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Spring 2003

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Presidential pronouncements

Among their many leadership duties, Skidmore’s presidents have always championed the institution’s commitment to preparing students to take responsible places in the wider world. Below is a sampling of past presidents’ reflections and exhortations over the years.

Charles Henry Keyes (1912–25), an experienced educator with two doctorates, led the Skidmore School of Arts through its chartering as Skidmore College.
     “Man has learned how much and how well woman can do, and is calling for her help in a thousand fields. Together they must do the work of the world, the great work in the home, next to this the work in the schools, and after these, all the works by which lives are saved, minds uplifted and hearts cheered. With man she must be the burden-bearer and the joy-giver. To meet these manifold responsibilities she must be the ‘trained woman.’”
    —Baccalaureate address, 1913


Henry T. Moore (1925–57) brought Skidmore to a position of leadership in women’s education. Thousands of Skidmore students revered “Prexy,” who knew each of them by name, joined them on the tennis courts, serenaded them at the piano, and penned the Alma Mater.
     “For American women it is no longer a question of ruling the world just by rocking the cradle; it is now a question of becoming the inner voice of a country which at the present moment is responsible for two-thirds of the production of the entire world.… There is hardly a record of swifter social change in all of history than the one which is represented by the contrast between the heroines of the nineteenth century novels, who always fainted at the psychological moment, and the women who are today wearing the uniforms of all the military services.”
    —Convocation address, 1944


Val Wilson (1957–64) strengthened the faculty and academic programs, fostered new interdepartmental offerings, and pointed students toward graduate school. During his tenure Skidmore made the historic decision to build an entirely new campus.
     “I would have you dare to believe with me that the power of the human spirit and mind to overcome ignorance and prejudice, hysteria and fear, is still the greatest adventure and the greatest need of mankind. The Little Rocks and Sputniks of the world take on new dimensions of meaning, new demands for solution, in light of the continuous and amazing inventive genius of man’s technological discoveries. While we have mastered the sea around us, the land beneath us, and the space above us, there still remains the question of whether we have learned to walk among the peoples of the earth as men—men with mastery over ourselves, and an understanding of our common needs and destiny.… In a real sense the colleges and universities have been, and still are, bastions of those achievements and hopes of the human spirit which alone can free man from his selfish enslavements and fears.”
    —Inaugural address, 1957


Joseph Palamountain (1965–87) led the construction of and move to the new campus; at the same time the student body doubled, the liberal-studies curriculum was launched, and the college went coed.
     “We do today confront urgent crises.… They include our urban and racial crises, the demands of Blacks, Indians, Spanish-Americans, and women for equitable opportunities in our society, the ability of our democratic machinery to be responsive and responsible, the rising tide of violence from all sides, and the problem of chronic poverty. And with the rest of the world we share the imperatives of escaping wars, whether declared or not, and of controlling population and attacking environmental abuses before our species commits ecological suicide.… The College is necessarily concerned with today’s crises.…But the College also is vitally concerned with tomorrow’s crises as well, and with preparing students to deal with them.”
    —Convocation address, 1970


David Porter (1987–98), classicist and musician, emphasized academic rigor, long-term financial stability, and greater diversity within the community and the curriculum.
     “There is increasing pressure to make higher education more job-oriented, more ‘relevant,’ and herein lies a danger that ill-considered changes may boomerang, rendering graduates not more but less prepared for the world they will face.…For while skills oriented to particular jobs, or to today’s marketplace, will rapidly become outdated, the flexible, adaptable, intellective skills fostered by an education in the liberal arts and sciences…are relevant to any and every job.… The essential skills honed by such an education are in fact the best possible assets a graduate can bring to a world in constant flux—and the best hedge against its challenges.”
    —Scope, February 1995


Jamienne S. Studley (1999–2003), who came to Skidmore from the U.S. Department of Education, led the college in a broad-based strategic planning process and oversaw the opening of the Tang Museum.
     “The events of 9/11 generated extraordinary sacrifices and uncommon valor. I wonder whether under those circumstances I would have been the person I want to be. Those acts of bravery give us the inspiration and courage to be brave ourselves in the ways offered to us, and to keep the promises we made to ourselves a year ago: To protect each other; to speak out for tolerance; to give blood, and time, for others; to respect each other’s humanity and dreams; to stand up for honor, and to honor those who question; to define true patriotism as informed, critical, and moral.”
    —All-college forum address, 2002

—Compiled by Kathryn Gallien
—Illustrations by Janet Street

Giving the gift of history

Helen Porter never set out to become a local historian; she simply wanted “to make an honest man” of husband David Porter, Skidmore’s president from 1987 to 1999. He liked to tell visitors that the seven stained-glass windows in Scribner House were of Lucy Scribner’s choosing, but when Helen learned that Mrs. Scribner had bought the home, not built it, she worried that David wasn’t speaking the truth—maybe the windows had come with the house.
     “It means so much to us to have lived in her house,” says Helen; so, determined to know the truth, she mined Scribner Library archives and old photos and finally nailed it: the windows were indeed installed by Mrs. Scribner.
     Along the way, she discovered a wealth of information about the Young Women’s Industrial Club, Skidmore School of Arts, and the first days of Skidmore College. So she spent the next five years, starting with tips from professors Patricia-Ann Lee and Mary C. Lynn, exploring the Saratogian and New York Times archives, vintage tax and water bills, antique postcards, and church and county records. She tracked down and interviewed descendants of Scribner House’s former owners and neighbors, even joining a Long Island historical society in pursuit of a lead. “It’s fun contacting people,” says Porter. “I like doing the work and putting it in order.”
     To make her findings accessible for future researchers, Porter is meticulously photocopying, sorting, and annotating hundreds of clippings in substantial notebooks on Mrs. Scribner and her growing educational institution. As each one-year volume is completed, she hands it over to the Scribner Library archives—a centennial gift to the college.
     By August, Porter was up to the year 1917. She says she may continue as far as 1931 and Mrs. Scribner’s death. “It takes more than 100 hours to do a single year,” she reports. “But I’m on a roll right now.” —BAM

 


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