by Margee Ensign, president
Spending time on our campus always gives me hope. It reminds me that while many colleges and universities—in fact many workplaces and communities—are roiled by intolerance and strife, Dickinson demonstrates a level of comity and civility that should serve as a model to the nation. I believe that civility is one of our greatest strengths—something to be nourished, to be treasured and to be celebrated.
Dickinsonians are united, I have found, by an unusual dedication to exploring and achieving the common good—the common good here on campus, in Carlisle, in our nation and around the world. Every week we hear of the creative and useful work done by our students and our faculty all over the globe. Every week I am in contact with alumni who have gone on from Dickinson to achieve distinction in so many fields to make the world a better place.
We all know by now the great story of Dickinson: This is the first college founded after we became a nation, by a revolutionary American who named the college after someone else, someone he admired. Dr. Benjamin Rush understood that democracy is challenging and fragile and that this great new nation he helped to create needed educated leaders who would
embrace and preserve it.
“Freedom can exist only in the society of knowledge,” Rush said. He knew that the nation needed people who knew how to think, who were not afraid to have their assumptions challenged. With that brief sentence, he encapsulated a sweeping and inspirational mission for our college. And Dickinson has been working to sustain and expand freedom through education ever since.
Today, America is asking hard questions about the usefulness of higher education, particularly about the usefulness of a liberal-arts education. Whom does it serve? What does it aim to achieve? What contributions does it make to the greater good? Dickinson should lead this conversation. We have been asking these questions since 1783, and many of our answers have been transformative.
Inspired by our founding documents, we are constantly seeking new frontiers. Our alumni create new forms of wealth and employment. They work to cure disease, develop a more just political system, advance technology and create new forms of art and music. They seek to learn about other cultures and search for better ways to steward our earth. That is the life-changing—and useful—impact of a Dickinson education.
Our strategic plan for the future, developed last year, makes another bold and challenging statement: Our revolutionary moment is not over. Just as Rush developed a new kind of college that provided a useful education for the betterment of our new country, so today we must continue to innovate, continue to be bold in strengthening our distinguished institution.
We must continue to innovate, continue to be bold in strengthening our distinguished institution.
In meeting with many of you during these last 18 months, I have talked about the revolutionary moment we face as a nation, and as a college. Dickinson must develop revolutionary thinkers equipped with the tools to work in diverse teams and develop knowledge across academic disciplines that can be used to meet the challenges of our age, to transform our globe.
This is what we do at Dickinson, and I believe that it has the power to change the world. You can see the impact that your philanthropy has had on Dickinson. I want you to know that we are still exploring, still building and still crossing boundaries, even 236 years in.
Dickinson must increase its visibility and expand the number of individuals who benefit from our life-changing education. For this we need your support.
Dickinsonians are dedicated not only to the highest standards of scholarship and lifelong learning but to creating a genuinely inclusive and supportive community. I have been so touched by the quality of the relationships I have observed between Dickinson students and faculty, by the thoughtful and caring mentorship that has long been a hallmark of this institution and by the enormous loyalty shown by our alumni.
Be part of the revolutionary future of Dickinson.
Let us continue the powerful momentum that has been growing and building this year. Share your Dickinson experience with those around you, and please contribute your time, talents and treasure. Together, we can continue to do great things.
Published February 8, 2019