The Whitman College Magazine Online
Inside Cover

What Makes Whitman
Students Great ?

"Very much alive --- intellectually, socially, and simply as human beings"

As a sociologist, I should know more than most the dangers inherent in attempting to arrive at far-reaching generalizations about any group of people, with Whitman students being no exception to this general rule. However, I have been teaching at the College for the better part of a quarter century, and I do feel that there are basic commonalities or characteristics which apply to many, if not all, of the hundreds of students with whom I have had the pleasure of working and interacting during my many years here. These are some of the ones that I most appreciate.

First, Whitman students are very much alive — intellectually, socially, and simply as human beings. They express a spirit, a zest for life, and a more-than-occasional irreverence which I find stimulating and sustaining.

Second, they take (most, if not all) things quite seriously — they work hard, they play hard, they think hard, and they put considerable effort into the great majority of what they do.

Third, they are able to learn from criticism and from the “mistakes” which they occasionally but inevitably make. In my time here, I’ve seen a number of faces fall upon getting back an exam or a paper or an assignment. But, most of the time, these same students are quite able to dust themselves off, bounce back, and give it another shot — more often than not, with much improved results.

Fourth, so many Whitman students seem to genuinely care about others, and to have a real generosity of spirit. It is so easy, especially at the age that most of our students are, living in a relatively out-of-the-way setting like Whitman, to become self-absorbed, and to only want to interpret the events of the world from the perspective of “how it affects me.” In contrast, I still remember how touched I have been at the response of my students to the births of my daughters, or to the death of my mother several years ago, or to the passing of a number of beloved colleagues in recent years.

These are, by and large, very caring young people. Finally, I find the great majority of Whitman students to be, pure and simple, nice people. It’s never been a chore to have to come to work to deal with my clientele, and, for this, I consider myself most fortunate.

By Professor of Sociology Keith Farrington

Keith Farrington came to Whitman in 1977. Recipient of a Burlington Northern Award for outstanding teaching and scholarship and a George Ball Award for Excellence in Advising, he holds the Laura and Carl Peterson Chair of Social Sciences. In 1992 he was named Washington State Professor of the Year.


Senior Maya Prager won a Perry Award to collaborate with professor Keith Farrington on his research.
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