Our Creative & Caring Community
In this issue of Whitman Magazine, we’re highlighting members of the Whitman community who are supporting each other and their communities during the current COVID-19 crisis. At a time when we are so physically isolated, it’s not always easy to see evidence of this work—when we know that one of the best things we can do to try to curb this virus is to stay away from each other. That’s so “not-Whitman.”
Yet, Whitties are too creative to let a global pandemic keep us from building community and doing important work; you’ll read about some of that work in the pages ahead. I’ve seen it firsthand this fall, even if mediated by a computer screen. During new student orientation, I joined our incoming class and the leaders of our student organizations in a virtual activities fair. Normally this lively event would take place on the side lawn of Cordiner Hall, but this year it was held via an app called gather.town. Our student life team created virtual floor plans for buildings like Reid Campus Center and Memorial Building, and the leaders of the student organizations were stationed throughout those buildings. Those of us visiting created our own personal avatars (mine had gray hair) and wandered through the spaces. When we encountered an organization, the video of both the leaders and the visitor would go live, and we could talk with each other, learning about the organization and how to sign up. I’m not much of a video game aficionado, so I ran into a lot of walls, but I also encountered many students who were excited to see each other and to welcome the newest members of our community. It was wonderfully energizing.
I also talked with Professor of Mathematics Barry Balof after he taught his first class of the semester, and watched him beam with delight as he shared how great it was to see his students and be back in the “classroom.” I’ve attended our weekly Faculty Forum sessions where faculty present their latest research to their colleagues, and have appreciated both the intellectual and social stimulation. Provost Alzada Tipton and Dean of Students Kazi Joshua joined me for a virtual town hall where we shared updates on the student experience this fall with hundreds of alums and parents of current students. The Whitman community remains engaged and vibrant.
Further evidence of that unwavering spirit appears in the pages of this magazine—our Annual Report of Gifts—where we celebrate the wonderfully generous philanthropy of so many members of our community. Every gift matters and helps us to prepare the next generation of Whitman grads to be the changemakers the world needs. We haven’t had an in-person visit with a donor since early March, and yet we had a record-breaking fundraising year, thanks to so many of you.
Now don’t get me wrong. I can’t wait for the day when we can participate in all of these activities face-to-face. I desperately miss the personal contact—with so many of you—that has enriched my life as Whitman’s president. But I know that our main responsibility right now is to keep this wonderful extended Whitman community safe and healthy. There will be a day after this pandemic when we’re able to be together, and I look forward to sharing it with all of you.
Kathleen M. Murray, President