An Unbreakable Chain

2018 commencement

Margee Ensign, President

As I handed a diploma to each member of the 218th graduating class in May, I was filled with pride in these young graduates who have already made such an impact on Dickinson and on their communities.

It was also an opportunity for me to reflect on my first year as president of this great institution, the first college founded in the new America. As I met with students, faculty, staff and alumni during these past 12 months, I was repeatedly asked about my vision for Dickinson. I knew that our first order of business was to develop a strategic plan for the college. In December, I gathered a strategic planning committee composed of four students—one from each class year—as well as representatives from the faculty, staff, administration, alumni community and board of trustees. I was inspired by the result of our efforts. The committee worked tirelessly, and in May we presented a strategic framework to our community.

Our framework reaffirms Dickinson’s unique revolutionary history, as well as those characteristics that make us a worldclass liberal-arts college: our distinguished faculty of dedicated teacher/scholars, our talented students from all over the world, our close-knit and supportive community, and our unwavering commitment to upholding the finest traditions of American liberal-arts education. The plan also reaffirms the features that have distinguished Dickinson in recent decades, including our pioneering programs in global education, our campuswide dedication to sustainability, and our interdisciplinary programs, including Mosaics. 

The plan looks boldly to the future and calls for a campuswide initiative in intercultural skill building—one we believe will raise the bar and serve as an example for all of American higher education. We will also launch a new creative partnership with the U.S. Army War College, building on a longstanding relationship. We will strengthen and expand our civic engagement efforts as we give new meaning to the singularly Dickinsonian notion of a “useful education for the common good.”

Like all U.S. colleges and universities, Dickinson faces the challenges posed by rising costs and increasing tuition. We are expanding our national and global marketing and recruiting efforts, intensifying our cost-containment strategies and seeking new ways to generate income and new sources of funding.

This brings me to our extraordinary and generous donors, so many of whom are alumni and parents of students. Your efforts make a Dickinson education possible. The impact of your generosity is shown clearly in these pages. Thank you to each of you, and also to those who chose to “believe in mermaids” during this year’s Day of Giving.

Dickinson, like all private colleges, has depended on the generosity of previous generations to make it possible for those who came after them to enjoy the benefits of a Dickinson education. This has been an unbroken chain—a chain of gratitude, a chain of faith, a chain of generosity. I have met many of the “links” in this Dickinson chain this past year, women and men whose love for this college, whose gratitude for its role in their lives and whose faith in what we do have led them to sometimes quite astonishing acts of generosity. They have provided not just financial support but also their time and their talents.

The members of the class of 2018 are now a part of our alumni community. I look forward to working with them and with all of you to position Dickinson for what’s next. Guided by our history and inspired by the future, we will work together to implement a strategic plan that will strengthen Dickinson as we continue to provide a life-changing education that prepares our graduates to work tirelessly for the good of themselves and society.

Read more from the summer 2018 issue of Dickinson Magazine.


Published August 3, 2018