Dear Lafayette family,
As I reflect on inauguration week, I am filled with so much gratitude—gratitude for the warm welcome you have provided me and my family whether through cards, emails, or in-person hugs; gratitude for the chance to be in community with amazing students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the College; and gratitude for the opportunity to serve this special place.
I am also filled with excitement and anticipation for the work ahead—the work that I spoke of during my inauguration remarks—of “Becoming Lafayette.” I truly believe that we are being called to lead at this moment. Lafayette is the place that can show the power of “and” in a world that often sees “or.” Our distinctiveness—liberal arts and engineering, academics and athletics—allows us to reconcile tensions and create alignment, see intersections, find synergies, take risks, be truly interdisciplinary, and be both competitive and collaborative.
And the work ahead is going to ask that we see, value, and hear one another. In a time that often feels more divided than united, we are being called to do the work of listening and learning, to practice empathy, and to understand context. The challenge and opportunity of this moment bring me to my final conversation with my dad. As I shared at the inauguration:
As many of you know, in the time between announcing we would be joining the Lafayette family and our arrival to campus in July, I lost my dad. My dad was a true north in my life—a guide, a constant source of encouragement and love. Every Saturday for the past 10 years we would have lunch with my mom, and he would ask me questions about the College Advising Corps, our impact, our plans to grow, and he loved to hear the stories about our students.
In my last lucid conversation with him, we talked about the incredible arc of his life—a low-income, first-generation student himself from Detroit who truly lived the American dream. We talked about the power of education, of hope, of dreaming. And at the end of the conversation, we talked about lessons learned and if he had any regrets. I listened to him and reflected back what I thought he was saying—“It sounds like, Dad, you are saying to have a clear mind and a kind heart.” “You got it,” he said. Dad had taught me one final lesson.
My hope and my charge to us all is this: As we continue to “Become Lafayette,” to have difficult conversations, to learn and grow together, to do the work of being a community, to really see, and hear, and value each other, may we do it with clear minds and kind hearts. As we start this new chapter, may we not only be bold and brave, but may we also take care of one another. We belong to each other.
On, Lafayette! To great things ahead!