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A Greater Role for Alumni

President Margee Ensign

Photo by Ty Acierto.

Margee Ensign, President

As many of you know, I have spent much of my first year as Dickinson’s president traveling about the country, getting to know our greater Dickinson community. I have also spent time learning more about the history of this wonderful college as we innovate into our third century.

Over and over again I have encountered the pride our alumni take in Dickinson’s unique history and tradition, and like generations before them, they want to stay involved, to contribute to Dickinson’s success. For, as one of them, quoting our founder Dr. Benjamin Rush, reminded me: “Freedom can only exist in the society of knowledge.”

Many generations of Dickinsonians have developed and supported the Dickinson vision, building on the past while redefining what our pioneering education should be for their own eras. In the latter half of the last century, we became home to one of the few community studies centers in the country, were internationally recognized for our pioneering work in global education and took the national lead in sustainability. How will Dickinson help shape the 21st century? That is our challenge, and Dickinson students from generations past have shown themselves eager to be of service to this important goal.

The motivation to play a role in the Dickinson story in part grows out of the enduring connections made here. I was very moved by the story one alumnus shared with me. Having not revisited the campus in some 20 years, he found himself driving through Carlisle and decided to make a quick stop. Concerned that perhaps no one would remember him, he approached the building that housed his faculty advisor with trepidation, only to be greeted by his advisor, who immediately recognized him and simply said, “Welcome home.”

This alumnus was not alone. I have heard many stories of lifelong relationships with Dickinson faculty members and fellow students forged at this college, and I have been struck by the continuity this represents over many decades. One of our alumni has suffered successive life-threatening illnesses. “It was my Dickinson friends,” he said, “who called me every day during my chemotherapy and gave me hope.”

I have met with an array of alumni, some of whom graduated as far back as the early 1950s. (One showed up in his class tie from 1954!) They are grateful for the time that they spent on campus, and they are eager to make sure that the Dickinson experience will be available for future generations.

The philanthropic generosity of today’s alumni builds on the generosity of those who went before them, those who sustained the college through difficult times such as two world wars and the Great Depression. Such support has always been indispensable.

But many alumni have told me that they want to do more. In the hands-on ethos that so marks this college, they are looking for other means to help. We are finding those ways, some of which include hosting a student for a summer internship, mentoring students as they transition into their careers, helping them network and providing professional coaching.

Dickinson recently partnered with Alumnifire, a new platform designed to give alumni and parents an easy way to connect with students—and each other—for career-related purposes. I strongly encourage you to join and share your enormous array of talent and expertise with the next generation.

Higher education is facing many daunting challenges, the liberal arts and sciences perhaps most of all. We know how very important, how life-changing, this type of education is, and how important it is for the future of this country. Now as it was some 235 years ago, all of us working together can and will ensure that it continues to thrive.

Read more from the spring 2018 issue of Dickinson Magazine.

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Published April 18, 2018