Professor Paige Breakthrough

Diane Paige

Look Up, Look Ahead

By Diane Paige, Ph.D.
Arkell Foundation Professor in the Arts Professor and Chair, Department of Music, 
Co-chair, Hartwick225: Students First

As a farmer’s daughter growing up in Iowa, I learned the concept of stewardship early on. Of course I did not know that word per se, but often listened to my family speak of both the past and the future of the farm during times of plenty but even more so when times were hard. Farmers live with the knowledge that inevitably, a crop will fail or some other event will befall them that imperils what is not only a piece of property and a means to make a living, but also something that defines generations of a family.

Despite the many attendant hazards, farm families hold out, often long after they should. Our 80-acre family farm is now nearly 190 years old, still a working farm, and able to support a modest lifestyle. When the banks called in loans in the early 1980s and many went bankrupt, we sold off the majority of the cropland to stay afloat. When our beloved patriarch died a decade ago, we relied on the cousins to come together to ensure that the farm would remain in the family name for at least one more generation. We have become the adults our grandfather wished us to be: stewards of his beloved home place who cannot imagine a future without those 80 acres; a faded white farmhouse; several well-used outbuildings; and a shallow, winding creek filled with minnows and frogs.

Our work on Oyaron Hill is not so different. In addition to our daily roles as professors, staff, students, and alumni, we must also embrace the role of stewards. It is easy to become bogged down in the here and now as each semester unfolds. Nevertheless, like those who care for the land, we too must look up and ahead.

“Stewardship, like farming, is … the ultimate form of service to something larger than yourself.”

The work of Hartwick225: Students First is an exercise in stewardship, not only for our current students, but also for those who have yet to join our community. It has been a long year of many meetings, a myriad of revisions, and lively and collegial discussions. Like much hard work, it is intensely satisfying and vital. As an act of responsible ownership, it is a call to thoughtful action and strategic thinking guided by considering first those who have yet to be.

Stewardship, like farming, is an act of courage, of love, and the ultimate form of service to something larger than yourself. It requires one to find her or his way through difficult times, much as my family has these last 190 years. Let us all remember this as we come together to make and stand by those decisions that will shepherd Hartwick into the future.

Appeared in Spring-Summer 2018 issue of The Wick


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