Presidential Essays and Speeches
Measure Twice; Cut Once:
Skidmore College Commencement address (May 20, 2006)
This maxim is a good example of a heuristic: a rule of thumb that increases the possibility of success but does not guarantee it.
Having measured twice, it is still possible to saw badly.
Still it is much easier to change a line on a board than to fix a cut in the wrong place.
How much better, then, to make the small extra effort needed to measure that second time, to check your work, to get it right before you commit!
Skidmore Aims to Serve Both Students and the Community (August 18, 2005)
I have followed the discussions of Skidmore's proposal to construct a
combined soccer-softball field on Denton Road with interest.
Unfortunately, the College's principal reason for pursuing the project
has sometimes gotten lost in the public rhetoric. Simply put, we're
doing it for our students.
A Simple Reflection on Virtue:
Skidmore College Commencement address (May 21, 2005)
do from this point forwardboth how you construct your personal lives
and how you make your mark upon the worldwill represent the ultimate
determinations of the value of your Skidmore education. Indeed, the
best way to honor the professors who have done so much to assist you
in reaching this point is to surpass themin knowledge, in
achievement, and in virtue. (more)
Of Trapezes and Tea Cups:
Skidmore College Commencement address (May 22, 2004)
To borrow a metaphor from author Gail Blanke, many of you
soon-to-be-graduates now find yourselves "between trapezes"or you are
about to be. That is, you are preparing to release your hold on the
College that has been your home for these past four years, a place that
has provided at least a measure of structure to your life and, I trust,
guidance in your journey from callow but eager first-year student to
more worldly senior. But now, like a circus performer, you have to let
go of what has become familiar and comfortable in order to grasp the
next stage in your life. Between those two pointsthe letting go and the
taking hold againis a moment of free flight. My wish for you today is
that you choose to define your flight not as a time of anxiety but
rather as a time of exhilaration.
Truth and Friendship:
Reflections on a Paradox of Academic Community (March 2004)
Despite their quirks and idiosyncrasies, academic communities are about
ideas and ideals. They also are about people. The ideals are lofty, the
people imperfect. We all are fallible human beings who frequently, to
borrow from a Jewish prayer, find ourselves "poor in word and deed."
Even so, academic communities are places where magical transformations
occur on a yearly, monthly, and daily basistransformations with
surprising and far-reaching effects in the lives of students and faculty
members too. Academic communities certainly have their unique dynamics,
and they require their own special forms of nurturing from those of us
in leadership roleswhether we hold administrative posts or are
members of the faculty, board of trustees, or alumni. My aim here is to
reflect on one aspect of these social dynamics and propose an analytical
framework that may be useful to academic leaders as we think about this
primary responsibility: fostering an effective academic community.
Love's Labor's Found
Skidmore College Inaugural Address (October 18, 2003)
Let me begin by expressing sincere thanks to all of you who have gathered here today to help us celebrate not simply the inauguration of an officer of the College, but more importantly, the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of an idea – an idea that evolved into this extraordinary institution that today is Skidmore College. (more)
Liberal Education in Context
Liberal education is a journey, not a destination. This journey begins with a commitment to truth-seeking that is modeled by the faculty, who make it their responsibility to inspire a similar commitment in their students. In exploring the breadth of liberal learning, students gain familiarity with the different ways of interrogating the world, creating knowledge, and making meaning that are embodied in the various academic disciplines and art forms represented in the curriculum. And today they especially need to become sophisticated consumers of electronic information. In doing all this, students learn to appraise the worth of an idea or an artwork independently of the identity of its author. To resolve the complex, multi-dimensional problems they will encounter throughout their working lives, our graduates will need the flexibility of mind to draw upon insights and analogies from many different disciplines at once. To cope effectively with the increasing pace of change in what Peter Vail describes as the perpetual whitewater of today's world, they must truly be prepared "to continue their quest for knowledge." (more)