Staying involved and staying engaged leads to rewarding experiences

By President George S. Bridges

George Bridges

One of the most important goals the trustees and I established seven years ago was raising $150 million for the College, its people and programs. Thanks to generous gifts from many alumni, parents, friends of Whitman and many others, we have raised to date more than $141 million and we anticipate celebrating the successful completion of the Now Is the Time Campaign – Whitman’s largest ever fundraising effort – next June.

We plan to celebrate the end of the campaign as an outstanding achievement by and for all of us: present and future students, alumni, staff, faculty and friends. However, as the campaign’s end marks a new beginning for Whitman, it also offers a celebratory bookend for my wife Kari and me. After 10 years, I have decided to leave the presidency of Whitman College at the end of June 2015. Recruiting the College’s next president will be one of the most important tasks for the Board of Trustees over the next 12 months. I am confident that they will identify a talented new leader who will advance Whitman in the years ahead.

Serving as Whitman’s president has been a tremendous honor. In my time here, we have worked on many ambitious initiatives that have advanced the College and – having witnessed the passion and fervor for ensuring long-standing support for student success – I will forever admire the dedication and commitment that the Whitman community shows to this exceptional college, to our amazing students and to this bucolic town. Our work together has already transformed Whitman in significant, enduring ways.

I do not want my approaching departure to be the focus of our year. Instead, our focus should remain on the students and their eventual graduation from Whitman as they move from first-years to successful alumni. Recently, we celebrated Commencement. More than 400 students – one of our largest classes ever – graduated with a Whitman diploma and they are already moving on to great things. Their departures from this great campus are celebrations of new beginnings, opportunities to come and the thrill of the unknown. Commencement speaker U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell had the following words of advice for the Class of 2014: “Once you leave Whitman, stay involved, stay engaged… I guarantee that it’s going to lead to some of the most rewarding experiences.”

Many of you continue to stay engaged with Whitman College and already know the benefits of having a strong college family. We are here for you to share and celebrate your accomplishments, and to provide you with opportunities to connect and give back in a multitude of ways. Our new members of the Alumni Board and the Board of Trustees are creating “rewarding experiences” for themselves, for students and for the College each day through their volunteer work for Whitman.

Many of our graduates remain engaged with causes and issues they first explored as Whitman students, and now have rewarding careers based on those passions. Nicole Comforto ’04 runs the nonprofit Library For All, which fights the social injustice of illiteracy, and five of our alumni are attending Harvard Graduate School of Design and will soon change the landscapes of our cities for the better.

Andrew Poole ’06 sought out the alternative meaning of “engagement” on this summer’s “The Bachelorette,” but he’s far more than just a reality show contestant; Andrew’s been putting his Whitman College degree to work for years as an executive at Facebook.

Gemma Wallace ’14, along with Mackenzie Gerringer ’12 and Professor of Biology Paul Yancey, remained connected and engaged through research that led them on an expedition to one of the world’s deepest ocean trenches. Snippets of their journey and their discoveries have been reported all over the world. We’re pleased to share more of their adventures with you in this issue.

Like Jewell said, staying engaged is the key. Look up, look back, look forward, act. I will be doing the same over the next 12 months and undoubtedly long after my time at Whitman is finished. For we all know that one never truly leaves Whitman College. Like the 61 members of the Class of 1964 who, along with their spouses and guests, traveled to Whitman for their 50th reunion just weeks ago, we will always feel tied to Whitman. It’s amazing that this lifelong connection stems from just four short years here. I feel very privileged to have had 10 years.

Sincerely,
George S. Bridges