“Central College is 163 years old.” I love saying that. We use phrases like “enduring legacy,” “generational commitment” and “rich history” so often we sometimes take for granted our inheritance as a Central family.
There is a special room in the Graham Conference Center recently named for professor emerita Bette Brunsting, ’56 through the generous donations of her extended family. This space is a warm and welcoming lounge area that greets members of our campus community and guests as they attend various events and activities. The room displays the portraits of our past presidents throughout Central’s history. I sometimes refer to this space as the “Hogwarts” room as it reminds me of the fictional headmaster’s office in the Harry Potter series. In that magical office, the past headmasters, through their portraits, can consult and provide service to the current office holder. From time to time I stand quietly in the Brunsting Room thinking about words like legacy and heritage. I have never been caught speaking to the portraits and I decline to comment on whether any of them have ever spoken to me. What I do know is that Central continues to thrive because we stand on the shoulders of giants.
Even better than the portraits, my great privilege is having my four immediate predecessors still available to me for face-to-face conversations. I can reach back more than 50 years to hear firsthand stories of triumph and challenges each of them faced, and I have spent time with each learning more about my work today that is deeply rooted in all they devoted themselves to achieve. It’s an amazing gift.
The hallmarks of enduring quality are everywhere on campus as tradition lives hand-in-hand with innovation. Just think…
- This fall we will commemorate 100 years of affiliation with the Reformed Church in America during our Heritage Day celebration. We owe a deep debt of gratitude for the courage it took to preserve this institution.
- Last year we celebrated 50 years of study abroad and now build on that legacy by diversifying our international programs to embrace Global Experiential Learning.
- Our TRiO programs, like Upward Bound, emerged with our first federal grant in 1966, and we celebrate half a century of commitment with more than 16,000 students engaged in these programs.
- Our Forever Dutch initiative was announced this year, and we celebrated our groundbreaking for the expansion and renovation of P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium, commemorating the original groundbreaking in 1968.
- Programmatic innovations have become campus-wide traditions and live on in examples like Mock Trial (since 1985); The Writing Anthology (since 1981); our Vruwink Glass Blowing Studio (since 1975); and the Candlelight Concert (since 1974).
- The fun of community gathering for the Lemming Race (since 1977) and the Breakfast of Champions (since 1998) remain as annual traditions. Our strength is drawn from our history and the ways in which we preserve that legacy. Our creativity is unleashed in the ways we build on that strong foundation. Our possibility is renewed each time we reach farther to achieve more.