values, and we take these values with us, wherever we go and whatever we do. Many of you have told me that Colgate values include curiosity about our world and ourselves in the world, creativity in expression and view, honesty and honor in vocation and avocation, respect for the contributions of others, and the capacity for teamwork toward common goals and mutual benefit. Parker Palmer, a noted educator, talks about how communities create ways of knowing or, as he says, "Every way of knowing becomes a way of living," or more formally, "Every epistemology becomes an ethic." Palmer identifies what we already practice: what we learned at Colgate in the curriculum, in our residential living, in athletics and in community life shaped us to do well and do good. And Colgate's way of knowing that is a way of living is where our aspirations begin. For in a world which needs more community, more honesty, more respect for difference, for curiosity and creativity, our aspirations must persist in shaping our traditions of community to form a generation of leaders who can and will do well and do good in the 21st century. After eight months, I am more enthusiastic than ever about your future and more proud than ever of this community!

Top of page
Table of contents
<< Previous: The least abhorrent choice? Next: Education, transformation... >>