On Saturday, Oct. 17, following the dedication of the Seneca Society Donor Wall, the Emerson Society dinner was held in the Vandervort Room, where HWS community leaders, faculty, students and staff came together in celebration of a common purpose – the future of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Member of the Emerson Society are those alumni, alumnae, parents and friends whose annual giving to the Colleges totals $2,000 or more per year.
In his welcoming remarks, David Deming ’75, Chair of the Board of Trustees, greeted all those in attendance, but gave particular thanks to the members of the Emerson Society, who, he said, “have kept Hobart and William Smith at the forefront of your philanthropic priorities.”
Katherine D. Elliott ’66, L.H.D. ’08, a trustee and the National Chair of the Annual Fund, then took the stage to pay tribute to William M. Emerson, the man for whom the Emerson Society is named.
“The life of William Emerson provides all Hobart and William Smith supporters with a standard against which to measure their devotion and loyalty,” said Elliott. “In the most appropriate way, the naming of the Emerson Society links the name of this important figure with the names of his direct successors, those people whose annual support of Hobart and William Smith is, indeed, transformational, in the best Emerson tradition.”
Dinner was punctuated with several songs from the HWS acapella groups ‘A Perfect Third’ and ‘Hobartones,’ performing lively renditions of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl.”
After the meal, six members of the HWS community presented their perspective on the diverse continuum of the HWS community.
“I’ve been at Brown, Columbia and Mount Holyoke, but HWS is not like any place I’ve worked,” said Susan Pliner, associate dean for Teaching, Learning and Assessment, who offered one the perspectives. “The people on this campus really care. They care about student learning and faculty scholarship but also about one another. The community’s commitment to social justice and building an inclusive campus is really important to me, especially as I raise my family here. Being at HWS has meant becoming part of something larger than ourselves.”
As an a pre-med undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Assistant Professor of Biology Meghan Brown recalled taking an elective ecology class, which, with the guidance of a professor who “saw the spark that was ignited in his classroom,” eventually changed the course of Brown’s career.
“As a member of this faculty, I get to replicate my own story and shape students beyond what they learn in my classroom, through my example as an accessible scholar, mentor, and research partner,” Brown said. “It is the physical and intellectual resources – the places and people – that provide an ideal setting for the communication, experimentation and exploration that is essential to becoming good, responsible, engaged citizens.”
Hobart Soccer Coach Shawn Griffin recalled his arrival at HWS 10 years ago and the collaborative work he has done to build a nationally renowned program and an annual top contender in the Liberty League.
“When I first visited Hobart as a candidate for this job, I knew very little about the Colleges, beyond their reputation as a highly-selective national liberal arts institution,” said Griffin. “The same could be said by many of the students that I’ve helped to recruit here to HWS. However, like me, the minute they step foot on this campus, they are so impressed with the level of commitment of this entire community, our energy and enthusiasm, this place and our people.”
Darragh Clarke ’10, Casey Franklin ’10 and Student Trustee Dan De Nose ’10 all shared their individual journeys to and through HWS.
From an Admissions student worker to Chi Phi brother to global scholar and service worker, Clarke discussed his academic and extracurricular experiences at HWS and how they have dovetailed to shape who he is today, citing Professor of Sociology James Spates P’00, P’09 for asking “his students to consider what we want to do and what we should do. He asks us to think about how and who we are going to be in the world by taking a philosophical and sociological approach,” Clarke said.
With a wide variety of interests and activities, Franklin discussed how she decided on her biology and environmental science double major and how opportunities such as going abroad to Australia clarified those interests. While she isn’t positive what or where her ultimate career choice will be, Franklin said, “I will be an HWS graduate in a world full of engaged and intelligent HWS graduates. I’m looking forward to it.”
In keeping with the theme of the night and the ideals of the Emerson Society, De Nose looked back on his journey to HWS from a position of gratitude. “I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given in life, for without them, I would not be here in front of you,” he said. “The truth is I am lucky, fortunate – or as my father would say – I am blessed. With those blessings, I have a duty to pay it forward. I have a reasonability to give back and this summer I was able to do so.”
Though the Dr. Stephen L. Cohen ’67 Fellowship, De Nose worked side-by-side with HWS Leadership Development Coordinator Lynn Shollen to create a leadership curriculum for teenagers at Lake Delaware Boys Camp, which De Nose attended as a youth.
“Lake Delaware Boys Camp changed my life, and because of the experiences I had here at Hobart and William Smith, I was able to give back to the place that helped me become a man. The experiences, opportunities and relationships I was afforded here on this campus have allowed me to grow into the person I am. And that has given me a whole new set of things to be thankful for.”