August 27, 2019
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
I write during the first week of classes of the new academic year, following an outstanding orientation in which we welcomed the Classes of 2023 to campus. I am impressed with this cohort of students. They are bright and engaged, and withstood the rigors of orientation with enthusiasm and good humor.
Yesterday, the campus community gathered on Stern Lawn for a Convocation ceremony featuring a lively speech by Matt Lamanna ’97, Associate Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Matt advised students to take this year’s theme of “Explore HWS” and make it a mantra of self-discovery. He counseled students that exploration isn’t always easy and it’s never done alone. As I said in my speech, discovering and then mastering subject areas are the objectives of higher education, with the goal of becoming a person of consequence to yourself and to others. That can only be done in the company of others who can act as a sounding board to the evolution of ideas and identity. Higher education – a Hobart and William Smith education – is the perfect place for that exploration.
I’ve also been on a journey of exploration since my arrival on campus in late June. As part of my orientation to the Colleges, I have been walking through residence halls and academic buildings, indoor and outdoor social spaces, open land and athletic facilities. Echoes of the past come through clearly in the names of students etched generations ago into the foundation stones of our oldest structures. Aspirations for the future are evident in the names of donors engraved over the entrances to buildings and on the scholarships that make an HWS education possible. The dedication of the faculty to teaching and research can be ascertained in part from their office doors – featuring notes to and from students, flyers advertising upcoming speakers, and cartoons that express their individual personalities. I will continue my explorations in the months to come, focusing mainly on the people that comprise our community now that everyone is back on campus.
I have some incipient ideas regarding initiatives to strengthen the Colleges further. You’ll hear more from me in the months ahead about some of those ideas as I continue to talk with alumni, alumnae, faculty, parents, staff and students both on and off campus about our shared future. One small project that we’ll be starting up shortly is a songwriting contest in which you are all encouraged to participate. In researching the Colleges’ song collections, I find they could use some updating and additions to build new traditions and increase solidarity. How is it that there is no William Smith fight song? Let us marshal our creative energies and come up with some new college fight songs with which to cheer on our teams, whether athletic, debate or academic, onwards against our friendly foes. I performed a small offering (The Pulteney Street Rap) as part of my orientation welcome this year, but will be more than happy to have that supplanted by new original material from you next year.
So, we are off to a great start! As we face the demands of the semester with purpose, I thank you for your continued engagement, your advocacy for the Colleges, and your dedication to preparing students to lead lives of consequence. I am grateful to the many members of the Hobart and William Smith community who have already reached out to share ideas and support with me. Please take every opportunity to continue to do so. I am relying on your knowledge and commitment.
Joyce P. Jacobsen