Recently, a faculty candidate with super credentials who lives in another (far warmer) part of the country, after slogging through a wet and snowy day of interviews across the campus, asked me a question that caught me by surprise: “You’ve been here about 20 years. How come you’re still here?”
I scrolled through the cute answers (It isn’t the climate. I’m still having fun.) and the truthful but not very profound ones (This has been a wonderful place to raise our children. My wife enjoys it here and has been able to have an active professional life in Chicago while still being very engaged on campus, something she could not have done without North Central’s fantastic location.). Should I tell her the larger truth, or would I sound like some sort of Candide figure?
That larger truth is simple. I love this place. Somewhere along the way, North Central stopped being the school I was privileged to serve as president and became my college. I threw out all the T-shirts and sweatshirts from my undergraduate and graduate school days and my 10 years at another liberal arts college. My affection for those schools was not diminished, but this was my place, my brand for life. I think that I first began to realize this about a decade ago, when I woke up one day in late August eager for the arrival of a new class of students and to greet a full complement of North Central faculty back for the fall. As our Commencement speaker a few years ago, football coach Marv Levy (H) ’03, is fond of saying: “Is there anywhere else you would rather be than right here, right now?”
My answer to that question—why I love this place—could fill a book and would embrace hundreds and hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the wider community. Let me list just a few examples from the first weeks of 2010:
A heritage to be proud of. The 50th anniversary celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to campus—with a packed Pfeiffer Hall listening in rapt attention to Dr. Cornel West, brought here with funds from the Student Governing Association and other campus organizations; a standing-room-only Wentz Concert Hall audience “blown away” by the Chicago Sinfonietta’s King Memorial Concert, concluding with a 150-member chorus singing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”; and most memorably, a panel of reflections by alumni involved in Dr. King’s visit and engaged subsequently in Civil Rights causes, notably, the three busloads of students and staff who witnessed for their values in Selma, AL, in 1965—was a powerful reminder that North Central College has always been a “special kind of place” where mission and values lead to decisions with consequences and lives of consequence.
The posting of the 187-page final draft of the Self-Study Report in preparation for the 10-year visit of the accrediting team from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools on January 25-27 provided a rare opportunity to stand back from the many accomplishments of the past decade and reflect upon who we are in 2010 and what remains to be achieved for North Central to reach its full potential. The Self-Study Report is written to address the accreditation criteria and reads like that, but if you have a few hours to spare, it’s worth your review. I think you, like me, will find much to be proud of, indeed, a powerful case why North Central is the school we love.
The dedication of the Al B. Carius Track and the Frank Gramarosso Gallery in the new Res/Rec Center, with 700 alumni and family members and friends in attendance was a January evening none will forget . Not because of the facility, as magnificent as it is, but because of the people—starting with Al Carius (H) ’06 and Frank Gramarosso—whose lives have defined the special character of this place for generations.
I could, as my friends on campus love to remind me, go on and on … about the challenge of funding and building a new science facility worthy of a great science tradition and faculty, about the commitment of our students and graduates (and faculty and staff) to making a difference in Haiti and other places in need around the world, about the many ways the campus is seeking to witness for a balanced lifestyle and a sustainable world … but you get the idea. There are lots of wonderful schools. There’s only one North Central College. The school I love.
Harold R. Wilde
North Central NOW Winter 2010
For more photos from the Winter 2010 North Central Now, visit northcentralcollege.edu/now-album.