President George Bridges presented astronaut Dorothy “Dottie” Metcalf-Lindenburger ’97 with the 2008 Pete Reid Award for Young Alumni at Johnson Space Center in Houston in October 2009.
Continuity and Change. These themes resonate throughout Whitman’s history and, most certainly, through the first half of this academic year. We continue to achieve significant success in advancing the college despite the duress of turbulent changes in our economy. Impressive achievements by faculty, students and graduates in addition to inspiring improvements in our campus facilities highlighted the fall semester.
Over many generations, Whitman faculty members have excelled in teaching. This longstanding tradition continues to this day with national recognition accorded one of our own. In an induction ceremony in Washington, D.C., in November, Bob Withycombe, professor of rhetoric and film studies, was honored as Professor of the Year for the State of Washington. Selected from all college and university professors in Washington, Bob received this prestigious honor for his dedicated mentoring of Whitman students before and after they graduate.
Within each generation, Whitman students and graduates also excel as leaders in their fields of study and their professions. This fall I developed a new appreciation for the journeys some take as they advance into their careers and adult lives.
At the fall meeting of the Board of Trustees one of our senior biology majors presented her thesis research on dendrites (the building blocks of neural networks in the brain).
Gabriella “Ellie” Sterne ’10 has dedicated the past two years to working in the laboratory of Professor Ginger Withers on dendritic development and the striking parallels between dendrites in the brains of developmentally disabled persons and those in rats subjected to toxins. Ellie recently presented her work and its implications for understanding the human brain to the Society of Neuroscience at a conference attended by leading scientists from across the country.
In October, Professor of Geology Pat Spencer and I presented the Pete Reid Award for Young Alumni to Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger ’97 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. In receiving the award, Dottie spoke eloquently and modestly about her accomplishments, her years at Whitman, her devotion to learning and teaching, and how, as a high school teacher one of her own students — who overcame enormous personal obstacles to enroll at Whitman — continues to inspire her. As she led a group of us through the Johnson Space Center, Dottie described her upcoming journey on the space shuttle, and reflected on the important roles that teachers play in shaping the lives of young men and women, and how Whitman faculty helped shape her life course and that of her husband, Jason Metcalf-Lindenburger ’99.
In order to meet the educational demands and needs of current and future generations of students and faculty, Whitman has invested heavily in our campus infrastructure. New and renovated buildings have enlivened the campus and display a level of quality and care that I’ve rarely witnessed on the other college campuses I routinely visit.
In a few weeks we will open the Glover Alston Center, which is dedicated to advancing campus diversity. The facility is a recently renovated house on Boyer Avenue, and the project is supported by a generous gift from an alumna and her husband. We also look forward to the completion of the east wing renovation of Maxey Hall and groundbreaking for a major renovation and expansion of Harper Joy Theatre, which represents a significant advancement for our nationally acclaimed theatre program. The new and larger black box theatre, a renovated Alexander Stage and seating area, and new costuming, office and foyer areas will provide impressive opportunities for theatrical instruction and performance.
Despite these significant steps in caring for the campus and the many accomplishments of our faculty, students and graduates, Whitman faces the pressing challenges of a diminished endowment, the ever-increasing costs of our personalized and intensive undergraduate education, and society’s increasing need for creative and articulate college graduates trained in the liberal arts and sciences. As we embrace these challenges, Whitman must continue to recruit talented students and adequately support their needs for financial aid. We must enrich their academic experiences with new models of learning that prepare them for their adult lives and careers. And we must retain the same standard of academic excellence that has distinguished Whitman for many generations.
Thanks in part to your generous support, the college’s mission and values endure. I look forward to 2010 with optimism about our aspirations for Whitman, the promise and potential of our students, and the significant talent and dedication of our faculty and staff. As we welcome the New Year, I hope that you will enjoy and actively participate in all that we have planned.
George S. Bridges