A Message from President S. Georgia Nugent
A Message from President S. Georgia Nugent
At Kenyon this fall, there are many reasons to celebrate. Foremost, of course, we are celebrating the very successful completion of the College's fundraising campaign, "We Are Kenyon: The Drive for Excellence." Our ambitious goal of $230 million was not only met, but surpassed by more than $10 million, when the campaign closed on June 30. This is an extraordinary outcome to achieve, especially during such a difficult economic time, and I believe it has three types of significance for the College.
First, naturally, is the reality of what these new funds have already made possible and will make possible for generations of Kenyon students-doubling the endowed financial aid available, creating beautiful and functional spaces for learning and for residential life, and making many new academic opportunities available (from the Center for the Study of American Democracy to the Center for Global Engagement-and many more). These outcomes will enhance the educational opportunities at the College for many years to come.
Second is the truly inspiring commitment to Kenyon that is so evident in the outpouring of support over the years of this campaign. Given our small size, Kenyon has only approximately 17,000 living alumni. Yet 15,000 separate gifts were made to the campaign! There could be few more tangible expressions, I believe, of the commitment and support for the institution on the part of students, parents, alumni, and friends of the College.
Third, I believe the exceptionally generous support we have seen expresses something even more important than loyalty alone or the memory of pleasant days spent on this lovely hill, or even the inestimable value of lifelong friendships formed here. I believe (and hope) that this commitment to Kenyon represents an understanding and appreciation of liberal arts education-why it matters, and how valuable it is, both to individuals and to our national and international well-being.
Every day, it seems, we hear in the popular media a lack of confidence in American higher education. That is resoundingly not what I hear from Kenyon students, parents, and alumni. They tell me that Kenyon provided the opportunities, the skills, and the tools to identify individual strengths and passions, gain the confidence to develop those strengths and pursue those passions, and achieve success-understood as a life lived in a satisfying and fulfilling way, not solely as a compensation package. (That's not to say that Kenyon graduates don't succeed in the marketplace. Recent data indicates that Kenyon graduates, at mid-career, earn a substantial premium over graduates of other institutions.)
Another cause for celebration on campus this fall is the opening of the beautiful new art history and Gund Gallery building. The installation, at the entrance of the new building, of Aristide Maillol's La Montagne (a majestic female nude, weighing 2,500 pounds!) proclaims for all to see: this is a space for significant art. That will be evident as well in the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Seeing/Knowing," which will feature works from major contemporary artists, exploring the ways in which data, visualization, and cognition interact in our digital age. If E.M. Forester famously declared, "How can I know what I think 'til I see what I say," in today's era of pervasive visual media, perhaps we might say that we cannot actually "know" until we "see."
As we celebrate the opening of the art history/Gund Gallery building, we also see rising on campus Horvitz Hall (situated behind the cemetery). This beautiful building-to be completed next fall-will provide superb facilities for the studio art program, which will finally have a suitable and beautiful home of its own, after having been shuttled among so many different spaces over the years.
With the construction of these two arts facilities-and with the approval of a major in film studies by the faculty this year-it will be clear that Kenyon has made a major investment in the visual arts. We have done so very intentionally, looking to both the past and the future. The world in which our students are immersed is a visual environment that is increasingly complex and pervasive. From all sides and for every purpose, from advertising to politics to recreation to education, we are surrounded by images. The educated individual of today and tomorrow will need to be visually literate, to be both a discerning judge and a capable creator of visual materials. This is true not only for our artists, but for the thinkers, leaders, and thoughtful citizens of tomorrow. But as we prepare students for the future, we are also honoring Kenyon's past. For generations, it has been our expectation that Kenyon graduates will have particularly honed their skills with the written word. At Kenyon, we have always understood the power of narrative, whether that narrative is in the service of the arts or sciences, or other goals of our society. Our commitment to visual literacy reaffirms, for a new century, Kenyon's understanding of how important it is, how life-changing it can be, to tell the story well and truly.