I recently attended a reunion at my alma mater, a liberal-arts college of about 1,700 students founded in 1958. A new president arrived at the school three years ago. At the reunion in that, his first year, he unveiled a campus master plan that called for a complete rebuilding of almost every residential and classroom building more than 30 years old and eliminating cars from the center of campus.
During the past three years the college has significantly improved the landscaping on campus. In place of wet areas and drainage problems, there are now ponds with thriving communities of wading birds and plants. In place of sand spurs, there is now a world-class soccer field and a student recreation area called “South Beach,” where you can sunbathe, play volleyball, and watch your classmates kayak or sail by. There are beautiful trees, shrubs, and flowers everywhere.
They have placed a “freshman parking” lot at the perimeter of campus as the first step in the new parking plan.
Also in the past three years they have built a new library and a new dorm, and they are breaking ground on a second new dorm that will soon be open. The next step is to start rebuilding the existing dorms (about 34 beds each) one at a time. The next academic building in line is science, an estimated $20 million project.
The college’s endowment stands at $25-30 million, where it has been for many years. There were no plans for any of the improvements described above before the new president came.
I see an administration there that aggressively seeks out problems, searches for real, long-term solutions, and successfully finds the money to implement them.
A speech pathologist inspires younger colleagues with a story of how she sees their mutual patients:
I know that your education has not prepared you properly for what you see every day. I know from when I worked with head-trauma cases how harrowing it is to see someone near your own age injured in a car or motorcycle accident who is just never going to walk again, never going to talk again, eat again, and literally be in a vegetative state for the next 50 years. But you will also encounter patients who are resilient heroes. I have a patient who was born with no lower jaw. This little girl comes from an amazing, loving town, where she is surrounded by teachers and a delightful father. And she’s so spunky. To me, she’s on the upswing. She has a talking board, and we plan to teach her dad to sign better. And so I don’t get burned out on that. I get very hopeful and tenacious. I think some people might get burned out, but to me, there’s a great deal of hope and many tenacious, resilient people.