President's Corner: Reflections on Retirement

Reaffirming the promise of the education our graduates receive from Ithaca College.

In the months since I announced my impending retirement from Ithaca College, I have been asked many times how I would sum up my experiences and accomplishments over 11 years as Ithaca’s president and 36 years in higher education. Even if such a thing were possible, it is not in my nature to look back in that way.

At every Commencement ceremony since the centennial year of 1992, Ithaca College graduating seniors have been presented with a medallion inscribed with the College seal and motto, “Commitment to Excellence.” On the reverse is an inspirational quote. The words at right, by the artist and social activist Corita Kent, were on the medallions handed out at the very first Commencement over which I presided, in 1998.

As I stated at that ceremony, “The seal of the College is there to remind you that you are part of a heritage — a reputation enriched by former students, by the faculty, and by the administration and staff — built over the course of our College’s history. In presenting this seal to you today, we are acknowledging that you have demonstrated to us your ability to uphold the high standards of this tradition. Your relationship with Ithaca College does not end today; rather, it enters a new phase.” 

I also asked the graduates to remember on occasion through their lives the wisdom in Corita Kent’s words. I told them, “If you look too far ahead, living only for dreams, or too far back, living only to repeat the past, you will miss the fullness of the present. This is a lesson for both your professional life and your personal life. It is important to have balance in one’s life, so find the time to do the things that you enjoy — athletic or physical activities, the beautiful outdoors, visiting with friends, reading books, volunteering in your community. May you find the satisfaction of living a well-balanced and healthy life.”

To me, the medallion is more than just a token to indicate the achievement of a degree. I believe it is both a reflection and a promise of the education each of our graduates has received from Ithaca College. And so as I began to look toward the “commencement” of my retirement and a new phase in my own relationship with the College, I revisited the quotes that I selected to appear on the medallion each year during my tenure.

In doing so it struck me that, however unintentionally, when taken as a whole the quotes wonderfully complement the opening of the Ithaca College mission statement: “To provide a foundation for a lifetime of learning, Ithaca College is dedicated to fostering intellectual growth, aesthetic appreciation, and character development in our students. The Ithaca College community thrives on the principles that knowledge is acquired through discipline, competence is established when knowledge is tempered by experience, and character is developed when competence is exercised for the benefit of others.”

To those who have seen them before, and to those seeing them for the first time, I hope these words will inspire, I hope they will encourage, I hope they will make you think. And I hope these words in some small way provide an appropriate appraisal of my time at Ithaca College.