Notes From Center Hall
by President Andrew T. Ford
sually the volume of mail drops precipitously after Commencement, but not this year. Chuck Goering's letter to alumni and friends of the College reporting on the Board of Trustees meeting in May generated a lot of responses. No sooner had these tapered off than I started receiving numerous comments on our "Reconnect with Wabash" pamphlet.
The amount of mail surprised me, as did the underlying sentiment that prompted it. Since my first day at Wabash, I have been urging alumni to become more involved with the College even as I cautioned that the College would be asking more of alumni. I made those comments in various forums and concrete actions resulted. The National Association of Wabash Men under the presidency of Lee McNeely, for example, changed its structure in part in response to these calls. We wrote every alumnus involved in architecture when we started trying to figure out how to develop a facilities master plan. We did not end up hiring an alumnus for that task, but we received a large amount of good advice and support.
Similarly, 100 or so alumni helped us last year to prepare a successful grant proposal in response to Lilly Endowment's higher education initiative. Additional examples of enhanced alumni involvement in the life of the College and the College in the lives of alumni include significant participation in Homecoming Chapel, the increasing number of formal alumni clubs, the establishment of the Wally-L list server for alumni with access to e mail, and involvement in the ongoing fraternity study.
From these and other examples, I believe that we are headed toward increased alumni involvement which is so essential for the future of this College. The summer's mail made it clear we are on the right path, for virtually every writer requested additional information.
Alumni involvement is essential for two reasons. First, our mission proclaims that Wabash College will help prepare men for a life defined by continuing liberal arts learning. Your involvement with the College reminds us of how you continue to live out that mission in your personal and professional lives. You stand for this College in the lives you lead.
Second, alumni involvement is essential for recruiting talented young men, for helping them get their careers off to a good start, for maintaining the visibility of the College, for providing us on campus with a window to your worlds (thus extending our educations for a lifetime), and for reminding us of the traditions and values that have made Wabash unique. And did I mention something about financial support?
The strategic advantages Wabash holds over all its competitors are our mission to help men live wise and righteous lives and the fierce pride and passion Wabash alumni have for their alma mater. Other institutions cannot emulate these advantages easily or quickly. We must, therefore, develop the mission and your commitment to it fully in the years ahead.
Forging these connections will surely test one of our finest traditions: the ability to have strong, robust conversations without letting them degenerate into petty feuds and name calling. As we reach out to alumni, and you reach in, we'll all hear advice we do not like and will identify intrusions into areas where invitations had not been extended. The dynamics of our enhanced relationship will be trying as well as exciting.
To get ready, I have already ordered a larger "in" basket.