Travels and Conversations
I have had a busy time of travel since Austin College’s Commencement weekend. Larry and I have been in Seattle, Vancouver, Aspen, Houston, Washington, D.C., and London. Some of that was for vacation (a week in London to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary); some was for Larry’s projects (he performed and lectured in both Seattle and Vancouver); nearly all involved opportunities to see Austin College alumni and friends or to meet with other higher education leaders at a variety of meetings and conferences. I’ve learned a great deal in the last several weeks and am delighted to share some of that with you.
First of all, everywhere I visited, people wanted to talk with me about the future of independent higher education. Families are finding it ever more difficult to make tuition payments; students are scared about their future in this unsettled economy; and public support for education is waning. At Austin College we are fortunate to have a robust scholarship program and engaged and active alumni who value the individual and societal benefits that liberal arts education provides. You will find some additional thoughts on the current context for Austin College in that discussion on pages 24 and 25 in this magazine.
A second thing that emerged from this whirlwind of travel is a deeper appreciation for what all Austin College Kangaroos share. Although I was able to talk to alumni from widely different backgrounds and with widely differing careers and family situations, several things remain constant. Austin College alumni are engaged with their communities; they believe their education prepared them for success in their careers and success in forming a sustaining life of the mind; and they reflect fondly on the relationships they formed during their Austin College years.
It is particularly fun to gather a group of alumni of differing generations and ask questions:What was the course you dreaded at the time but now realize was important to your life path? What as something significant that a professor told you outside of class that changed you in some way? How do your Austin College friends differ from your other friends? How did you integrate an “outside” experience such as Jan Term, an internship, or varsity athletics with the “inside” of your academic life? Pose these next time you get together with members of Kangaroo Nation, and I assure you the conversation will be lively. This magazine includes the stories of faculty and students living out today many of the same experiences that you remember from your days on campus. Details may differ, but the sense of community, adventurous learning, and an excellent faculty remain constant.
And finally, traveling with Larry means that I am never far away from a brilliant new idea.We spent time this month thinking about the difference between mystery and wonder. Larry encourages me to pay more attention to wonder (i.e., the immense joy and passion that comes from paying close attention to the world as it is before us) and less to mystery (i.e., that which seems to lie “beyond the veil” of experience and sensibility). I discovered that following this advice keeps me grounded in the Source of being and love and gives me a feeling of both home and adventure no matter where I happen to visit.
I hope you will visit us on campus this fall and rekindle your own sense of home at Austin College.
Marjorie Hass, President