2016 Dean’s Letter
The following was published in our annual newsletter to guidance counselors, which mailed in September 2016.
I had several topics in mind for this year’s newsletter: the impact of the presidential election and campaign promises on college choice; a pulse check on the new SAT (especially as we try to interpret the inflated scores for next year’s applicants); an explanation of Hamilton’s choice to be a founding member of The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success. Any one of those topics warrant airtime (and therapy), but at the moment I have more questions than answers.
Instead, I decided to do a commercial for Hamilton. Not Hamilton, the college. Not Hamilton, the musical (though it is tempting to break into verse here). Not the face on the $10 bill in your pocket (that, thanks to the protests of so many this year, will stay there). Not the name of the street where I grew up (which was, believe it or not, Hamilton Avenue). Not my childhood dog (we called him Alex for short and, no, I could not make this up!). I’m talking about Hamilton, the man, who seems these days to be everyone’s favorite founding father.
Many more know his story now, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda. Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock on a Caribbean island — where he observed and abhorred slavery, was orphaned as a child and grew up in poverty.
At 16 years old, he began his education at King’s College (today we call it Columbia), thanks to the generosity of others. Later, as part of George Washington’s inner circle, Hamilton provided important and strong advocacy for the U.S. Constitution and served as the first secretary of treasury. He was the original founder of the nation’s financial system, the United States Coast Guard and The New York Post. A gifted orator and writer, what young Hamilton accomplished in his sadly abbreviated life (thanks to Aaron Burr) is nothing short of unbelievable.
Every now and again I read an application from an extraordinary youngster, whose obstacles are as significant as her accomplishments, and I wonder what kind of impact she will have on the world. In fact, I’d like to think that somewhere among the students you are advocating for (and we are admitting) is a future Alexander Hamilton.
Those who will no doubt amaze and inspire — and in many cases already have — and along the way remind us why we do what we do. They will surely change the course of their family’s direction, but will also profoundly impact the rest of us in ways we can hardly imagine. It is as exhilarating as it is humbling to offer such deserving students the gift of a Hamilton education, and it is a privilege I hope to never take for granted. It is in that spirit that I send you this year’s newsletter.
Hamilton’s former president was fond of saying that we are the moral heirs of the man who was an original trustee and lent our College his name. Founded in 1812 as a college of opportunity (and which stands today as one of roughly three dozen colleges in our nation that meets 100% demonstrated financial and is need-blind in admission decisions), Hamilton College also cares deeply about effective communication, ethical leadership and service to others. I’m fairly certain that Alexander Hamilton, whose often-decorated statue on campus serves as a popular selfie destination these days, would be as proud of our College as so many generations of our students and alumni are of him. And that was true long before he became a Broadway celebrity.
Yours in finding the next young Alex (or Alexandra),
Monica C. Inzer
Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid