As the parent of both a first-year student at another liberal arts college, and of a recent college graduate, I know that one challenge all parents face is coping with the up and down nature of the college experience. Sometimes you get phone calls and pictures that suggest that life is fantastic; other times you get late-night texts that seem to tell a different story.
This semester has been an unusual one that has held highs and lows for the entire Lafayette community. We celebrated the opening of the Williams Arts Campus with a gala evening that was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the talents of many of our students in the arts. We also commemorated the 150th anniversary of engineering at Lafayette with a gathering of students, faculty, alumni, and corporate partners at the historic SteelStacks in Bethlehem. There, too, student accomplishments were on display throughout the evening with some terrific presentations and demonstrations.
At the same time, however, we mourned the loss of two students, Sarah Bramley ’19, who died in August, and Joey Towers ’18, who passed away in late October. Both of these students were vibrant presences on the campus who are deeply missed by their friends, professors, and mentors. Experiencing these tragic losses in close succession has been difficult for the entire community. Our staff and faculty have worked hard to support students who are grieving or vulnerable during this difficult time. We have been touched by the strong spirit of mutual support that has emerged among students, and their commitment to caring for each other.
The community has also been tested by the tensions surrounding the recent presidential election. I think that the divisiveness of the campaign rhetoric, a challenge for the entire nation, has been particularly difficult for students, who are accustomed to feeling strong friendship and community among their peers. The last few days have been deeply unsettling for many. On Wednesday afternoon, we held a forum for students, faculty, and staff to come together to share their thoughts and feelings about the election. In my own remarks, I tried to stress our continuing commitment to the values of diversity and inclusivity, and the important role that we as an academic community can play in educating each other about differing points of view.
I have been impressed by the resiliency of the community and the efforts of students to process these challenges while also moving forward with their lives and studies. We are all looking forward to a high point that is just over a week away, the 152nd Lafayette-Lehigh football game. Lafayette is the host this year, and next week there will be lots of fun activities leading up to the game on November 19. Beat Lehigh!