Inaugural Address: Dr. Margaret L. Drugovich

The following is the full text of Hartwick College President Dr. Margaret L. Drugovich's Inaugural Address, delivered Saturday, October 4, 2008:

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues in academia at Hartwick and from learned societies across the country, Trustees, students, Presidents Emeriti, Senator Seward, Mayor Nader, members of the Oneonta community, mentors, families, and friends — 

It is my great honor to be chosen to serve as the 10th President of Hartwick College. I am humbled by your confidence in me to carry forth the responsibilities of the presidency, to guide this distinguished college along its path to the future.

This is a great liberal arts college, and so I know that I might flame the debate between the Newtonions and relativist devotees of Leibniz and Kant over the meaning of time, but I will take the "leap" and hope that the philosophers among us will be able to maintain their seats when I say that, in a way, this day actually began last winter—in a converted hotel conference room at an airport in Newark, NJ, on an equally life-changing morning.

That was when I had the good fortune of meeting Search Committee Chair and Trustee Dick Clapp and the members of the Presidential Search Committee of Hartwick—now colleagues one and all.

Through their eyes and in them, I caught a glimpse of this special place, its strength and its promise. I was intrigued. After a visit to campus and meetings with many of you, I was hooked; fortunately for me, so were you.

And so here we are. Thank you, Dick Clapp, members of the Search Committee, Hartwick College Trustees, and Chairman Karl Mosch for choosing me to do this incredibly precious, inspirational, important work.

I would like to share three brief reflections with you today.

The first reflection, titled "Me," is a peek into my personal journal that gives a view of the first few days and weeks following my appointment to the presidency in February.

Reflection 2, titled "You," is about, you.

Reflection 3, is titled "US."

Reflection 1: Me.

Journal: Thursday, February 7. Celebration. There is no feeling in the world like the feeling of truly being chosen. Great. I can't wait to get started. Oh look, it has only been an hour since my appointment and I just got my first Hartwick e-mail from Trustee Erna McReynolds …

Journal: Sunday, February 17. The fog rolls in.

This is a thick, stick-your-hand-out-into-it-and-get-no-perspective, Maine-coast-hugging-fog. The kind that swallows vacationing kayakers.

The currency of the academic world is words, and my kayak is swamped in the words that have meaning here—but I don't know what these meanings are. Some are people, some are places, some are things—I think. ZHD, HARTVIEW, SMRs, Table Rock, the fishbowl. I need a Wicktionary ... Yikes.

Journal: Wednesday, February 27. What do I not know? What forces are in motion deep below the surface, woven tightly into the culture of this place? What do people expect? What do people hope for?

Reflection 2: You.

This fog of uncertainty began to lift when I began to hear your voices. You used your words. You stepped forward with welcome, advice, perspective, and challenge. You invited me into your world of ideas, boldly giving voice to your questions and doubts and hopes, your aspirations for Hartwick. You taught me our past, you consider our future. I see you. I hear you.

I hear Trustees like Fran Sykes, with passionate insights about the indelible nature and character of this place;

I hear faculty like Jeffrey Pegram of Education and Stan Konecky of Philosophy and Carli Ficano of Economics and Lori Collins-Hall of Sociology—too many faculty to mention—all hungry for the deepest connections and the most generative context for their work;

I hear alumnae and friends like Besty Phelps and Deb French, who have hosted my visits to their homes and communities, so that I could meet more alumni dedicated to Hartwick, alumni who care deeply; people just like them.

Alumnus Gordie Roberts who sent me his 1945 letter of admission, along with some very pointed advice.

Alumnus, physicist, and research scientist Tim Canty, Class of 1994, who has articulated so crisply his view of the absolute relevance of a liberal education in the world of practice, an alumnus dedicated to marrying science with public policy.

I hear staff like Brian Hagenbuch and Matt Sanford and Donna Cahill and Maggie Arthurs—staff who simply do what they do well, every day—all with an inspirational passion for this place.

I hear parents like Ken Horn and Bill Fike, who have shared how their children have been shaped by this experience and their professors in ways that these parents did not, perhaps could not, imagine.

I hear students like Lisa Sampson and Seth Lucas, Justin Pederson, Jen Lonergan, and Jackie Hall, who invited me to dinner on the second day of my presidency and who have been there to guide me every day since.

And freshman Kevin Sinott, who asked if he could come by and just "hang out on my couch" and talk. You did, Kevin.

And Theatre major Ian Olsen, the first student who came to meet me on his own after returning for the fall semester, and later came back to invite me to avante guard theatre at Hartwick. I went.

Throughout the month of September, individual faculty departments accepted my invitation to come to our home to answer the question that I put before you—how can I be a good President for Hartwick College? Some of you have been at Hartwick for decades, and some are as new as our freshmen. You all came. And I learned that not only are you bright and thoughtful and funny, you are also resourceful and often entrepreneurial, creative and honest.

You describe this place as a community, but you resist the moniker family, because you said that "family" implies a patriarchal arrangement, a top-down structure, where some boss and others are bossed, some give while others take. You tell me that "community," for you, infers a more equitable, collaborative arrangement built on mutual respect. It is an important distinction for this community, and I am grateful that you told me.

Given my place as Hartwick's first woman president, I should assure you that Hartwick will not be matriarchal. I read in Henry Hardy Heins' book Throughout All The Years that the 1851 decision to become one of the first coeducational schools in the country "was something that perhaps made old John Christopher Hartwick turn over in his grave …" Rest well, John Christopher ... other than our two children and our two dogs, I am certain that no one wants me to be their mother. And there are days when I seriously doubt that they are looking for this, either.

No, not a mother.

Which brings me to Reflection #3: US

I know that we all have identified "roles" that we are expected to play, roles that come with our "titles."

Titles like President; and professor, student, graduate, Trustee, administrator, staff;

Parent, neighbor, and friend.

Nice labels. Shorthands. Loaded with expectation.

But this is what we really are:

instigators
peace makers
catalysts
allies
antagonists
stewards
supporters
protectors
critics
thought makers
conservators
progenators
feeders of the mind and soul
learners.

We are learners—all of us, all the time

students of tradition and of innovation
students of the tangible and of the elusive
students of success and of failure
students of compromise and of commitment
students of the past and of the present.

It is in this most important role—as learner—that we create, we contribute, we build, we add.

We question, we collaborate, we re-evaluate.
We must.

We reshape.
We must.

We define our collective future.
We must.

Jirka Kratochvil of Music recently brought these words of Eckhart Tolle to me:

"Success is not whether I accomplish my goals and whether my plans will materialize. Success is trusting the leap to the unknown. Success is living in the unknown. True success is trusting and surrendering to each and every moment."

Often we will be successful; sometimes we will not. Always we must regroup, reconsider, and go again.

You have asked me to add. I promise to.

You have asked me to have an open mind, a listening ear, and a personal investment in each of you and what you contribute. I promise to.

You have asked me to inspire, to advise, to collaborate, to motivate. I promise to.

You have asked me to lead. I promise to.

You have asked me to "just be who I am." I promise to, and I am grateful to you that this is enough.

Now, I ask you to partner with me. Work with me to strengthen our longstanding, core commitment to melding liberal education and experiential learning. We can be the best at bringing education to life.

In this place, this Hartwick College.

We are able to employ our considerable talents and test our limits.

We are safe to challenge and to be challenged.

We have agency.

We are free.

And so now comes the Big Question—what will you do with this freedom?

Posing this question is not just a challenge to you.

Remember—we are partners. This is personal.

So this is our challenge, to each other—What investment will you make?

What will you do to reach out and meet our expectations?

How will you make change ... and allow yourself to be changed?

How will you honor the past and bring the best of it forward?

We will not wake up one day with the answers to these questions.

We should wake up each day and ask ourselves this. This is what I ask myself, and I ask you to do the same:

What is best for Hartwick College?

What do I do to make Hartwick better?

In my mind, there are no two questions tied more directly to our success yet to come.

Me. You. Us.

With each generation, each decade, each freshman class, we write a new part of our story.

It is now our turn and our responsibility.

This is our chapter. Ad Altiora Semper—"Ever Higher." This motto dates back to Hartwick's founding in 1797, and yet it continues to characterize our college, and our intentions, perfectly.

Look up, Hartwick. Your inspiration is here, it is now. My inspiration is you.

Thank you.