Kirkland College Commemorative Awards Ceremony
Welcome Remarks, June 8, 2002
Susan K. Valentine, K'73
Good afternoon. It is my GREAT pleasure to welcome you to this Kirkland Commemorative Awards Ceremony and to the inaugural Chuck Root Kirkland College Lecture. Here we gather to honor those without whom there would not have been a Kirkland College or this chance to gather. We gather to celebrate the existence of a college for women, the mark it made in higher education and in the lives of hundreds of students, faculty, administrators. A college that enriched the Hamilton educational community during its existence and in the end became the means for the creation of a co-educational Hamilton. A college whose spirit lives on, in the lives of its graduates, its faculty, and, indeed, on this Hill.
It is over 40 years since the building of Kirkland College began. Almost 35 years since the first class entered Kirkland College and 25 years since Hamilton College became co-educational. This occasion is a wondrous one as it is the first time we have gathered together to recognize and celebrate its existence. While it has been a long time in coming, we ARE all gathered here together today.
As I have looked back to trace the roots of the historic occasion, I can identify some the elements that, in my mind, led to the critical mass that ultimately moved us from "remembering" to acknowledging. There were Kirkland trustees who became Hamilton trustees. Kirkland faculty who became Hamilton faculty. The underground and then visible efforts of Kirkland graduates who simply remained in touch and, of course, unwilling to not be heard, unwilling to have Kirkland just a memory.
This weekend would not be happening but for President Tobin's strong belief in history's stories and constant and brave advocacy of not just what truth and fairness are but also how they look and feel at a co-educational institution. This weekend would not be happening without Sam Babbitt's enduring love for Kirkland College, his wisdom and grace, and his continuing embrace of all those he touched at Kirkland.
This weekend would not be happening but for the arrival of Hamilton's Vice President for Communications and Development, Dick Tantillo, in the mid-90's, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and willing to learn about and then work to first meet, and then embrace, the Kirkland community. This weekend is the result of the dedication here on the Hill of Jennifer Potter Hayes, Kirkland '73, who in her 25 years as a Hamilton College leader remained steadfast in keeping Kirkland alive. This weekend would not be happening without the tireless efforts of Nancy Rabinowitz who created the Kirkland Project for the Study of Gender, Culture and Society.
This weekend would not be happening but for Kirkland founders, the increasing number of Kirkland graduates serving as members of the Hamilton Alumni Council, as alumni trustees and members of Hamilton's Board of Trustees. And then there is the legacy of Chuck Root without whom there would have been no chance to establish an annual lecture series. The combination of these efforts created the critical mass that brings us here today to bear witness to Kirkland College.
I once took a course taught by President Babbitt. While a larger than life presence as the president, in the classroom he was simply one of those special teachers who inspired reflection, taught the importance of dialogue through gifted facilitation, invited differences of opinion, and encouraged students to find their voice. One day he asked to meet with me about a paper I had written. On reflection, I am quite certain he asked all of the students in the class to speak with him about their papers. But, as I remember it, I was the one he asked to meet with. He asked me to tell him what I meant in the paper I had written (the five-page paper I had written). So, I told him. And President/Professor Babbitt then said to me in that wonderful rich voice, "Well then, write that." So I did, and it ended up a two-page paper. I was mortified at that moment in time. But, as time went by, eventually grateful as I understood the power of what he had taught me. I cannot say that rambling verse (or voice?) ceased to exist from then on, but I can say that lessons such as that -- say what you mean -- are examples of the precious gifts I, and so many others, received while at Kirkland College.
So, here's what I mean to say today. Hallelujah. Yippee. Hip-hip-hooray. Our weekend and this day to celebrate and commemorate Kirkland College have come!
It is my great pleasure to introduce Hamilton's President Gene Tobin.