President's Campaign Kickoff Remarks

Thursday, November 2, 2006 - 14:37
President Joanne V. Creighton
October 28, 2006

"Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable," said Wendy Wasserstein to the graduating class of 1990.

And that's exactly what Mount Holyoke women from 1837 to the present keep on doing. Take Jhumka, for example. If that performance--with its blend of South Asian, classical, film and folk styles, ballet, jazz, and hip-hop--wasn't remarkable and multicultural and so Mount Holyoke, what is! Thank you so much, students, for a stunning performance. And, for giving me such a hard act to follow. (I feel as if I should do something remarkable, like dance. But I won't. That might just be too remarkable.)

I hope all of you had a chance today to meet with students and could see for yourself how the do-something-remarkable spirit of this institution lives within them. In unsolicited testimonials they will tell you how inspired they are by the College's legacy, alumnae, faculty, by one another, and how determined they are to make the most of their education and their lives.

The Campaign we are launching this evening is all about encouraging these promising passions and inclinations. It is about preparing young women for purposeful roles in a world that badly needs them. It is about claiming and energizing Mount Holyoke's historic leadership as the world's most venerable women's college in advancing "the great unfinished agenda"--the education and advancement of women of the world.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has," famously declared Margaret Mead. And that in a nutshell is the story of this College. We all know the improbable tale: an impoverished woman educator from the hills of western Massachusetts had a compelling dream, a little green bag, and a persuasive pitch. She enlisted the critical support of small group of others. Over the years, Mary's dream was kept alive by successive small groups of committed people. Now, 170 years later, that dream is realized beyond her wildest imagination, I am sure, in this remarkable College which surpasses any reasonable expectation one might have about the influence of such a small college and its graduates in such a large world. You, the leaders and committed volunteers, the inner circle of friends of the College, are the "small group of thoughtful, committed people" who are helping to keep the flame alive in our time. Quite literally, without loyal and true supporters like you, this College wouldn't even exist, let alone be so robust, so ready to soar to an even brighter future.

I never cease to be impressed and humbled by the work and spirit and money contributed freely and voluntarily by all of you. You don't need a pitch from me. You know the great value of the College and you put your money where your heart and mind are. I'd like to thank the Board of Trustees for all you do and especially for your leadership in launching this Campaign. It's a joy to work with our irrepressible cochairs, Leslie Anne Miller and Barbara Baumann, with the Steering Committee of the Campaign, chaired by Ellie Claus, the Annual Fund Committee, chaired by Maria Mossaides, the Board of the Alumnae Association, headed by Mary Davis, as well as the army of volunteers we have out in the world and the true friends who are sharing this weekend with us.

There are no truer friends of the College than the McCullochs. Dotty and Sandy, you have been part now, impressively, of four Mount Holyoke campaigns. The power of your vision and influence is everywhere apparent on this campus, literally built into bricks and mortar, as well as in two endowed chairs, in scholarship funds, in the rowing program, and now in a wonderful new McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives. In multiple ways you, along with others including Carol Hoffmann Collins '63, who endowed the directorship of the Center, have tangibly strengthened this College and are helping us to realize one of the major emphases and challenges outlined in The Plan for 2010: to prepare our graduates for the globalized world of the twenty-first century.

And what a daunting task that is given the radically destabilized world in which we live. Yet we believe the best way to prepare them is to be true to the mission that has guided us from the beginning: we reaffirm our commitment to educating a diverse residential community of women at the highest level of academic excellence and to fostering the alliance of liberal arts education with purposeful engagement in the world. Now more than ever, this mission inspires and compels.

Central to our mission is the value of diverse community. With the most diverse student body and faculty among any of our peers, this little college in Western Mass is per capita one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth! How better to help students to live in the multicultural, multiethnic, globalized world than for them to live and learn and develop mutual understandings with people from across the country and around the world?

And more important than ever is the humanizing dimension of a liberal arts education. "The liberal arts are the arts of thought, perception, and judgment; the arts that foster humanity and civility of spirit; and it is these arts that Mount Holyoke places at the center of its life," so say the Principles of the College. The liberal arts curriculum is an indispensable way to transfer our intellectual, cultural, and scientific heritage to the next generation: "An education in what we are and have been, and in the worlds we inhabit and have created: the social and physical worlds." (Principles of the College). Because, as Santayana memorably said, "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it," we are determined that students should know not only history but other humanities and arts, sciences, and social sciences.

For here the liberal arts are not a rarified, genteel education for education's sake. Rather, they develop the analytical and communication skills, the moral and aesthetic sensibilities, the reflective habits of mind that help to prepare our graduates for purposeful lives. A sense of purpose guides this institution and has from the very beginning. While in the larger society cynicism, apathy, and greed threaten to undermine concern for the social good, that is not the case here. Idealism is alive and well in our students and in the very fabric of our programs. Here it is the norm to want to make a difference, to try new things, to give back, to care about justice, to embrace diversity and to work towards greater mutual understanding and more inclusive community. In impressive numbers our students and our alumnae do all of these things and more. In short, a Mount Holyoke education energizes and engages and, above all, connects.

Indeed, in our programming we have worked to connect the classroom and the world and to engage students and faculty directly in some of the most critical issues of our time: leadership and public service, environmental sustainability, the impact of globalization, and the transformations wrought by rapid developments in science and technology. Key vehicles of that work have been the four centers newly established during the last few years, thanks to the vision and generosity of our donor community.

Harriet and Paul, the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts, embodying the central purposes of the College, has significantly enhanced the intellectual life of the College and the education of our students. It is hard to imagine the College without it or without you who have made such a difference by being a beloved, essential part of the "small group of committed individuals" in this College community.

We are so pleased that the Weissman Center is now joined by the new McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives which in such a short time has had a huge impact in engaging faculty and students and connecting to global contexts.

The Center for the Environment is resurgently transforming itself under the able leadership of Lauret Savoy. It too is focused on making connections--across disciplines, points of view, structures--and on fostering a critical understanding of fundamental environmental issues at local, national, and global levels. The Center for the Environment has benefited from a number of generous donors since its inception--Nancy Nordhoff '54 was wonderfully generous in its earliest years; Marjorie Fisher '42 helped with much needed endowment.

Tonight, I am thrilled to announce a wonderfully generous gift from our Board chair, Leslie Miller, and her husband, Richard Worley, who, by the way also serves Mount Holyoke as a valued member of the Investment Committee. Leslie and Richard have made a challenge gift for the Center for the Environment! The Campaign volunteers and staff will now go about meeting that challenge to give the Center for the Environment the necessary resources to ensure its excellence for years to come. Thank you, Leslie and Richard, for your vision and passion for Mount Holyoke and your commitment to environmental education.

The fourth center, the Science Center, has since its opening become significantly more than a gorgeous, state-of the-art facility. Now that all science and mathematics faculty are in close adjacency, compelling connections and collaborations are developing, reflecting the increasingly permeable boundaries among the sciences. Now we have a science complex worthy of our fine faculty and pioneering legacy, thanks to the generosity of so many during our last campaign who contributed through gifts the total cost of the building. I want to pay tribute, in particular, to our anonymous alumna who gave the $10 million naming gift for Kendade Hall. And tonight, I want to acknowledge and thank Marilyn Dawson Sarles '67 and Jay Sarles, trustee of the College, for their gift to help endow the Science Center. In addition, Liz Cochary '79 has created a professorship in the sciences: thank you, Liz, and Marilyn, and Jay, for your generous leadership gifts.

Another new chair--in analytic and quantitative methods in the social sciences--is recently given by Barbara DeSoer '74. Barbara, thank you! These chairs make an enormous difference to our ability to recruit and retain excellent faculty. And so too would I like to thank Susan Weatherbie '72 and husband Matt for their generous gift to support endowment for art, another critical center of excellence in our curriculum. Thank you, Susan and Matt.

We are going forward on this Campaign, in the words of our Board chair, Leslie Miller: "Because we must. . . . We must build on our momentum--our legacy of leadership. After all, Mount Holyoke's proud history is rooted in bold moves!" It is, indeed!

This Campaign is all about supporting the superb faculty and students, the cutting-edge programs, the diverse community, the state-of-the-art facilities, the do-something-remarkable spirit that are intrinsic components of institutional excellence. It is about ensuring that this improbable, longest-standing, paradigm-setting women's college continues to defy the odds, continues to promote its women-centered traditions and values: connection, caring, community, self-in-relationship, service, social responsibility, purposefulness. Does the world need Mount Holyoke College? You bet! Now, more than ever. It is not an overstatement to say that colleges like Mount Holyoke are our civilization's best hope. "There are few subjects that match the social significance of women's education in the contemporary world," says Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. No cause is more worthy of our time and energy and dollars. Here we do not underestimate the power of an individual or the power of a small group of committed individuals or the potential of women. We know that with our support, they will go out and do something remarkable.

Thank you all for being such an indispensable part of this grand mission!

And now I would like to ask Leslie Miller, Barb Baumann, Ellie Claus, Susan Weatherbie, Mary Davis, Don O'Shea and all the members of the Campaign Steering Committee to join me up here.

The support and generosity of all of you and many others have given this Campaign a real jump start. Thanks to the Board of Trustees, the Campaign Steering Committee, other leaders, alumnae, and friends of Mount Holyoke we have a total of $82,132,000 with which to start this Campaign!

Thank you so much. Let us go forward and attempt great things and accomplish great things!

Related Links:

$300 Million Campaign for MHC Launched

McCullochs Celebrated at CGI Dedication

Campaign Kickoff Remarks by Leslie Anne Miller '73