When I speak to new students at freshman orientation (which occurs at the beginning of the summer), I remind them that this is one of the moments — along with their marriage, the death of a loved one, the birth of a child — that they will remember the rest of their lives. But they don’t need any reminding — it is written all over their faces. Whether they’ve come from across the globe or down the street, whether they will be away from home for the first time or will commute to campus, the step up to college is a big one … the start of their lives as independent adults.
Commencement is another of those moments. After a night of violent thunderstorms and flash floods — when as late as 3 a.m. it looked like we would have our first indoor graduation in 13 years — I doubt that there is a person among the 6,000 graduates, families, faculty and staff present who will ever forget the morning this June that the clouds parted and the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives welcomed the Class of 2004 to the rest of their lives. It was amazing!
Over the past few months, my emotions about such transitions have been particularly acute. On the personal level, our son Henry was married and graduated from business school (all in the week before North Central’s Commencement). Institutionally, as the 2003-04 academic year closed, two of the College’s longest-serving faculty, Classics Professor Andy Adams and Economics Professor Tom Love, retired and received emeritus status; and six Board of Trustee members, including Board Chair Dr. Richard Norenberg ’55 (along with Leota Buss ’51 Ester, Lawrence Gregory ’51, Samuel Hunt, Sr. Jean Murray and Dr. Paul Schwab ’53) became life or honorary Trustees. Together these eight individuals have served North Central College — extremely well — for an astonishing 177 years!
These moments of transition were an opportunity to look back and celebrate what has been, but also, to look forward with excitement at what is to come … both in the new relationship these long-time faculty and trustees will have with the College, and in the new perspectives and intensity of involvement of those who follow. Alumnus Roger Hruby ’58 will bring the vision of an entrepreneur and very successful businessman to his role as Chair of the Board of Trustees, and he will be joined by an outstanding group of new trustees. And North Central continues to attract deeply dedicated faculty to carry on our tradition of excellence in teaching and scholarship.
A different kind of transition — which carries its own emotional punch — is taking place in our physical plant. Before the new academic year begins, the new Rolland Center Boilerhouse Café will open, a spectacular addition to campus and community life, and a marvelous example of how a 143-year-old college can creatively recycle its past to ensure its future. The campaign to renovate and expand the Evangelical Seminary Administration (Koten Chapel) Building, which will go on throughout the year, will make possible another such example.
And then there is an exciting opportunity that just became a possibility this summer — the potential acquisition by the College of the old Grace Evangelical Church (on the corner of Ellsworth and Van Buren, one block west of Pfeiffer Hall), and its conversion into much-needed space for our growing fine arts programs. What a moment of transition this would be! Built nearly a century ago by some of the same Evangelical Christians who founded this college, the purchase and renovation of the church would, in effect, close a circle … while opening up the possibility for us to move forward much more rapidly on a second project addressing our fine arts needs, the long-dreamed-of new Fine Arts Center (on the corner of Chicago and Ellsworth).
There are still lots of t’s to be crossed and i’s to be dotted before the acquisition of the 22,000-square-foot church can occur. Stay tuned. But in the meantime, let us join with all those new students and new graduates and new trustees and life and honorary trustees and emeriti faculty (and my son and his wife) in celebrating this moment … in the knowledge that the best is yet to come.
Harold R. Wilde
North Central Now, September 2004