Opening of the Academic Year

by George Bridges
President of Whitman College
Friday, August 27, 2012 

Let me open the academic year with a very brief description of what you should expect over the next four years and then a summary of your first homework assignments.

Before you leave Whitman, we expect that each of you will recognize that the most valuable parts of any education are not the answers, but the questions. Your degree from Whitman College will not be proof of specific knowledge you have gained. Rather, it will be an acknowledgment of the habits of mind you will have developed – the honing of your ability to ask questions, to find tension and ambiguity, and also the ability to propose innovative resolutions.

We expect that you will become leaders in your professions and in your communities, following in the tradition of those who have gone before you.

And we expect that you will one day join the ranks of proud Whitman alumni, that you will return to this campus periodically in the years after your graduation, and that you will encourage those who come after you.

You are embarking on a remarkable educational experience, and I welcome you to the important and exciting work ahead. I echo Professor Davidson in exhorting you to “take the adventure!”

Now, as is our tradition at Whitman, my final message is to give you your first homework assignments for the year. There are three:

  1. Tomorrow morning, come prepared to register for classes at your appointed time.
  2. Tomorrow afternoon, you will attend a gathering lead by three of our faculty as they discuss the summer reading, The Warmth of Other Suns. Afterward, you will discuss this text in groups with your resident advisers and student academic advisers.
  3. When classes begin next week, you should come to your encounters section on Wednesday having read the preface and chapters 1-4 of Volume I of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

And now, with great pleasure, on this 24th day of August, 2012, I declare Whitman College officially open for the 130th academic year!

Thank you. Bon voyage!