Dickinson would not be Dickinson without the visionary benefactors in the John Dickinson Society, which recently exceeded 1,000 members for the first time in the college's history. During Homecoming & Family Weekend, these philanthropic leaders were invited to experience some of the fruits of their generosity in a delectably memorable way.
The John Dickinson Society Homecoming Farm Reception brought JDS members together with college leaders and the students and staff who power one of Dickinson’s most distinctive programs—the College Farm.
JDS recognizes Dickinson community members whose exceptional annual leadership giving makes it possible for the college to establish and advance cutting-edge programs, fund vital research, attract top faculty, enhance campus facilities and place potentially world-changing dreams within reach of tomorrow’s leaders. The college expresses gratitude through special JDS events. This year’s Homecoming JDS celebration was held Saturday, Nov. 4.
The event kicked off with an outdoor reception, followed by dinner in the Stern Center. College Farm veggies and beef were on the menu, along with organic fare from other local farms and local businesses using College Farm ingredients. Locally grown flowers topped the tables. Dickinson Farm staff and students worked in the kitchen and delivered table service. Dickinson musicians provided live entertainment.
Throughout the meal, guests tasted, saw and heard the farm’s extraordinary effects, as students and alumni connected with the farm shared their experiences.
Working as a student farmer shaped the career paths of Alex Smith ’10 and Emily Curtiss ’24 (biology). As a student apprentice, Smith gained the passion and skills to make sustainable, organic farming his profession. After gaining experience on other farms—including his own—he now works as the College Farm’s vegetable production manager. Curtiss said that because of her work at the farm, she’s shifted her research focus to the study of plants. She plans to attend graduate school, after completing a six-month apprenticeship at the farm.
Genesis Whitlock ’25 (environmental science) reflected on farm-based research conducted as a Burpee Fellow and a 2022 internship with the farm's home-gardening initiative, providing technical support to local home gardeners. That one-on-one community work brought Whitlock an enhanced understanding of the ways food can unite us and connected Whitlock more meaningfully with the local community.
Connor Steffen ’24 (Spanish & Portuguese, environmental science) and Kathryn Hickey ’24 (psychology, environmental science) gave attendees a sneak peek at new and emerging College Farm developments and initiatives. These included the award-winning biogas project, of which Hickey is education & outreach coordinator; the Farm Works store, of which Steffen was the inaugural student manager; and FARM Lab, now in the design phase, which aims to make sustainability-focused work possible at the farm year-round.
Steffen is among the students, faculty, staff and alumni working with green architects at Re:Vision Architecture, to bring the FARM Lab facility for classes, events and research to life. He says that since getting involved with two major College Farm initiatives, he’s gained the confidence to complete any new task before him. Hickey adds that the hands-on experience of teaching others about how they can help the environment and future generations has brought great satisfaction—along with the knowledge that she is working to effect that positive change.
Rebecca and Rick '92 Anderson hosted the event and attended it with their son, Will. Photo by Dan Loh.
“What you're seeing today is really 23 years of work in progress, and it continues to be a work in progress,” said Jenn Halpin, the farm's director, who shepherded the farm from its beginnings as a small, student-led garden to the rich academic and community resource it is today and continues to lead it forward with ever-expanding programs and offerings.
And while much has changed since the seeds of the farm were planted, one thing remains constant: The spirit of innovation and change-making is at the heart of every farm-fueled project.
“This is exactly the sort of intellectual entrepreneurialism that Dickinson teaches its students and supports in its community,” said Rick Anderson ’92, an entrepreneur who hosted the event with his wife, Rebecca. “To me, that is what liberal arts is all about.”
President John E. Jones III ’77, P’11, himself a JDS member, emphasized the important role that JDS members play in keeping the college on the leading edge by supporting transformative programs and resources like the College Farm.
“Everything that is distinctive about Dickinson—the close mentoring relationships with faculty members, the cutting-edge research opportunities, the rich and fulfilling athletic and academic opportunities, the cross-disciplinary teaching that prepares tomorrow’s global leaders—depends on annual support from members of our John Dickinson Society,” said Jones, noting with pleasure that the society surpassed 1,000 members last year.
“Every year, your active participation in student success, through your philanthropy, helps to move Dickinson forward,” Jones continued. “Thank you for all that you do to support the future of our college and our students.”
Events like these are one of the many ways Dickinson recognizes members of the John Dickinson Society, which honors donors who make annual leadership level gifts of $2,500 or more. JDS members are recognized as leadership donors and benefit from exclusive events and special communications from college leadership.
Published November 8, 2023