November 01, 2010

The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do for Beloit

  • President Scott Bierman

“Home,” T.S. Eliot wrote, “is where one starts from.”

When I spoke to alumni at Homecoming/Reunion Weekend festivities in September, I made the point that Beloit College is their home. It is your home. Beloit is your first inviting rehearsal space and early, encouraging training ground, the place where you tested cynicism and hope, often at four in the morning. It is a place where you could be freeingly awkward, where an enormous mistake was seen as a moment for growth rather than a cascading disaster. It is where the classmates you know and love still live in the shadows that wave and dance on the mounds or are cast upon the walls of Campbell Hall, the windows of the library, or the grass of Strong Stadium.

As I have the chance to speak with alumni from around the country, I repeatedly invite them to return home for reunion, because it is important for you to know how much people who live and work on this campus value your return and your presence.

You are the keepers of the college’s reputation. This is no throw-away line. Believing it is the key to the future of the college. To be blunt, if you do not believe this, the college cannot be as successful as it aspires to be. Not even close.

Because one of the finest qualities of Beloit College alumni is their generosity, they often ask what they can do to help the college. To be clear, these questions are often not intended to be invitations into checkbooks, and I do not interpret them that way (although I do not turn down more pointed invitations in that direction, nor do I discourage future invitations).

The answer to this offer of help is disarmingly simple. As keepers of the college’s reputation, the most important thing you can do is not to keep Beloit to yourself.

You need to let people know that you are a product of Beloit College. How else are they supposed to know how terrific this place is? You are living lives of great purpose and value—tell people that you have been partly shaped, maybe even fundamentally shaped, by Beloit College. In ways that are comfortable to you, talk and write about the Beloit College you know. Participate in your own social networks, electronic or otherwise, in ways that wear your Beloit College affiliation on your sleeve. Give your acquaintances a taste of why Beloit mattered to you. Put a Beloit College sticker on your car or a Beloit College luggage tag on your suitcase. Put Beloit College on your email signature.

It is easy to leave a trail of Beloit breadcrumbs so that people who find you interesting (and they do) are led to Beloit College, but it is also easy—depressingly easy—not to do this.

With that in mind, I would like to borrow a few words from Beloit’s first president. Long ago, on the college’s 25th anniversary, President Chapin addressed a gathering of alumni. “Alma Mater,” he said, “looks fondly on your … faces. Her heart swells with worthy pride as she reviews the lives you have been living since you went out from her charge, and she borrows the honors you have won and wears them as jewels for her adornment today. Your presence fills her heart with gladness and her face with smiles.”

Remember that as keepers of the college’s reputation, the most important thing you can do is not to keep Beloit to yourself. Be intentional about Beloit. Celebrate this college. There is no place like home.

-President Scott Bierman

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