Beyond the Limestone Walls: Increasing Our Impact

Michael Donnelly

It is with humility that I sit down to write my first column for Dickinson Magazine as your newly elected president of the Alumni Council. As I attempt to capture in words the essence of what it means to me to be a Dickinsonian, I can’t help but be reminded of the great friends—no, best friends—that I have because of a small, highly selective liberal-arts institution in Carlisle, Pa.

Recently, while attending an event for another organization in Washington, D.C., I was having a conversation with a fellow educator. A former French teacher, she serves as a supervisor of world languages and English as a second language in her district in Maryland. We had not met before that day, and it was in a conversation with the person who introduced us that we discovered she too went to Dickinson. (How many of you have those “small world” moments? Dickinson might be a small school, but its reach is endless.)

We shared stories of our experiences abroad; she spent time in France and I in Spain and Mexico. (Don’t forget to register for the upcoming global-education celebration in Washington, D.C., Oct. 16-18. Register by Sept. 30.) We also discussed the Alumni Council and the many ways Dickinsonians can give back to the college and to current and future students. “Wouldn’t it be great if there were some way the college could train alumni volunteers so they feel current with the college?” she asked. My eyes widened as I responded, “That is a fantastic idea, and, actually, there is such a thing: The Volunteer Leadership Summit will take place the same weekend as the Alumni Council meeting and the Career Conference in October. I hope to see you there!” Learn more about these events.

I share this brief interaction because that, to me, is what is distinctively Dickinson. It matters not the year of one’s graduation. Greek or independent, athlete or Mermaid Player, the common bond of being a Dickinsonian is what transcends all affinity relations. No matter where one is in life, stumbling upon a fellow Dickinsonian provides a sense of comfort and, albeit brief, a moment of pride and camaraderie.

As president of the Alumni Council, I consider it my duty to work with all alumni to increase our impact. We each have a story to tell, a moment to share, an experience to ponder. We owe all of those to that distinctive institution surrounded by homegrown limestone walls.

I encourage you to pick up the phone and call a roommate with whom you have not chatted in some time. Perhaps you want to write a note to a classmate who went abroad and never looked back, making a far-off town his or her new home. Maybe you are so inclined to send an email to that professor who made such an impact on your college experience that it would bring a smile to his or her face simply hearing a hello.

During my tenure as your Alumni Council president, I intend to seek ways to bring Dickinson to you. As an alum, you are our No. 1 spokesperson, and I want you to be informed about the happenings at the college. I encourage you to write to me with your thoughts any time, and I will do my best to respond in a timely fashion. My email address is As an educational administrator in the public-school setting, I value feedback and constructive criticism. Introspection allows for us to become better and stronger. Your Alumni Council members, some of the most dedicated alumni I know, are here and willing to serve you to bring Dickinson to you.

Here’s wishing for you a fantastic summer season. I look forward to seeing (and meeting) many of you at
upcoming events!

Read more from the summer 2015 issue of Dickinson Magazine.

Learn more

Published July 28, 2015