I heard a member of the class of ’55 say recently, “For me, nothing moves quickly except time.”
At this time last year, The Scene was introducing me as the new Willamette University president, a moment still very fresh and vivid in my mind. Re-reading that issue, which featured me smiling (a little anxiously) on the cover, made me realize how quickly this first year has passed, how much has happened since my arrival, and how much more deeply I understand and appreciate Willamette.
During what I dubbed my “listening year,” I spent time with students, faculty, staff , alumni, parents and friends of the university, learning about the traditions, culture and people of Willamette. And it has been both interesting and thrilling to discover, and rediscover, this campus, a place committed to and invigorated by its noble mission and its venerable motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born,” but in no way isolated from our swiftly changing world.
In some ways, working on a college campus is like working the concession stand at the Fountain of Youth. Undergraduate students never age. Perpetually arriving and departing, wave upon wave, they are always 18–23 years old.
At that customary age and stage in life, they share hopes and fears with other generations of students. Still, there is no doubt that student culture has changed greatly in recent years, primarily due to technology. The advent of smart phones and other hand-held devices — and the ‘one-click’ proximity of many of the world’s products, services, images and information — have shrunk our planet. Social media have a affected the nature of student interaction and connection, and new choices are constantly emerging.
But a walk across campus can also reveal a Schumann piano concerto wafting out of a practice room at Smith, or a dog-eared copy of “Ulysses” left in the locker room, or a Beatles’ song at The Bistro’s open mic, or students in tie-dyed T-shirts, or fedoras — or both, reminding me that some things are enduring whether we like it or not.
Another enduring truth, repeatedly reinforced in my campus conversations over the past year, is that Willamette is a very special place that, for more than 170 years, has launched the lives and careers of many capable and promising individuals. This issue of e Scene explores the current generation of alumni and how Willamette influenced their various journeys and pursuits.
Stephen E. Thorsett
“In some ways, working on a college campus is like working the concession stand at the fountain of Youth.”