Thank you, Tony, for that gracious welcome, and for your outstanding leadership of the Alumni Association and service on the Board of Trustees.
Reunions are the result of extraordinary staff planning and generous toiling by alumni leadership. And so, please join me in thanking our class leadership committees and our Advancement and Alumni Relations teams, led by Mary Mazzuca, Donna Pflum, and our VP for Advancement, Matthew Eynon.
I'd like to extend the warmest possible welcome to all who are here – alums, families, spouses and partners. Congratulations to our award recipients -- Joan Fallon '79, Marc Hochberg '69, Paul Brown '72 P '17, Judith White '73, Shadoe Tarver '10, Nicole Riegl '90, and Stan Levin '74, also a member of the Board of Trustees.
I hope that it feels terrific to come home – to reconnect with longtime friends, revisit moments of the lasting meaning, and meld and morph time-past and time-present in your own journeys, the College's, the country's and the world's.
As you walk these welcoming grounds today, I suspect that the enduring images of Old Main or Hartman Green or a sloped lawn or the red bricks or a certain bench, still here, will transport you back to a class or a conversation, a concert or an athletic contest, a book or an idea that preoccupied you then, a friendship, a consuming passion, a time of doubt or loneliness. I hope that you feel the presence of a friend or a family member who loved you, and that you recall the youthful yearnings that made you want more or ask why or take a leap of faith that the gift of perspective now tells you has made all the difference.
Of course, the more we age, the more the campus of a great college becomes peopled with ghosts -- the faculty who pushed or prodded or nurtured or scared us -- now gone, the Sid Wises and Ruth Van Hornes and John Mosses, or retirees like Bill Hutson, Alice Drum, Carl Pike and Kathy Triman. These were colossal figures in our late adolescent eyes, embodiments of this place, whose advice we've held close or lived by, and perhaps shared with dear young people in our lives.
A great college also regenerates itself, which can be disconcerting when we come back to a campus we hold close in our time-bound lives as a still point in a turning world. Where once there was a tennis court or a tree where we made meaning and memories, we find bold new facilities. There are new Sid Wises -- I assure you, they are just as eminent -- but they may seem impossibly young. And there is a new generation of students making meaning on the self-same place where you roamed -- as a composite they look different and reflect the world we live in today … and they're worthy. I can vouch for them.
Reunions present a paradox, but we hope, a pleasing one: So much the same, so much has changed. How long ago it was, how much it seems like yesterday.
Because it's F&M, we're all part of something bigger than ourselves. Even as you mark the anniversary of your graduation anywhere from five to 60 years ago, Franklin & Marshall celebrates more than 225 years as an iconic American institution.
It's awesome to look at this gathering and reflect that you, our alumni and alumnae, are the return on the 200-pound investment in education made by the one and only Ben Franklin as a down payment on democracy.
And I hope you are inspired to recall that we are living out the long vision of Chief Justice John Marshall, inventor of the Supreme Court -- that democracy, justice, private enterprise, and education are four strands of a great chord pulling America forward.
Even as F&M has become more global, no college is more enmeshed in the idea of America.
The notions, for example, that national strength requires intellectual strength, that economic growth requires academic growth, that upward mobility requires equal educational opportunity, and that global peace requires the broad sharing of knowledge.
At this moment in history, and with your steadfast support, your alma mater is achieving distinction as a national institution with Franklin-esque aspirations.
This year, 11 students and alumni -- the most in College history -- won national fellowships, including Fulbrights, Princeton in Asia and Latin America, and the prestigious Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.
In the fall we launched our Faculty Center, which focuses on faculty development and supports, sustains, and celebrates faculty in their roles as teachers, scholars and college citizens. This signature initiative and strategic priority has already been awarded more than $1 million in grants.
Powered by our enhanced financial aid budget, we've recruited the most competitive, qualified, and diverse classes in College history over recent years, and are on track to enroll another record-breaking cohort as we finalize the Class of 2018. Our distinctive approach to finding, funding, educating, and launching student talent was recognized in extraordinary ways this year on the national stage, including through an appearance on NBC News' Education Nation, a profile in the New York Times, and as the only liberal arts college invited to speak at this winter's White House summit on college opportunity.
And our students are growing in extraordinary ways. F&M junior Kelseyleigh Reber published a novel. Senior Ricky Durso competed in the NCAA national championship to become F&M's first wrestling All-American since in more than 30 years. Classics professor Shawn O'Bryhim and his independent study mentees undertook the detailed and complex task of transcribing a 15th-century manuscript. Nearly 100 students are on campus right now holding Hackman and other research scholarships to do national caliber scholarship with faculty.
Our vision for F&M is simple: World domination.
To be a national liberal arts institution of the very highest quality and caliber, competing confidently to make a disproportionate difference, always in ways authentic to F&M, for generations to come. I'm grateful to all of you for supporting our educational mission -- yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
You were all built by F&M for lives of intellectual restlessness, and so it's fitting to end with the words of a poet (T.S. Eliot):
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time."
Thank you. Enjoy this Reunion, the company of your friends and classmates, and the mystic chords of memory evoked by coming home.