Classes Are Over

In the final weeks of the semester, there is a frenzy of activity as students scramble to finish their papers, professors hunker down for grading, and the Connecticut climate settles into a chilly grey that for me brings back memories of my student days here.

I spent a few days in the past week visiting alumni in New York. At one meeting most of the participants graduated from Wes in the 1990s. They are now successful teachers and lawyers, not-for-profit administrators, and investment bankers. The early 1990s were a difficult time for Wesleyan, politically and economically. But the academics remained strong. The physical plant of the campus was deteriorating, but the faculty kept the standards of intellectual work very high. The students, at least as represented by the alumni who showed up for breakfast last week, formed intense friendships, encountered cultural diversity, and developed habits of mind and spirit that continue to inform their career and their lives. Like all Wesleyan alumni, they have great ambitions for our school—wanting it to be a leader in liberal arts education. From athletics to the sciences, from music to economics, these alumni want the university to be recognized for excellence. This must be our goal.

Over the weekend I was able to attend a great Wesleyan tradition, and, I trust, start a new one. I attended the extraordinary Worlds of Dance Concert on campus. At this event Wes students of all levels of expertise, and from a myriad of cultural traditions, perform in dances ranging from contemporary hip-hop to traditional Balinese. Outside the packed World Music Hall, spectators gaze in through the windows for a peek at these wonderful performers, cheering on their friends or just taking in the often-exquisite gestures and rhythms. The concert continued in Crowell, with a troupe of beginning jazz dancers (many of them athletes, or scientists, or econ majors) luxuriating in the motion and the music. For me, this tradition of dance at Wesleyan exemplifies our community of diversity and joyful accomplishment.

I had to leave the dance recital to head home for a holiday party of campus kids, with some friends from our daughter’s school added to the mix. Kari and I had about 50 children over at the house, and they made origami ornaments, ate cookies, and chased Mathilde, our lab. It feels like the holidays are almost upon us. Good luck with exams!

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4 thoughts on “Classes Are Over

  1. When I attended Wesleyan in the early 1970s we enjoyed the highest percentage of dollars per student of ANY institution of higher learning in the country. A combination of investment and fund raising errors towards the very end of the 1980s and the start of the 1990s resulted in considerable financial problems. Thankfully, Wesleyan has recovered reasonably well from that difficult period. However, much work remains in building the endowment to where it rightfully should be; at or very near the levels of our historically closet peers, Amherst and Williams. This is hardly an easy task as, currently, the Wesleyan endowment does not even total half of the combined endowment average of those two colleges. With a well strategized global marketing plan, judicious fund raising investment as well as the support of Wesleyan’s alumni and friends, we can (indeed, we must) bring the wealth level of our great school on par with our Little Three brethren. To accomplish such a goal we need strong and sustained leadership starting from your good office on down.

  2. As someone who now works in fundraising for a non-profit, I found this conversation about Wesleyan’s financial woes in the 90s a fascinating slice of the school’s history that I was unaware of while a student. I never thought of the facilities as “shoddy” while I was at Wesleyan, and once the new renovations got underway, I and many of my fellow students wondered why so much money was being put into facilities rather than addressing the rising tuition costs or paying a livable wage to the University employees.

    As you continue to meet with people of my era, I would encourage you to share this larger picture of Wesleyan’s financial health. With this background, and a clear vision moving forward, the University will have a much better ability to explain the need for building the endowment and fundraising in general.

    Thank you also for creating this way for the Wesleyan community to communicate our thoughts to you directly – a simple yet powerful way of making yourself accessible.

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