Willamette University

President’s Message

As my third academic year as president gets underway, I am reminded of the rhythms of daily life on a college campus. They form patterns and shape months and years into cycles, some aspects of which eventually become predictable.

A few certainties associated with autumn at Willamette:

  • The 11 horse-chestnut trees that line the walkway between Smullin and Collins will carpet-bomb unsuspecting students and faculty during passing time.
  • It will become increasingly difficult for me to distinguish a third-year student at the College of Law from a junior faculty member at the College of Liberal Arts.
  • Each day at dusk, the ritualistic, if indecipherable, chants of the Bearcat rugby team will reverberate off the brick walls of Smith and Waller until the team of two dozen players sounds more like 200.
  • Where there are newly arrived students, there will also be the giddy dismay of newly acquired independence — shared, no doubt, by departing parents.

It is, however, this state of anxious independence that will become an essential feature of each student’s inner landscape. As they affiliate with the Willamette community, students begin to fashion new affiliations of mind and spirit as well, cultivating that terrain within. This process fosters debate, disagreement, diversity of opinion, and the open exchange of ideas — the essence of an independent university and fundamental to every democratic society.

Over time, each will acquire the capacity to think critically and objectively, to reject cant in favor of intellectual honesty and candor, to bring a deep historical perspective to problems and issues, to speak clearly and cogently, to write with grace and maturity, and to collaborate with others while maintaining intellectual independence and creativity.

Another Willamette certainty: Educational experiences of the highest caliber with committed, talented faculty will help students find their passions and live with purpose. This issue of The Scene invites you to explore just a few of them. Enjoy.

Stephen E. Thorsett

Stephen E. Thorsett

“Behavior is a mirror in which everyone displays [their] own image.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe