’ve been president for one full year now, and it’s been a year of listening and learning, celebrations, transitions, and hot waffles.
I’ve come to understand Skidmore’s culture, values, rhythms, networks, and especially its strengths and challenges. And I’ve been embraced by Skidmore, welcomed warmly by alumni, faculty, students, and staff.
Each season has its own special activities and pace. Last summer I began to immerse myself in the issues and operations of the College, shared lunches with a wide range of students, faculty, and staff, and charted plans for my first year. My husband, Gary Smith, and I settled quickly and happily into Scribner House, Lucy Skidmore Scribner’s home for more than 30 years, and into Saratoga Springs, truly as wonderful a place to live as you might imagine.
The highlight of the fall semester was unquestionably inauguration, a quintessentially Skidmorean—that is, art-filled, idea-filled, and fun-filled—celebration of the College’s history and accomplishments. Soon afterward I started a series of meetings that introduced me to every academic department and interdisciplinary program and embarked on a tour that introduced me to alumni at more than a dozen gatherings around the country.
Winter in some ways is the heart of the year, when much serious work gets done. While students were writing papers, I was guiding my first budget cycle and meeting with class officers, trustees, and key faculty committees. (I never did manage to use the snowshoes I was given for the holidays.)
In spring we celebrated student achievements—inductions into Periclean, Phi Beta Kappa, and departmental honor societies; volunteerism and leadership awards; the final plays and recitals, the senior art exhibit, the presentation of capstone and research projects. More renewing and uplifting than the arrival of spring (and at Skidmore certainly more reliable), the blossoming of our students gives ample proof of the close connections that we so value between faculty and students, and vivid evidence of the imagination and passion that students put into their work here.
The dual finales to the Skidmore calendar, Commencement and Reunion, were each magnificent this year. They embody Skidmore’s past and future and deepen important connections among classmates and with faculty.
And to bring the seasons full circle, we are about to welcome another record-breaking freshman class. The Class of ’04 was chosen from the largest applicant pool ever and has the strongest academic records ever. And there will be other new faces on campus. I am delighted and honored that two exceptional education leaders, our first-choice candidates, have joined the College: John Berman as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, and Michael Casey as vice president for advancement. You can read more about them in future issues of Scope.
And the waffles? Twice after big campus dances, and also on the eve of final examinations each term, our wonderful Food Service provided late-night breakfasts with “celebrity” servers, including yours truly. The events were a hit with students and servers alike. In fact, I’m getting pretty good at dishing up waffles, which have become a Skidmore symbol for good times and community spirit.
Of course the president’s job is far more than parties, awards, and waffles. Our challenge is to uphold and enrich Skidmore’s academic excellence—the custom-tailored and innovative programs, intimate student-faculty relationships, and quality of residential and cocurricular life that are our hallmark—and to assure that a wide range of talented students have access to the College.
Our ambitions are bold; our financial base is quite modest compared to many other schools at our level of excellence. This year’s record-breaking annual fund and major gifts tell me that our graduates, parents, and other supporters understand that something very special is going on at Skidmore. We appreciate and depend on that support and vote of confidence in Skidmore.
In future messages I’ll tell you about the comprehensive planning process we have launched to set priorities and shape our future, and about new directions in curriculum and programs to fully integrate learning and living. In the meantime, let me say that I feel even more strongly the pledge I made in closing my inaugural remarks:
“I accept the responsibilities of the presidency of Skidmore College with enthusiasm for the challenge, respect for our traditions and distinctiveness, and a deepening love for this institution. I ask your support, your continued loyalty, and your counsel. I pledge to you my energy, my honor, and my confidence in the future that we will forge together.”