One of the great privileges of serving as a college president is that you get to know some extraordinary peoplestudents, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, entrepreneurs, business executives and distinguished teachers, scientists and scholars. If you've been a president as long as I have—17 years—you may experience the joy of an acquaintanceship turning into frequent visits, lunches and dinners, and a close friendship; or watching a young person grow from student to alumnus to career success to trustee.
This winter, in a hard, cold month, three of those special friends of the College—and of my wife Benna and me—died. In thinking about our loss, I have done my best to focus on the joy that they brought to my life and to the school they loved. Elsewhere in this issue of the Now you can read about the achievements in life and the many contributions to North Central College of Dr. Ed Rall '40 (Joseph Edward Rall), Dr. Paul W. Sutton '58, and John Tworoger '65. In a magazine with a special focus on engagement—one of the new buzzwords in higher education, a subject on which our accrediting body will expect us to document our performance in 2009— I thought I might touch a little on the example of these most engaged…and engaging…alumni and dear friends.
Ed Rall, one of America's great scientists in the 20th century, was the son of a North Central president, Edward Everett Rall. When he visited Naperville, he often stayed with us in the President's House—because it was, in a very real sense, his house. The Rall Symposium, which we named after him, was his idea—to give students a forum to present their research. He knew that great science and scholarship is engaged science. At every Rall Symposium he would patiently talk with every student presenter about his or her project. Then, that night, in his 80s, from memory, he would critique each student's presentation. We would talk late into the evening, and his passion and enthusiasm were incandescent—always pushing me, and North Central, to reach higher.
Paul Sutton taught at his alma mater for 38 years. At crucial moments in the College's evolution, when its very survival was at stake, he was the indispensable man, helping to design the academic framework and the calendar we still utilize, creating the department of computer science—always full of boyish enthusiasm, always engaged. Facing the illness that ultimately took his life, nearly a decade after his distinguished North Central College teaching career concluded, there he was in the freezing cold at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater last November, watching the Cardinals at the football playoffs. Paul, whose life embodied his twin passions of faith and science, never stopped being engaged, and that engagement extended far beyond the walls of his North Central classroom.
John Tworoger was among the most successful businessmen to ever graduate from North Central College, an active trustee for the past decade who generously shared his expertise and resources with his alma mater while juggling hundreds of millions of dollars of development projects. Again, what made him such a special friend was his passion, his desire to see North Central achieve the greatness it deserved. We would talk at his home in San Diego for hour after hour. Always, he asked tough questions—how we could save money, how we could do things more efficiently. Like Ed Rall, he always pushed—we can do more, we can do better, we can reach higher. Like Paul Sutton, he was an enthusiast. After a 20-hour day, he was still engaged, still passionate. I will miss these dear friends, miss them a lot. But as I watch the students of North Central College in 2008 embrace the themes of service, scholarship and involvement—engagement, in and out of the classroom—that are so much a part of the College today, as I find great joy in watching them embark on lives that will make a difference, I will never forget Ed, Paul and John, and the joy of experiencing the engaged witness of their lives for the special character of the College they—and all of us—love so much.
Harold R. Wilde
North Central Now, Spring 2008