Coming Home

I am finally coming down from the amazing experience of the events of the inauguration weekend. I was delighted to see how many people attended the ceremony in the Silloway Gymnasium, and I was especially grateful that my family and some of my childhood friends were able to attend. There were also some Wesleyan classmates whom I hadn’t seen in decades. Having my teacher, Carl Schorske (from my frosh year at Wes, who later supervised my dissertation), introduce me at the ceremony was intensely moving for me. Carl is now in his 90s, and his perspective on Wesleyan and on me was memorable. The combination of tradition and experimentation in the ceremony was so Wesleyan! I loved seeing the academic procession in regalia to the funky beat of Jay Hoggard’s great music.

An inauguration ceremony itself is an affirmation of both institutional legacy and new beginnings. I was privileged to have three former Wes presidents in attendance, each of whom had an investiture with many similarities to my own. The alumni, faculty, and the board of trustees are also a powerful expression of institutional continuity. On the other hand, the marking of a new presidency, combined with the students’ incredible energy, are potent symbols of the importance of change. I tried to reflect on both of these dimensions in my speech. I spoke about the ideals behind Wesleyan’s approach to the liberal arts, but also about concrete initiatives (on the environment, on financial aid) that we are getting underway now. There is a link to my speech on the Wesleyan Web site: http://www.wesleyan.edu/president/speech.html. I must have made nine speeches over the weekend to various groups, but the most nerve-wracking performance was playing “I’m Old Fashioned” in front of all those people. I was sweating bullets!!

There were so many memorable moments. The football team put up a valiant effort in very difficult conditions. The Wes seminars were incredible, and I had the treat of hearing my former student, Darcy Buerkle, and former teacher, Henry Abelove, give back-to-back seminars. Walter Mosley was a very powerful speaker as we dedicated Beckham Hall during the Dwight Greene Symposium. I was delighted with the fundraiser for the Green Street Art Center, and my old friend Andrea Marcovicci gave a lovely concert of WWII songs to benefit our work in the North End of Middletown. I thought I was going to faint when she sang to me on stage, but instead I just took it all in.

Another highlight of the weekend for me was strolling over to Psi U with my brother, sons, and nephews around midnight on Saturday night. I got to sit in for a blues number with the amazingly talented Wesleyan faculty musicians of Busted Roses. It was great fun, and the students’ enthusiasm was exhilarating. The last time I was in Psi U was probably in the 1970s. I certainly never imagined back then that I would one day become the president of Wesleyan. I would have been more likely to fantasize about being in a rock and roll band. So, this weekend I got to rock a little as the prez. Pretty cool…. at least for one song!

I want to thank the Wesleyan community for the incredible welcome of these last few months, which all seemed to be crystallized in the weekend’s festivities. On this Homecoming Weekend, I really felt as though I had come home.

On a more sober, scholarly note: On Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle published my review of John Brenkman’s recent book in political theory. Here’s the link:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/04/RV0BRUT9V.DTL&type=books

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4 thoughts on “Coming Home

  1. Dear President Roth,

    As parent of a freshman at Wesleyan, I felt my son was so lucky to be a student there but after hearing you speak to the parents I felt he was doubly lucky to be there under your tenure. You seem to be expecially accessible to students and I felt you were really down to earth and and able to relate to the parents at their level as well. I appreciate the blog and your willingness to communicate so openly with everyone at all levels. Enjoy your return to Wesleyan and keep on blogging. Your passion is palpable.

    Elise Carlton

  2. Dear President Roth,
    I am so digging your blog and news of your exploits. My only regret (and it’s a big one) was my inability to attend the dedication in honor of Dean Beckham. I was in Boston (so close) at another conference that was likewise dedicated to black men. So, thank you for taking me inside there with you.
    –Ron Medley, `73

  3. Dear President Roth,

    Congratualations on your inauguration and thank you for your blog. It has become a mainstay in my ongoing sense of connection to Wesleyan (along with Wesleyan Magazine). I was unable to attend home coming weekend because of health problems, so I missed the live version of your inaugural address. It was great to have a convenient internet link to it. I was so impressed with the content that I have printed it out; intending to send it to a grandson who is currently attending the University of Michigan. Unfortunately, I did not succeed in getting him to apply to Wesleyan. Maybe he will see what he’s missing!

    Norm Stuessy, ’54

  4. It seems that you have enjoyed a lot the inauguration weekend and got some amazing experience. Seldom have we got such type of opportunities to celebrate some special moments with our friends and relatives. I have gone through the link of your speech and I think you have some prior experience of writing speeches because the way of representation is of good standard. Keep it up….

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