November 01, 2009

The Life Blood of the College Gets a Test

  • President Scott Bierman

As part of my enrollment in benefit programs at the College, I was recently required to take a blood test. Of all medical tests, few scare me more than a blood test. It is not the physical discomfort that really bothers me, but rather the fact that all it takes is a little bit of blood for the medical profession to find out lots of things that might be wrong with you. Most, if not all, of your past sins can be discovered from just a few small drops. It is, for better or worse, deeply revealing.

I mention this because not long ago I had the opportunity to experience my first Beloit College reunion weekend. If alumni are the lifeblood of a College—and they are—then reunions are the blood test.

So, Dr. Bierman what did you learn?

What is the diagnosis? Well, I learned that induction into the Society of the Golden Hoods—a rite of passage reserved for returning members of the 50th reunion class—is one of the great events any member of the alumni community can experience in association with this College. My wife, Melody, and I had the most memorable time celebrating a half century of alumni status with so many new friends. Having a silly looking golden hood placed over your head 50 years after you left the College may seem largely purposeless, but cynicism disappears after you see the pride in the faces of every one of the recipients.

This brings me to the most important point. Could there be another college or university in which there is a greater pride of association? Throughout the weekend I heard story after story of what Beloit College has meant to its alumni. The degree of affection among those who returned for the weekend was evident everywhere. Even more profoundly, when I had the chance to dig a little deeper, to probe a little more carefully about the source of the pride, I was struck by the ways in which the same stories were told time and time again, often by alumni from classes 40 years apart.

For many people the glory of their four years at the College was the network of lifelong friends they made. They regularly referenced classmates with whom they had lived, faculty who had mentored them, coaches who challenged them to new heights, and staff who had helped them when life’s crises became too difficult or complicated to manage alone. Other alumni talked in reverential terms about the quality of the skills and habits of mind they had acquired at Beloit. Many talked about being shocked at how much better Beloit College graduates are at communicating, thinking critically, and at developing an appreciation for how to address complex problems through multidisciplinary lenses. Nearly everyone talked about how Beloit College gave them opportunities to engage more effectively and knowledgeably with the world. An appreciation for the importance of a global perspective clearly has been of enormous professional and personal benefit to a vast proportion of Beloit College graduates.

For those who returned, reunion provided evidence—real evidence that transcended class year, major, gender, race—that Beloit College was for so many of its alumni the catalyst for many of the successes in their lives. I think alumni left the campus with a renewed appreciation for the work of the College and enhanced pride in their alma mater.

Reunion. What is the diagnosis? The lifeblood of the College is as loyal and proud of its alma mater as any alumni anywhere. It was a great weekend to be a Beloiter.

President Scott Bierman

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