President's Corner: Evolving Relationships

For three unforgettable days in the beginning of November, our Ithaca College community came together in a spectacular way to celebrate the college’s 125th anniversary during the Weekend on South Hill. Since then, the college has hosted a series of anniversary “roadshows,” to bring the excitement of our 125th year to Boston, Chicago, and New York City. The is a fourth and final roadshow took place in Los Angeles in June, capping off a year that has beautifully illustrated the deep love that our IC family feels for this institution—and for one another.

I have had many opportunities during these incredible events to get to know our IC community more deeply. One of the most touching came during the Weekend on South Hill, when I spent time talking to a group of “downtown alumni,” members of the class of 1967 who were celebrating their 50th reunion, and alumni from earlier classes. I loved hearing the stories they told me about their vibrant college life downtown, the shows they would put on for one another, and the many bus trips that some took to their classes both downtown and on South Hill.

At the 125th events around the country, I’ve heard similar stories from alumni, regardless of class year or program of study. Though the details inevitably vary, these recollections capture the essence of the IC experience and the traditions that are embodied by the college and by those whose lives are changed through their relationship to it. True traditions are not embedded in a fixed space or in the practicing of an unchangeable ritual. They are threads that connect generations, ideas that form the backbone of a community, an ongoing investment in a philosophy of learning. And Ithaca College has plenty.

During my inaugural address in November—and through the remarks I have given at our regional roadshows—I have spoken about Ithaca College’s evolution and how it has been guided by the principles of theory, practice, and performance. These principles form the framework of our institution, representing a tradition of thought and pedagogy that sprang from our musical roots and grew into our contemporary expressions of understanding and knowledge. The cross-disciplinary work of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni continue to affirm our strong liberal arts core, while demonstrating the magic that happens when we blend the liberal arts with the sciences and our professional programs.

As part of our 125th celebration, the college has unveiled its 25 icons, a collection of gems within our community that have taught me so much about what the members of our IC family gravitate toward. The icons celebrate individual people—from alumni Bob Iger and David Muir, to Don Mooney, a staff member at the Towers Dining Hall. Our icons also highlight aspects of the college that speak to the learning and living environments that are created here, and include events like Ford Fest, a variety show each December in the School of Music, or the strong LGBTQ community that works to ensure inclusion and full participation. The underpinning of these icons—whether individual people, specific moments, or physical things, like Free Speech Rock—points to what I would consider to be the strongest tradition at Ithaca College: the cultivation of the passion and the drive to create an identity that celebrates our journey as learners, educators, and people.

When we come to Ithaca College—as students, faculty, or staff—we evolve through our relationship with this place and with others who inhabit this space alongside us. We bring our unique knowledge, our individual ways of understanding the world, and we blend these aspects of ourselves with the perspectives of others through the connections we make and the work we do. We are personally shaped by Ithaca College, and in the building of our individual identity, we build a collective one—one that represents our community and empowers us to be a part of the continuing evolution of our institution.

My first year as president at Ithaca College is coming to a close, and I feel honored to have joined the college at a time of such joyful celebration, and I am deeply thankful for the support I’ve received from this community. We are beginning this new chapter for Ithaca College by honoring our history, our people, and our traditions. And if the past 125 years give us any hints about what our future may hold, I think it’s safe to say that we are poised to accomplish some amazing things. We have important collective work ahead of us, and I can’t wait to see what we’ll create together.