This past Wednesday, Swarthmore College kicked off its year-long celebration of its 150th birthday with a tribute to the College’s history, a note of thanks to members of the community who have contributed to the College’s growth, and a cake modeled after Parrish Hall.
Vice President Maurice Eldridge ’61 spoke about the College’s founders, noting that they were “deep, strong, and practical” in their approach towards creating the college[JL1] . In describing the “idea” of the college, Eldridge quoted Benjamin Hallowell, who in 1862 said: “For the successful and harmonious establishment and management of such an institution [as Swarthmore College], there are many requisites that money cannot buy. There must be contributions from the heart.”
Proud and thankful, Eldridge seemed to imply that the college needed a foundation of dedication and love from its founders and professors in order to thrive, and that the mission of the college required a strong emotional commitment from its community as well.
Following Eldridge was Board of Managers Chair Gil Kemp ’72, who noted that 150 years is an impressive number by any means, revealed his age as a comparison, and acknowledged the longevity of the College with pride, humility, and serendipity[JL2] .
“I feel blessed to have been associated with this institution which has prospered in the past 150 years, and I am absolutely convinced [it] will do even more in the next 150,” he said.
Kemp felt an “mélange” of emotions during the celebration, one of which included a sense of responsibility. He said that it is a “happy duty” of us to make sure that those who benefit from the college today will leave it stronger for those who follow.
While the alumni speakers focused on the history and their personal connections to the College, President Rebecca Chopp talked extensively about the generosity of Swarthmore’s alumni and faculty. Her speech made it apparent that this year’s celebration would revolve around the people who have made the College’s success possible: the faculty, alumni, and staff.
“It is truly the faculty that are at the heart of this institution. They are our greatest assets,” she said.
Chopp noted that faculty members often “dedicate their lives” to the College, spending decades involved with the school community, and helping generations of its students. Chopp then shifted her speech to talk about the college staff, citing their help in keeping the roads clear of snow from the prior day’s storm as an example of their role in helping the College operate smoothly. And finally, she thanked the alumni, who have “given generously so that we may have financial aid, facilities, and our faculty”.
Underlying Chopp’s speech and the entire celebration itself was a palpable sense of appreciation for the people of the institution who have enabled the College to reach this milestone year.
“In the midst of the changes we are making, I hope some of us, at least, will take the time to celebrate our history by talking deeply about our narrative — who we are and what we value,” Chopp said.