The meaning of community

Professor Patrick Johnson, Ken Kristensen ’92, Tracy Abrams Rosen ’92 and President Crutcher at a panel discussion titled
Professor Patrick Johnson, Ken Kristensen ’92, Tracy Abrams Rosen ’92 and President Crutcher at a panel discussion titled “Entertaining Success” in California that the president led with George and Annsley Chapman Strong ’69 and Audrey MacLeod Schneiderman ’48.

Over several weeks this spring, I attended events for Wheaton alumnae/i, parents and friends in a number of cities, from Los Angeles to London. Each gathering was unique, in that different topics and different presenters were featured. In every case, however, I was struck by the warmth and camaraderie of the group and a deep sense of appreciation for having had the opportunity to get to know so many, many Wheaties during the past 10 years.

As the date for the end of my term has neared, I have spent some time reflecting on all that I have learned and seen and done, and the wonderful friends both Betty and I have made during my presidency.

Every institution of higher education is shaped not only by its location but also by the people who are associated with it, as students, faculty members, alumnae/i, staff and friends. In my experience, however, Wheaton’s sense of identity as a community and its commitment to maintaining that character are unique sources of strength.

I don’t mean to sound surprised. The strength of Wheaton’s community was evident from my first encounters with the college, and I made it a central theme of my remarks during my inauguration, saying:

The one special attribute that sets us apart—our distinctive community, uniquely collegial and collaborative—will give us the strength we need to achieve our goals and to meet our challenges. There is on this campus a remarkably strong consensus about community, what it is, what its benefits are. … The Wheaton community is collegial in the best sense of the word.

I meant those words at the time; they mean so much more to me now, having had the opportunity to become more fully a member of this community and to witness the power that comes from working together toward a common goal. Go Beyond: The Campaign for Wheaton reflects our capacity to promote change that will impact lives for years to come.

The beneficial impact of that generosity is easy to see in the Mars Center for Science and Technology, which has transformed the campus and facilitates a new level of collaboration among faculty and students across the disciplines. It is also evident in the new Diane Nordin ’80 Athletic Field, which creates much-needed space for intercollegiate and recreational athletics. Other effects of the outpouring of philanthropy, such as the creation of more than 220 new scholarship funds and new internship funds, may not be as readily evident to a casual visitor, but their impact on our community is significant.

That philanthropic spirit also finds expression in the many alumnae/i and parents who reach out to help current students connect their academic work to their life and career plans, by offering internships and informational interviews, and by participating in career discussion programs in individual classes and at special events that are held throughout the school year. The number of alumnae/i who are involved in these activities has more than doubled in recent years, and I see signs of continued growth in the number of new events that have been held this spring.

New opportunities and challenges will arise in the years ahead. I have no doubt that the resources of the Wheaton community will be equal to the task of seizing the moment and renewing the college’s strength.

As Betty and I move on, I know that wherever we go we will become part of new communities, and we look forward to those new experiences. But, for sure, we will always cherish the embrace of Wheaton and being part of this very special place.