A View from College Hill
by President Joan HINDE Stewart
Hamilton alumni readily make known their opinions and their reactions to events and developments on College Hill.
In conversations and discussions across the country and the globe, as well as by letter and email, you convey to my colleagues and me your sense of what we are doing well, what we should stop doing and what we need to start doing. That is exactly as it should be, and I enjoy and appreciate these exchanges, not only because they can help clarify my own thinking and planning, but also because they signal the affection in which alumni hold the College and the investment they feel in her future. We have an outstanding leadership team on campus, but the added perspective of committed alumni is always valued.
Last fall we commissioned a survey in order to gain a more systematic understanding of alumni feelings about the College. The work was carried out this spring and is still being analyzed. The firm we engaged to do the research will report the final results later in the year, but has already conveyed preliminary findings, including some general reasons for the pride and gratitude that alumni evince: the dedicated teachers, the quality and rigor of the academic program, the emphasis on oral and written communication skills, the enduring relationships forged on College Hill and the decision to become need-blind in admission.
My own feelings mirror those that were reported. Here are a few of the many things that make me proud and grateful to be part of this community:
A college of opportunity: The decision to become need-blind in admission reinforced a long-held belief that a Hamilton education should be accessible to talented and hard-working students regardless of their families’ financial circumstances.
A superb faculty: Hamilton professors inspire, engage and motivate, awakening the passion and potential in their students.
An historic campus: Hamilton’s physical plant is lovingly maintained and continuously improved in order to support a 21st-century living and learning community.
An alumni body that does good and does well: A Hamilton education and a dynamic career center prepare students to succeed professionally as well as personally, to make a difference in their communities and in the world.
- A focus on writing and speaking: Students, trustees and alumni routinely testify to how well served they are by Hamilton’s emphasis on effective communication.
All of this is expensive. Fortunately, in addition to sharing their opinions, Hamilton alumni share their resources. Joel Johnson ’65, chair of the Trustee Committee on Budget and Finance, refers to such generosity as “legacy support,” by which he means the contributions of generations of alumni that become part of the College’s endowment over time and that constitute the unrestricted Annual Fund each year. With these resources the College maintains and modernizes the campus, supports student and faculty research, invests in career counseling and, most importantly, admits students without considering their financial means. Without legacy support, Hamilton would be a very different college.
Nevertheless, the question might be asked, especially in a sluggish economy: Why doesn’t Hamilton take more from the endowment to fund programs and reduce costs? The temptation to do so can be strong, but like our Iroquois neighbors who are ever mindful of the effect of their decisions on the seventh generation to come, we subscribe to a policy of intergenerational equity to ensure that the educational experience enjoyed by current students will be equivalent to that offered to their successors.
The distinctions that evoke pride among alumni are costly but must be sustained if Hamilton is to continue fulfilling its mission as a college of opportunity, able to attract outstanding faculty and to graduate students who are equipped to transform their professions and communities.