President's Notebook

President's Notebook

My View from South Hill

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Posted by Thomas Rochon at 8:45AM   |  Add a comment
Relay for Life 2009

I am sure some of you are thinking that I put the word "naked" in the title of this post as a craven strategy for increasing the readership of my blog. But you may remember the TV crime series called "The Naked City," whose weekly episodes always began with reference to telling just one of the thousand stories in New York.

There are a thousand untold stories on and around the Ithaca College campus on any given day. I'd like to tell three of them, all from a single evening last weekend.

Last Saturday I went to the indoor track & field building on the Cornell campus to offer words of encouragement to over 1100 IC students and a similar number of Cornell students participating in the Relay for Life, a dusk to dawn walk-a-thon to raise money for cancer research.  This collaboration between students at the two institutions is one of the largest college-based fund raisers in the country, having raised nearly $1 million in the five years of its existence.  It was inspiring to see 20 percent of the entire IC student body gathered in one place for a charitable purpose, ready to walk in teams around the track all night long while sending emails to friends and supporters to increase their fund raising totals. 

While at the Relay for Life I was able to congratulate members of the IC singing group Ithacappella on their first place finish in the mid-Atlantic regional a cappella competition. As a result of their victory, they will compete next month for the international championship along with five other groups from the United States, one from Europe and one from Africa. The members of Ithacappella had come to the Relay for Life directly from the regional competition, both to participate in the walk and to provide entertainment sometime during the night. The energy of youth is an awesome thing to behold!

From the Relay for Life I crossed over to the Whalen Center for Music on the Ithaca College campus to attend the fourth annual Gospel Music International Festival. Twelve high schools from the eastern United States sent over 250 students to take part in the festival, with instrumental support from the Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra. Led by Professors Baruch Whitehead and Janet Galván along with several guest conductors, the choirs and the orchestra had less than 24 hours to meld their voices and instruments into an innovative program of gospel music that also included blues, jazz, Nigerian folk song, African American spirituals, and a dash of Handel's Messiah like you've never heard it. Ford Auditorium was transformed from a concert hall to a sanctuary, and the audience became a clapping, swaying congregation.

As I went home for the evening, I thought about the fact that administrators can articulate the vision of a college, but students and faculty are the ones who make it happen. The Relay for Life is organized by students who gain valuable lessons in leadership even as they have fun and do great things for the community. Ithacappella is a student club whose members spur each other to heights of performance that win international acclaim. And the Gospel Music Festival is an example of excellence that comes from a harmonious blend of youthful talent with mature leadership. 

I went to bed Saturday night with my head full of the thousand stories at Ithaca College. My last conscious thought was that the Relay for Life participants would be walking for another five hours.


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