Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

Director's Corner

DeniseThe Ties that Bind

I had the opportunity over the past week to attend a number of celebrations. Although each was very different in its focus — alumni service, donor appreciation, student-athlete honors — there were common themes throughout: friendship, connections, giving back.

This is nothing new for the Willamette community, really. Nearly every day you can see students ‘tabling’ in Goudy Commons to raise funds for community service projects, encourage volunteerism in campus activities or just increasing visibility around significant issues.  But the parts that are hard to quantify or really see explicitly are the friendships and connections that these diverse experiences bring.

Following a speech by a student at the recent R.A. Booth Society dinner honoring those who have included Willamette as a beneficiary of a planned gift, one of my table-mates leaned over and said, “You know, that’s something that I think we don’t talk about enough … the connection that Willamette creates among all the people you went to school with. You don’t realize when you’re a student that the people you’re hanging around with now are going to be the people who have changed the world in 50 years. You realize it when you come back. It’s amazing.

“But really what’s more amazing is that the pride in your 50-plus-year friendship is greater than any accomplishment.”

Willamette gives each of us that. Sure, there’s a great education and renowned faculty, access to amazing experiences inside and out of the classroom, but at the end of the day, the most amazing part is what remains long after you’ve crossed that graduation stage. The people you laughed with, stressed with and ate Midnight Breakfast with are going to do some pretty amazing things, but the friendships and connections that will outlive most careers are hopefully the true measure of what Willamette gave you.

May those you laugh with, stress with and share brunch with now (because let’s face it, breakfast at midnight doesn’t happen that often any more…) be your greatest Willamette success story. 

Denise Crawford Signature

Denise Callahan '95, MBA'00
Senior Director of Alumni Relations